Numbers are big in baseball. They can be found in statistics, standings, line scores. But to hear the flesh-and-blood people behind the numbers consecrated Saturday at Shoreham-Wading River High School’s Kevin Williams Memorial Field — 00, 15 and 23 (twice) — baseball is about a whole lot more than numbers.
On a hot, sunny day when three former SWR players and a long-serving assistant coach had their uniform numbers retired, there were plenty of laughs, but also moments when emotions may have caused some to choke up. A tear may have been shed here or there.
The numbers of ex-SWR players Tyler Osik (No. 15), Brian Morrell (No. 23) and Mike O’Reilly (No. 23) were retired along with No. 00 for assistant coach Ray Maccagli. Framed jerseys bearing their names and numbers were presented and jersey-shaped cutouts attached to the back of a dugout were unveiled in their honor.
Maccagli’s number retirement, the last to be announced in the ceremony before SWR’s alumni game, had been kept a secret.
Maccagli drew laughter from the assembled gathering with his reaction. “You shouldn’t do this to an 82-year-old man,” he said. “You know, it’s funny because I had to go in the last five or six years for some serious surgery, and for some reason I always went in with not too much fear, faith in my doctors and hope that I’d come through, but you people are scaring the bejesus out of me.”
With these latest additions, the first since 2014 when Buddy Gengler (No. 12) and Matt Millheiser (No. 9) had their numbers set aside, SWR has retired 13 numbers over the course of the program’s 46-year history.
Sal Mignano, who was SWR’s first and only coach until stepping down after the 2014 season (and whose No. 1 is retired), organized the event and was the master of ceremonies.
Osik joins his father Keith Osik, a former major league player whose No. 10 had been retired by SWR. The elder Osik was present at the ceremony.
SWR’s other retired numbers are for Julio Vega (7), Jared Janoski (13), Kevin Williams (16), Bryan Sabatella (17) and Eric Strovink (44).
Tyler Osik (Class of 2014) was a two-time all-state player for the Wildcats as a third baseman, and a Central Florida graduate who was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2019. He currently plays in the White Sox system as a catcher for high Class-A Winston-Salem.
“These times here at Shoreham were the best times of my life playing still to this day,” Tyler Osik said. “Just the main goal here was to win. Every single year we were trying to win a championship.”
Morrell, a pitcher and shortstop for SWR (Class of 2017), made the varsity team as an eighth-grader.
“I actually led him off as an eighth-grader the first game,” Mignano said. “It’s like, leading off an eighth grader? What are you doing? But I think we got this one right.”
Morrell was a five-year varsity player, named all-state three times and a two-time winner of the Carl Yastrzemski Award, which goes to the top high school player in Suffolk County. He threw six no-hitters in high school and holds numerous offensive and pitching records. Drafted out of high school by the Philadelphia Phillies, Morrell opted for college. After going to Notre Dame and St. John’s, he completed his college playing career this past spring as an outfielder/pitcher for Hofstra, leading the team in batting average and home runs. He played in the famous Cape Cod Baseball League this summer.
“I just want to say my greatest memories were definitely here at Shoreham-Wading River, playing with these guys, my teammates,” Morrell said. “Representing the community was definitely something that was really important to me.”
He added, “I’m truly honored to be up on that wall with all those guys, definitely great players.”
It was no coincidence that Morrell was assigned the No. 23 that O’Reilly wore before graduating in 2012. O’Reilly, a dominant pitcher, was a two-time all-state player and became SWR’s second Carl Yastrzemski Award recipient in 2012 (Keith Osik was the first in 1987). After playing for Flagler College (Fla.), he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals and played four years in the club’s minor-league system.
Mignano spoke about O’Reilly’s last game for SWR, an epic 11-inning loss to Plainedge in a Long Island final. Official pitch counts were not kept back then, but Mignano said O’Reilly was breezing through and looking good. How many pitches did O’Reilly throw that day?
“Let’s say 130-plus,” said Mignano.
O’Reilly was coaching a travel team in Ohio Saturday. His father Joe spoke on his behalf: “This is home. This is the most special place he has ever played. To have his name and number up there is an honor.”
Mignano recalled the time he was notified that a school psychologist, whom he did not know at the time, had applied for the junior varsity baseball coaching job. At first, Mignano was reluctant to interview the applicant, who was Maccagli.
“Well, that interview was the best move I ever made as a coach,” Mignano said. “Not only has he been with the program since 1983, he’s been one of my best friends for those 40-plus years.”
“Ray may be the smartest man I’ve ever met in my life, not only baseball-wise, but in life, period,” he continued. “And as a friend to me and to the program, he obviously meant a lot more than baseball. I love the guy.”
Maccagli’s remarks came from the heart as well.
“I’m happy if I was able to give a lot of you, some of you, a few of you, some wisdom, some baseball knowledge, some good times, but I have to tell you this, what’s far more important is what you gave to me,” he said. “You gave me such joy, pleasure, excitement, at times annoyance, but that’s part of life. But you guys gave me so much.
“So I will finish by saying this: Thank you so much for giving me so much joy, so much pleasure and so much meaning in life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
SWR’S RETIRED NUMBERS
The Shoreham-Wading River baseball program has retired 13 numbers over the course of its 46-year history.
0 | Ray McCagli
1 | Sal Mignano
7 | Julio Vega
9 | Matt Millheiser
10 | Keith Osik
12 | Buddy Gengler
13 | Jared Janoski
15 | Tyler Osik
16 | Kevin Williams
17 | Bryan Sabatella
23 | Brian Morrell
23 | Mike O’Reilly