On Tuesday, Tony Ferrainolo became the all-time winningest baseball coach in New Jersey scholastic history. The legendary Memorial (N.J.) High head man earned the milestone thanks to the Tigers' 6-5 victory over Marist (N.J.) High, yet the accomplishment also came with a unique caveat: Ferrainolo wasn't at the game to celebrate the landmark himself.
As deftly reported in the Newark Star-Ledger, Ferrainolo has been unable to sit in his team's dugout this year as he recovers from intense chemotherapy, treatment he receives for lymphoma. The coach was diagnosed with the disease in 2010 and began chemotherapy in recent months. The Star-Ledger reported that Ferrainolo completed his second set of four-day, 24-hour chemotherapy treatments on Saturday, leaving him far too exhausted to attend his team's record-setting performance.
The coach has been able to attend six of his team's 2011 games.
"It's a great day," Ferrainolo told the Star-Ledger after passing Morristown (N.J.) High coach Harry Shatel on the state's all-time wins list on Tuesday. "You're on top. You're here. I guess right now you could say this old coach from West New York is on top."
The victory over Marist pushed Ferrainolo's career record to 753-205, compiled across 34 straight seasons at the high school he attended in the 1960s.
While Ferrainolo has a catalog full of memories from his days coaching baseball and football at Memorial, few may be as special as the one he shared with his team on Tuesday afternoon. Shortly after closing out the eight-inning victory, Memorial's baseball team loaded onto a school bus and drove into New York City to visit its coach at his West side apartment. After greeting him with hugs, the team presented Ferrainolo with a signed game ball from the milestone victory.
The special delivery marked the conclusion of a long and emotional day for both Ferrainolo and his team, though his players quickly made it clear that the conclusion made their efforts worthwhile.
"That's what I wanted -- to get this win for coach Ferrainolo," Memorial pitcher Bryan Vizcaino told the Star-Ledger. "I felt confident that we could win. I felt great today."
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