The text message from Jim Stoeckel in the late morning of Feb. 4, 2016 was as subtle as a sledge hammer.
But to be honest, there was no easy way to say that Anthony LaRezza had passed away suddenly on that overcast Thursday morning. And a year later, it still seems surreal, as Anthony’s family, friends and Immaculate Heart Academy softball players, past and present, take a moment to reflect.
The stories have been many, from the lunches at Rutt’s Hut, to Anthony’s favorite sports teams and love of movie trivia. Parents made sure their daughters could somehow enjoy the 2016 high school softball season in New Jersey, and those girls pulled through like champions, winning a second straight Non-Public A championship, with a 31-1 record, as well as a 30-game winning streak.
There’s been a lot of laughs, because that was what Anthony was all about. And there’s been tears, and I’m talking tears from grown men, who still can’t quite comprehend this loss.
Somehow, it seemed like Anthony made sure everything would be in order. Diana Fasano took over as head coach and quickly set the tone for her team. Many in the IHA community would come together to remember Anthony, whether it be lighting a barbecue grill at a tournament game, or just cheering on their kids.
We saw Anthony’s older brothers become a huge part of the softball community, a big step considering Allen, Joe and Billy never really went to the games when Anthony was the head coach.
Opposing coaches like Sergio Rodriguez, Phil Delgado and so many others throughout the state, did their best to remember their mentor, and friend.
I had dinner recently with IHA parents Bob Jones and Kevin Kenerson, and while time has a way of healing, a little, just remembering the good times with Anthony brought back a lot of raw emotions.
Pictures tell a thousand words, so I thought it would be nice to remember the past year, with dedications to Anthony, as well as the man, himself, because we all had a lot of good times talking to him.
On this one year anniversary of Anthony’s call home, I’d like to say thank you for the chance to know you, Anthony. I’m sure you know of your team’s successes in 2016 and that you’ll be there, again, for those kids, their families and friends in 2017, and beyond.
Click on photos for larger images.