Belleville High School not only hosted a 6-team tournament on April 13, at the Corino Softball Complex at Clearman Field, it also brought back past memories of tremendous teams, while honoring one of its best all-time players.
A Day for Dina featured Dina’s family, including her dad, Tony, and brother, Paul. (Click on photo for larger image)
The tournament, dubbed ‘A Day for Dina‘, was a testimony to the late Dina DeAquino, the one-time standout pitcher who propelled the Bucs to its greatest run in program history. DeAquino, who passed away at the age of 52 last year, was a star from 1981-1984 for head coach Carl Corino’s team.
The Bucs won the 1982 and 1983 Essex County Tournament (ECT) championship and appeared in the ’84 final, as well. For that matter, Belleville was a 9-time ECT finalist in the 1980’s.
Current head coach Chris Cantarella was eager to set up a day to honor DeAquino, especially on the 35th anniversary of her senior year at BHS. DeAquino was also a standout tennis and basketball player for the Blue and Gold.
Paul DeAqunio holds a pair of special softballs, honoring his sister, Dina. (Click on photo for larger image)
“I was really hoping this would turn out well, and it did,” said Cantarella, himself a BHS grad. “The crowd was tremendous, we ended up having good weather after a lot of rain the night before, and the morning of the tournament.
“A lot of people helped to get the field ready, and I can’t thank them enough. Ray Veniero gave us a tarp to put on the infield, and that was really important when we went to get the field ready on game day. It was Belleville pride, at its finest.”
Dina DeAquino (seated, right) was a special friend to so many people. (Click on photo for larger image)
It should be noted that the Corino Softball Complex looked especially vibrant.
“This is one of the nicest facilities in the area,” said one fan. “Anywhere you sit, you can see the game well.”
Cantarella agreed about the field looking good.
“A lot of work went into the field during the off-season, and it really looks good,” said the coach.
Dina DeAquino had a marvelous playing career at Belleville High and later, Montclair State. (Click on photo for larger image)
There were three games, with each matchup having a significant meaning. Belleville started the day by playing Leonia, where DeAquino was once that school’s athletic director. Following that contest, Cantarella hosted a ceremony in which a few people spoke of DeAquino, including Corino, as well as Cheryl Marion, who played with DeAquino at BHS from 1982-1984 and was later Belleville’s head coach, in 1994.
“Both Carl and Cheryl gave rousing speeches,” said Cantarella of the former BHS softball coaches. “They really touched on some important aspects of what Dina meant to the school and the community.”
The second game featured Cedar Grove taking on Union Catholic. Cedar Grove head coach Nicole Velardi is a BHS graduate and standout softball player, while Marion is currently an assistant on that staff. Cedar Grove was originally scheduled to play Union Catholic at its facility, but Velardi moved the game to Belleville so that the Panthers could participate in the tournament
The third game featured Hanover Park against Fair Lawn. Hanover Park’s head coach, Jamie Galioto, is also a Belleville High graduate and was a standout baseball player for the Bucs. Before becoming an athletic director at Leonia, DeAquino was a softball coach at Fair Lawn.
Cheryl Marion is Chris Cantarella’s assistant coach for the Belleville High girls’ basketball team. They are both Physical Education teachers at BHS. In the spring, Marion is an assistant softball coach at Cedar Grove while Cantarella has been the head softball coach for the Bucs since 2006. The two were key in putting together the ‘Day For Dina’ event on April 13. (Click on photo for larger image)
Among the DeAquino family members on hand were Dina’s dad, the legendary Tony DeAquino, as well as Dina’s brothers Paul and Anthony, and her son, Jake, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Cedar Grove-Union Catholic game.
A number of Dina’s teammates and friends were also there, among a large crowd.
“This has been overwhelming,” said an emotional Tony DeAquino, a long-time educator in Belleville as well as the school’s boys soccer coach. “I’m 88 years old now, and to see this kind of reception for my daughter means so much. She died way too young, but her legacy is special, and I can see how much she meant, and continues to mean, to the softball program.”
Among the fans on hand was Mary Wilson-Grimes, whose daughter Kristin Wilson, was a star for the Bucs from 1998-2001 and guided the ’01 team to the North 2, Group 4 championship and an eventual trip to the Group 4 final. A huge Mets fan, Wilson-Grimes made an interesting comparison to DeAquino’s legacy.
The 1982 Belleville High softball team won the program’s first Essex County Tournament championship. Dina is in the middle right, third from right. Cheryl Marion, a freshman on that team, is sitting to Dina’s left. Head coach Carl Corino (third row, far left) and his wife Eve (to Corino’s left) welcomed their son, Jimmy, about 10 days after this photo was taken. Jimmy Corino and his wife are now expecting Carl and Eve’s first grandchild. (Click on photo for larger image)
“I remember when the Mets won their first World Series, and it was because of Tom Seaver,” Mary said “The Mets don’t win without him, Seaver set the tone. And Dina did that here. She was the first great pitcher and helped this program to big things. That carried over, too, to my daughter, who played here way after Dina graduated. When Kristin started playing, she knew how good this program was.”
On the field, Belleville improved to 7-0 by defeating Leonia, 6-3.
“I’m glad we won this game, for so many reasons,” said Cantarella. “When we dedicated this field to Carl (in 2016), we lost our game that day, so we wanted to make sure we got a win on Dina’s day. I got to know Dina over the years. She was always a big fan of our program. I’m really glad Dina’s family was here, and they seemed to like it. That’s the most important thing.”
Nathalie Marin was 3-for-4 with two runs scored, an RBI and double for the Bucs while Krystal Medina and Cherylann Nicosia had two hits each. Charlotte Colon pitched a complete game for Belleville, striking out six, walking three and scattering four hits.