More Than a Game in Watertown

While the terrorist bombers were on the run in Watertown, Mass, the Raiders varsity baseball team was mentally preparing to play the Arlington Spy Ponders at Victory Field at home the next morning. That game was postponed while the entire town was placed on unprecedented lockdown.

Watertown Strong Baseball

Raiders senior pitcher, Gabriel Rodriguez, might have missed action on the field, but he was exposed to more action than he could have ever imagined as the manhunt took off outside his home.

“I heard one explosion from my bedroom. Then I looked out my window and saw a few cops going by. It was nothing big. And then I looked into the distance and saw a big fireball in the air. That’s when I knew something wasn’t right. Five seconds later, I saw twenty cops coming down my street. From there the cops took over. They told everyone to stay indoors. No one could come out at all. It was a pretty surreal moment.”

Raiders skipper, Aram Manoukian, has lived in Watertown his entire life and considers himself a Watertown townie. He’s in his tenth season coaching baseball for Watertown, second with varsity, and is also a math teacher at Watertown Middle School. He was on his way to the orthodontist when he heard about the Boston Marathon attacks earlier that week.

“I heard Mazz and Felger on 98.5 say that an incident happened at the marathon. They said they didn’t know if it was a store explosion or something else. My first inclination was to go on online and check the Facebook and check the texts to make sure nobody I knew was hurt. I knew some teachers that were running. One of our principles from our school system was running. Of course, there were all kinds of friends of mine that were down there. I was pretty nervous. I knew for a fact that there were some students that I teach at the middle school that were at the bombsite. It definitely hit home.”

It only got more frightening later that week when the manhunt came to Watertown and gunfire exploded outside his window. Coach Manoukian was on edge.

Watertown Baseball, Head Coach Aram Manoukian
Watertown Baseball, Head Coach Aram Manoukian

“I thought I was inside of some crazy nightmare. I was just shutting my television off and opening my window and turning my light off to go to bed. Just as I opened my window, I heard these loud cracks. It sounded somewhere between fireworks and the gun going off for a track meet. They were very loud. I looked outside my window and saw cops swarming in. I live about 3 blocks away, maybe about 200 yards. I heard the whole thing. The explosions. It was pretty horrifying. When you saw the amount of police that were coming in to get these guys… You just knew it was them.”

Of course, we all know the story of the Tsarnaev brothers by now.

After a few days trapped in the house, and exactly a week without a game at Watertown’s Victory Field, Gabriel Rodriguez was eager to get back onto his home field. The game versus Arlington that was postponed was reschedule exactly a week later – and quite a crowd was on hand.

“I’m pretty proud to be wearing my Watertown jersey tonight. I can’t wait to play for my town tonight.”

Coach Manoukian agreed: “Pregame, it’s all about pride. As soon as the first pitch happens, it’s business as usual.”

It was anything but usual. Before the game, Watertown Athletics put on a moving pregame show to celebrate the local police and fire departments. Mike Lahiff, the Director of Athletics, was Master of Ceremonies.

“It is no secret that it has been a tough week for everybody here in Watertown and everyone else throughout the Boston area. Yet instead of backing down, the community came together and provided a unified front. Sports also has a way of bringing people together, so we decided to use tonight as a way to show our appreciation for the first responders, and also to remember the lives lost during this tragedy.”

Lahiff then thanked the Arlington baseball team for their participation before asking the crowd to join him in a moment of silence for those who lost their lives in the marathon bombings and its aftermath.

Amongst the eleven first responders being honored were Watertown Fire Department firefighters, Patrick Menton and James Caruso. These gentlemen were the first on scene to help save the life of MBTA Transit Police Officer, Richard Donohue Jr., who suffered a bullet wound during the gunfight that ultimately led to the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Coach Manoukian offered his take on the heroic actions.

“You can imagine being a firefighter, not wearing S.W.A.T. gear, and not being armed, and going into a scene like that to save a life. It’s got to be nerve wracking.”

After the local heroes were all introduced, Watertown catcher, Erik Antonellis, received ceremonial first pitches from firefighter Patrick Menton and police officer, Tom Dicker. Watertown High School sophomore, Sara O’Connell belted out the National Anthem.

Then it was just another baseball game. But the score wouldn’t matter, because Watertown already won.

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