Saturday was Opening Day for Abington Little League, and the first pitch was thrown by someone who hadn’t seen a game at the Plymouth Street Field in 30 years. But it meant a lot to her.
“This is where his love for baseball started, it’s where he learned his skills,” Kathy Mercurio said.
Mercurio was referring to her son, Ryan Frazier, who died last June from surgery complications at the age of 37.
Frazier played Abington Little League, starting from tee ball and up through majors, when his family moved to Whitman. He only played one more year before his interest moved more towards the arts.
“He was a chef, a poet, a musician,” Mercurio said. “He was a very interesting person.”
Mercurio said her son started as the tee ball left fielder who sat and picked dandilions, and grew into a Red Sox diehard who loved Opening Day and sitting in the bleachers. As a little leaguer, Frazier started reading books on baseball and watching games on television. As an adult, he frequently walked to games from his apartment near Fenway Park.
“Although he could afford nicer seats he said, ‘You’re not really attending a game at Fenway if you’re not sitting in the bleachers’,” she said.
At Frazier’s funeral, everyone wore a Red Sox shirt, and there was a bagpiper – all things Frazier told his fiancee, Devon Nadler, he wanted.
A GoFundMe that was started following Frazier’s passing had some money left over after covering some funeral-related expenses. Mercurio and her husband decided to donate the balance to Abington Little League, which she said helped inspire her son’s love of baseball.
Past league president Ron Solimini said the “sizeable” donation helped fund some of the ongoing renovations at the Plymouth Street field, including a new batting cage, dugouts, and bullpen fencing. The decision to invite Mercurio to throw out the first pitch was an easy one, he said.
“The board, being all parents of kids, wanted to do right by her and help her out in her time of need,” he said. “We wanted to try to give her and her family some closure and make her feel part of the Abington Little League family, too.”
Frazier’s family also built a small raised flower bed ringed by stone blocks around the center field flag pole. It includes a memorial rock that reads: “His lifelong love of baseball started with Abington Little League 1988.”
Mercurio said she’s been “overwhelmed” by the way the Abington Little League board has welcomed her back.
“I can’t tell you how loving and kind and appreciative the Abington board has been with us,” she said. “Its been very healing for all of us.”
So on Saturday morning, under a bluebird sky, with the Mud Cats and Red Wings minor league teams watching on, Mercurio threw out the ceremonial Opening Day First Pitch to Mud Cats catcher Nick Coyle.
“Love baseball,” she told the boys before the pitch. “Live for it. His love of baseball made Ryan a happy, happy human when he heard those words ‘Play ball!'”