‘Home Run’ Night for Catholic Schools at Dutchess Stadium


Sophia Vessecchia is ready for Broadway after being an instant success in front of her biggest crowd.

The 13-year-old from St. Patrick’s School in Yorktown Heights sang “God Bless America” during the seventh inning of a New York-Penn League baseball game between the Hudson Valley Renegades and Lowell Spinners at Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill on June 22.

“It was so much fun,” Sophia told CNY as she received high fives from some of the 3,856 fans in attendance.

“When I got out there, I felt like I was on Broadway because I love that. It felt so good to be myself and sing for the whole world to hear.’’

Sophia performed during the sixth annual Home Run for Catholic Schools at Dutchess Stadium. The event sold 561 advance tickets to children and their parents at 11 Catholic schools in Dutchess, Orange, Putnam and Westchester counties. St. Denis-St. Columba purchased the most tickets, earning a visit to the school from Renegades mascot Rascal.

An essay contest determined who threw out a ceremonial first pitch, and auditions were held to determine who performed the National Anthem, “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

“Looking back at it, it was a great experience, and I’m happy and sad it’s over. All the nerves are gone, and I’m just happy I did it,” Sophia said. “Singing and acting is something very big that I just want to do for my whole career.’’

The Catholic school students paraded around the field before the game. Nicholas DeSanctis of St. Patrick’s School in Yorktown threw out a ceremonial first pitch, and students from St. Denis-St. Columba sang the National Anthem.

“It was really fun because I haven’t done this before,” said Rebecca O’Connor, an 11-year-old starting the seventh grade in September at St. Denis-St. Columba.

“It was a new opportunity and very exciting. I was not really nervous because I felt prepared. We practiced.”

Nicholas, who is entering the eighth grade, admitted being nervous and was relieved after throwing his first pitch.

“It’s a wonderful feeling being chosen knowing all the work I put into the essay,” he said. “The general point of my message in the essay is if you just play sports as a hobby or as a job like professional athletes, you can increase your faith in God no matter what through sportsmanship and just having faith in your teammates can reflect how you act towards God. It’s good sportsmanship and great faith towards God.”

Before the Renegades came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning, Sophia performed “God Bless America” and students from St. Martin de Porres School in Poughkeepsie sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Following the game, all children in attendance were invited on the field to run around the bases.

“They were wonderful,” said Auxiliary Bishop Dominick Lagonegro, referring to all the children taking part in the festivities. “They’ve had this for a number of years and it’s always been a wonderful night.”

Home Run for Catholic Schools started with a phone call to the Renegades from Father Michael McLoughlin, pastor of St. Columba.

“I love baseball and came to many games. I thought they may have been interested in a partnership, and they couldn’t have been nicer,” Father McLoughlin said.

“It’s a nice way to end the school year. The kids have a great time with their friends, and a nice feature are the contests.”


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