A healthy goal

In the 1970s movie Slap Shot, Paul Newman’s player-coach character, Reg Dunlop, tells one the of the Chiefs this:

“I am personally placing a hundred-dollar bounty on the head of Tim McCracken. He’s the head coach and chief punk on that Syracuse team. ”

You don’t hear much about goons for hire in baseball movies.  It’s not much of a stretch to call baseball and hockey polar opposites on the violence spectrum in sports.  Significantly more players overlap in, say, football and basketball or basketball and baseball than baseball and hockey.  The newest Syracuse Chief, Peabody, Massachusetts’ Matt Antonelli, is one of the outliers.

“When I was a young kid, I wanted to play in the NHL,” Antonelli said before a recent Chiefs’ game at Alliance Bank Stadium.  “I don’t know if I was better at hockey, but I played more hockey growing up.  When I got to high school is when I started playing more baseball.  I just kind of randomly made the switch.”

Antonelli’s interest in hockey, a sport which some watch solely for the fighting and bone-crushing collisions, makes his baseball career path rather ironic.    Over the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Antonelli played just 60 games due to a hand injury which, quite literally, came out of nowhere.

“I swear, I just remember when I was in AA (in 2008) after a game, I remember feeling a little sore,” Antonelli recalled.  “It went away, it was only like one day.  Then the next year, in batting practice, every now and then it would come.  It actually took two years for it to start getting bad to where I would hit every day and be like, ‘man this is really bothering me.’  I just kept playing through it and trying to ice it.  Eventually, Spring Training of last year, I said ‘I can’t do it no more.'”

Antonelli says he had one aim in Spring Training this year, his first with the Washington Nationals:  don’t get hurt.  He succeeded until late in camp when he felt a twinge in back of his leg.

“Sometimes you can do stuff about that, sometimes it’s just freak injuries,” Antonelli said.  “I’ve never had a hamstring issue and it just happened to go on me.  I feel like if I can stay on the field and get normal at-bats and be able to be out there every day, I’ll do OK.”

A first round pick out of Wake Forest in 2006, Antonelli rose mercurially through the Padres’ farm system.  He made his Major League debut on September 1st of 2008 and singled in his first at-bat, against Greg Maddux.

“I don’t think I really realized it until after the game, then after the game a bunch of my friends were calling me,” Antonelli said.  “It was really weird, he was actually with the Padres.  I had never been in the Major Leagues with him, but I’d been playing in Spring Training with him.  Maybe that helped me to not look out there and see future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.”


The Chiefs go after the sweep of Norfolk in game four tonight at 7:00.  You can hear all the action on The Score 1260 or online at http://www.thescore1260.com.  You can also watch the game via milb.tv for a nominal fee.

If you have anything you think is neat about the 2011 Chiefs (especially if you’re a family member or friend), I’d love to hear from you.  Email me at jasonbenetti@syracusechiefs.com.


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