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CLASS OF ’97

Batting for Pie in the Sky,
He Gets Pie in the Face

 

Mark DeRosa W’97
Photo by Ed Mahan

It was the bottom of the 10th inning. The Atlanta Braves and the Montreal Expos were knotted 1-1, when a rookie batter for the Braves drilled a game-winning, walk-off home run off veteran reliever Graeme Lloyd.
    “I was just trying to get on base, maybe hit it between first and second or in the right-center gap for a double. I don’t know what happened,” said Mark DeRosa W’97 of his first homer in the Majors on July 19.
    The former Quaker quarterback and shortstop left Penn after his junior year to pursue his dream: playing big-league baseball. Signed by the Atlanta Braves—yes, those Maddux-Smoltz-Rocker-Jones Atlanta Braves much disdained by Yankee, Met, and Phillie fans—Mark went first to Greenville and then Richmond in the Braves’ minor-league system. He made spot appearances with Atlanta in 1998, 1999, and 2000, and this summer he became the starting shortstop until the Braves traded for veteran shortstop Rey Sanchez in late July.
    He began by subbing for an injured Rafael Furcal and provided the Braves with solid defense and a .300 batting average for 10 days in June. When Furcal returned on June 22, DeRosa assumed the role of backup and remained there until second-baseman Quilvio Veras twisted his ankle against the Phillies. DeRosa came in and got two hits in the contest.
    The next day, as a starter at second base, Mark’s gutsy running and fielding, combined with three hits in his first three at-bats, helped the Braves beat the Mets, 6-2. His third hit in the Met game gave him six hits in six straight at-bats.
    “He played great,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said of DeRosa. “He’s smart and really knows how to play the game.”
    Mark’s style of play also grabbed pitcher Tom Glavine’s attention. “He’s a quiet guy that just comes in here and goes about his business,” Glavine said. “Those kind of guys are always valuable to have. He’s not going to hurt you when he’s out there.”
    Good thing, because Rafael Furcal was no sooner back than he re-injured himself and was out for the season with a dislocated left shoulder, temporarily making DeRosa the starting shortstop. At presstime DeRosa had a .417 on-base percentage and a .343 batting average.
    On the memorable evening of July 19, on his way to the ballpark, DeRosa called his father, looking for some help.
    “He’s my sounding board,” DeRosa said. “He told me that it looked like I was pressing. He said, ’You’re in the Majors, hitting .340 and playing shortstop for the Atlanta Braves. Go out and have some fun.’”
    Pressing? Hitting .340? DeRosa must have taken something from the conversation, because not only did he have fun, but his Saturday-night homer also provided some fun for most of the 46,623 fans in attendance at Turner Field. “This team doesn’t expect me to go out and hit home runs,” said DeRosa, who also had a single earlier in going 2-for-4.
    As the mild-mannered DeRosa rounded first and saw the ball fall into the first row of seats in left-center field, he pumped his right fist in jubilation.
    “Emotions took over,” DeRosa said. “It wasn’t more than that. When I crossed the plate, I was thinking maybe I did something wrong. But it was just emotion.”
    When DeRosa stood in front of the Braves dugout to do a postgame interview, the remaining fans gave him a rousing ovation that came as a pleasant shock. “It was nice,” DeRosa said. “I really appreciated that.”
    Speaking of appreciation, while DeRosa was being interviewed on the field moments later, one of the Braves’ clubhouse workers jammed a whipped-cream pie in his face. “I guess it’s a ritual when you hit your first big league homer,” said a grinning DeRosa. “It feels good to contribute.”

—Noel Hynd C’70



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