Stepping up to the Plate

6/13/2002

By Tony Ferullo

They say timing is everything in life. No one knows that more than Matt McDonough of Melrose.

On May 19, McDonough was supposed to be walking across the stage at the FleetCenter in Boston to receive his undergraduate degree from Suffolk University.

However, just as the graduation ceremony was to begin, so was the start of the baseball game between Suffolk and Tufts University at Whitehouse Field in Harwich. Both teams were on Cape Cod competing in the NCAA Division III Northeast Regional tournament.

McDonough, a 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound pitcher on the Suffolk squad, obviously couldn't be in two places at the same time. Demonstrating a true sign of allegiance to his team, he chose to wear his baseball uniform that afternoon instead of his cap and gown.

"I knew that if we made the tournament, there was a chance of not making it to graduation," said McDonough. "But that's how it goes. It's all about the team. We have a lot of camaraderie and we were having a good time. It was fun. Playing that last game was a great experience."

Asked how his family felt about him choosing our National Pastime over Graduation Day, McDonough, in his easy-going manner, said, "Well, I know my mother wanted me to be there (at the FleetCenter), so she could take pictures."

There were three seniors on the Suffolk 25-man baseball roster. Infielder Tim Fraser and catcher Adam Pellerin also supported McDonough's decision to wear cleats instead of dress shoes on that special occasion last month.

"It showed what being part of a team and commitment is all about," said Suffolk head baseball coach Cary McConnell. "It was good to see how everyone stuck together. Although we were a very young team, you could tell that all the players enjoyed being around each other."

McConnell, who led Suffolk to a record of 27-14-1 and the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship this season, credits McDonough for his team-oriented approach to the game. "Despite being a pitcher who doesn't play that often, Matt is one of those kids who gets into every game by supporting his teammates," said McConnell, the 2002 GNAC Coach of the Year. "You love to have a guy like that on your team. I'd take twenty-five kids just like him."

Born and raised in Melrose, McDonough, 23, had a bat and ball in his hands at an early age. Growing up, he played in the Melrose Little League, Babe Ruth League and Senior Babe Ruth League systems. A 1997 graduate of Malden Catholic High School, this talented right-hander was a Catholic Conference All-Star his senior year. He also demonstrated his skills on the football field and basketball court for the Lancers.

He pitched for UMass-Boston for two seasons before transferring to Suffolk for his junior year. "I transferred because Suffolk was a lot closer commute from home and the school had a very good baseball program," said McDonough, who has been utilized as a starter and relief pitcher for the Rams. "Looking back, I was just happy to play college ball and to make so many new friends. I have some good memories."

Upon learning that McDonough and his two senior teammates missed graduation, Suffolk President David J. Sargent stepped up to the plate. In a genuinely kind gesture, President Sargent invited the entire team and coaching staff to a luncheon on Tuesday in the first floor function room at Suffolk University Law School. At this time, all three seniors, dressed in their caps and gowns and cheered on by their teammates, were individually presented with their degrees by President Sargent.

"It was nice to be officially recognized for finishing college," said McDonough, who received his bachelor of science degree in political science (he finished with a 3.0 grade point average). "It gave me a good feeling."

He paused for a moment. "I liked having the whole team there one last time," he said. "Some of those guys I might never see again."

Believe it or not, McDonough almost missed this unique event. Once he received his invitation to the luncheon in the mail, he got excited. He then took a closer look at the date, June 11, and panic set in. Ironically enough, he faced another test of time. It was his second graduation scheduling conflict in a little more than three weeks. He has never been involved in a "dilemma doubleheader" like this.

"I couldn't believe it when I saw the date," said McDonough. "It was the same day that I had jury duty. I had to postpone it."

Now that his life is somewhat back to normal, Matt McDonough is looking for a job in the business field. He also has been accepted to the evening division of Suffolk University Law School. His goals may be challenging, but with everything he has gone through the last month, you just know he will find a way to succeed.

It's only a matter of time.

 

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