It was late Sunday night after a long day of travel – a flight home from Jacksonville to be exact.
Back at his apartment, just under 100 yards from Polar Park, Thomas Pannone discovered that the fridge had been filled to the brim with great bites thanks to his parents, Tom Sr. and Cindy. It was home cooking at its best – calzones, pizzas, meatballs and ricotta cookies.
“It’s about food,” Cindy said.
It happened to be the second Sunday in a row that the Pannone parent unit made the approximately hour-long journey from Narragansett to Worcester. The previous Sunday, Tom Sr. and Cindy traveled to Polar Park to watch Thomas practice alongside his WooSox teammates and pitch a bullpen session under the watchful eyes of pitching coach Paul Abbott.
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“That’s the part we pinch ourselves on,” Cindy said of being able to rekindle memories of a joyous time in the family’s lives when all they had to do was climb into the house. car and get to where Thomas was. the mound that day.
Specifically, we’re talking about a time in Thomas Pannone’s life where he stood out in both directions for Bishop Hendricken’s baseball program. Originally from Cranston, Pannone graduated from Catholic school in 2012. When you are a united family and you are relatively close, every game is treated with appreciation.
“It’s a feeling we haven’t had since high school,” Cindy said.
That brings us to last Tuesday afternoon, a Chamber of Commerce weather day as the WooSox kicked off the home game of the 2022 season. Pannone took the ball in front of approximately 100 family members and friends – a strong show of support that speaks volumes about the closeness of the bond between the player and a seemingly endless number of well-wishers and supporters.
Some members of the Pannone fan club sat in a marked off area behind the first base dugout. Watching the southpaw who turns 28 later this month in person is not a new phenomenon for Tom Sr. and Cindy. It’s just been a while — especially spring training 2020 when their son was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
“Just breathe and stay calm,” Cindy said of the role this particular mom plays as she watches her offspring attempt to keep the opposition at bay. “Even though you’re excited to be here, I can’t wait for it to be over. The anxiety…your heart is racing. That’s a lot.
“A pitcher never knows if he has it until he comes out,” added Mama Pannone. “Afterwards, he said, ‘Mom, everything was working.’ I said that was clearly the case.
Pannone’s last line on Tuesday featured five shutout innings with zero walks and seven strikeouts. He allowed just three hits while throwing a stunning 50 of 63 for strikes.
“I felt like I was in control of what I was doing,” said Thomas Pannone, a feeling perpendicular to the emotions conveyed by his mother.
“I was very happy when they didn’t put him back on for sixth place. He turned around from the dugout to let us know he was done,” Cindy said of the stress that took away the time the WooSox flagged the bullpen. “My two favorite things are when his first pitch is a strike and he finishes his outing when he leaves the mound and the ball isn’t taken away from him.”
If there was a defining moment in Pannone’s exit against Lehigh Valley, it was in the second set. With two runners in goal position and two down, Pannone recorded a strikeout to get out of the tight spot.
“I could hear them. Their voices are quite distinctive and are louder than everyone else in the stands,” said Thomas Pannone, noting that his father as well as his sister Lauren and one of his cousins tend to be more distinctive in about their reactions.
“The best part about this game is being able to pitch in front of the ones you love and who have shown me the most support. It was special to do this in front of everyone. Knowing that my family is just down the street is a good feeling for me.
Another Pannone day at Polar Park is scheduled for next Sunday. Originally, Tom Sr. and Cindy were to attend an Easter brunch with relatives in Massachusetts. Instead of spiral ham, the Pannones will enjoy hot dogs and other base-stadium delicacies from the same first base perch where they watched their son snag five goose eggs at Lehigh Valley’s expense.
“We wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” said Cindy Pannone. “It’s perfect.”
It’s definitely when the opportunity to see your son on the hump is just a short drive away.