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Little League ump honored for service

Joe Silvestro's dedication went far beyond merely calling games.

By KELLIE DIXON
Published March 6, 2007


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INVERNESS - Joe Silvestro was a little bummed out, then a little confused.

The longtime umpire was supposed to throw out the first pitch last Saturday at Whispering Pines Park to kick off the Little League season. It was a big day - his first-ever ceremonial first pitch. But the rain that drilled the roof of the crowded concession stand and bounced off umbrellas postponed that dream. Disappointed, Silvestro just figured he would head back to the house.

But his family and friends had other plans for the 81-year-old "Pop."

It was a big day, whether he realized it or not.

The original game plan was to honor Silvestro after his pitch with a picture, a plaque, a few speeches and the proclamation that March 3 would forevermore be Joe Silvestro Day in Inverness.

But with the rain falling, opening day was postponed. Cell phones buzzed with the new strategy. Just get Pop to the Happy Dayz Diner.

They'd do it indoors.

Silvestro was baffled by the sudden decision to get breakfast and stubbornly protested. Eventually he gave in.

When he walked into the diner, a stunned look swept his face. More than 25 of his family members and friends, basically a who's who of Inverness, sat in the diner's private room. A picture of Silvestro dusting off home plate was propped up in front of the tables. His smile stretched with every hug and handshake. His eyes even watered.

The ceremony carried on as planned.

"I can't explain it," Silvestro said after the plaques were handed out and the speeches finished. "It's just unbelievable. Unbelievable."

Happy Joe Silvestro Day.

For parks and recreation director Pati Smith, it was a no-brainer to honor the Staten Island native. Silvestro, a former Major League Baseball umpire, was part of the Inverness Little League umpires since the early 1970s and headed up the organization for some time.

"He was always there," Smith said. "If you needed something, whether it was organizing the clinics, helping out with opening days, fundraisers for Little League. He was just always there and always with a smile on his face."

Silvestro had some serious reinforcements though, as his family also helped and now runs Joe's Deli. His children and grandchildren would help run the concession stand, assign players to teams and so on.

"This park, seriously, he was the man here for many, many years," granddaughter Amy Crowell, 31, said. "I really feel like it totally revolved with him here. It did not work without him here."

And when he was there, everybody took note, Silvestro's granddaughter, Mandee Fallon, said.

"He called everybody 'Big guy,' " said Fallon, 29. "But everybody called him 'Pop,' whether they were related to him or not. And I would say to him, 'Do you know anybody's name?' "

Truth be told, he probably didn't need to. Everybody knew him. He left his mark - one that will be remembered every March 3.

Kellie Dixon can be reached at kdixon@sptimes.com or 352 544-9480.

[Last modified March 5, 2007, 23:11:16]


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