Classic Comeback

Written by: Craig Muder

At the age of 11, Zach D’Errico was playing with the legends on Doubleday Field.

Seven years later, D’Errico returned to Cooperstown’s historic ballpark – this time as the starting pitcher for Mekeel Christian Academy of Scotia, N.Y. But the memories of his moment in the sun at the 2009 Hall of Fame Classic were still as vibrant as that day when the Classic was born.

“I always wanted to play on Doubleday Field… I mean really play,” said D’Errico, a native of Schenectady, N.Y. (located about 90 minutes from Cooperstown) and now a senior in high school. “It was amazing, because that day in 2009 was one of the best moments of my life.”

D’Errico’s tale began when his father, Rick, took him to see the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic in 2009. At the start of the game – with 90-year-old Bob Feller on the mound – D’Errico was spotted in the stands by Steve Lyons, a veteran baseball broadcaster who spent nine years in the big leagues as an infielder/outfielder. Lyons, who was playing for Team Wagner at the Classic, brought D’Errico onto the field and stationed him at shortstop.

With one out and a runner on first, four-time World Series winner Mike Timlin of Team Collins bounced a grounder to D’Errico. Lyons scooted out of the way as D’Errico fielded the ball, flipping it to second baseman Jeff Kent, the 2000 National League Most Valuable Player, to start a 6-4-3 double play.

Zach D’Errico celebrates with former big leaguer Steve Lyons after turning a double play at the 2009 Hall of Fame Classic in Cooperstown. (Carter Kegelman/National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The Doubleday Field crowd of 7,069 fans gave D’Errico a rousing ovation – and left the then-fifth grader with the memory of a lifetime.

"I put him up on my shoulders and carried him off the field," said Lyons, remembering the moment in vivid detail seven years later. "The place went nuts!"

Fast forward to 2016 when D’Errico, now 18, found out his team was scheduled to play a regulation high school game at Doubleday Field on May 3. Now a third baseman, D’Errico unexpectedly made a spot start on the mound for Lions against Northstar Christian Academy. He struck out six and later drove in the go-ahead runs in MCA’s 8-6 victory over Northstar.

“I didn’t realize I was going to start the game until we got to Cooperstown,” D’Errico said. “I was psyched. To be able to start on the mound here is something that I won’t forget.”

D’Errico plans on attending Liberty University in the fall, and hopes to continue his baseball career.

“My dad and I would come to the (Hall of Fame Classic) all the time, and it was always a special time,” D’Errico said. “I have so many memories here.”

Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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