From Memorial Field to San Juan

Bob Rapice retraces fond memory

Rapice-Softball-Reunion

Bob Rapice, who was the bat boy for the San Juan team in ASA tournaments at Memorial Field in the early 1960s, reconnects with his heroes at a restaurant in Puerto Rico. Pictured (l-r) are Miguel Pagan, Rapice, Joaquin Silver and Rafael Ocacio.

In 1962 as a 10 year old, Bob Rapice rode his bicycle to Raybestos Memorial Field to watch the morning games of the ASA Men’s Fastpitch Softball Tournament.
Since Rapice played on the same field for Sterling House of The Stratford Original Little League, he was able to get in free.
As the team from San Juan Puerto Rico approached the field, Rapice asked the manager if they needed a bat boy. He said yes and Rapice had a place in the dugout.
San Juan lost the first game, 5-3, which put them in the loser’s bracket in the double elimination tournament.
The following day, Rapice again rode his bike to the field and again was offered the opportunity to be their bat boy.
San Juan lost 1-0 in 10 innings. That night, Rapice’s dad received a phone call from the San Juan manager asking that he bring Rapice down to The Frog Pond to meet some team members before they returned to Puerto Rico.
There, Rapice was given a hat and team jersey along with a picture (with roster names) of the team, including their bat boy, that was taken two days earlier. Upon leaving, Rapice was sad to say goodbye to his new-found friends.
The following summer, when The Raybestos Cardinals played in a tournament in San Juan, Bill Simpson of Raybestos called Rapice’s parents and told them the team from Puerto Rico wanted him to come down and once again, be their bat boy in this tournament.
Not only that, they sent him a plane ticket for Rapice. Due to circumstance beyond a 10 year old’s control, he was not able to make the trip.
Fast forward, a half a century later….
In 2008, Rapice vacationed in Puerto Rico and took with him the team photo along with the roster names. While in San Juan for two days, he used a telephone directory to find players from the team. He was not successful.
In 2009, Rapice vacationed in San Juan for seven days. This time, before leaving home he went to an on-line directory site and found some phone numbers of players living in the San Juan area.
Once there, Rapice started making phone calls, hoping to meet some players and as importantly, those players who spoke English (his Spanish from fourth grade in Nichols School to 10th grade at Bunnell High was long forgotten).
He was successful in finding one player, Joaquin Silver, and he met Rapice at the Marriott.
“Forty-seven years after our initial meeting it was awesome to spend about an hour with Joaquin, talking and taking pictures,” Rapice said. “I told him I will return to Puerto Rico and look forward to seeing him, again.”
In 2012, Rapice returned to Puerto Rico for a third vacation. This time, before leaving he sent Joaquin a letter and told him what day he would be in San Juan and asked if Silver wanted to get together, again.
Once Rapice reached San Juan, Silver picked him up at the hotel and together they drove to a restaurant in Caguas about 20 minutes south.
“Waiting in the restaurant was another player, Miguel Pagan, the pitcher in the ten-inning loss,” Rapice said. “This time I spent two-plus hours in their company reminiscing about the tournament that took place fifty years ago.
“Finally, I went to Puerto Rico for a fourth time, two weeks ago. Once again, I sent Joaquin a letter. Once again, we met at the same restaurant in Caguas.
“This time I drove, there. Upon arrival, not only were Joaquin and Miguel there but also Rafael Ocacio, the shortstop. Once again, what a great get-together.
“They say when you meet someone in Puerto Rico, and before leaving that person you will be told (and I was): ‘You will always have a friend in Puerto Rico.’ How true.
“Who would ever think that fifty-two years after a ten-year-old boy meets a bunch of softball players from Puerto Rico in their early thirties that he would once again renew a friendship that was made in those brief forty-eight hours in 1962.
“Surely, I would never have imagined or dreamed of this and yet it happened. I am so grateful it did.”

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