BILLERICA — For three generations, baseball has been an integral part of the DiSarcina family dynamic.
“It’s been the common thread since I was little, since I can remember,” said Glenn DiSarcina , a former minor league ballplayer who is currently the head coach at the Groton School.
“From my father to his brothers, my brothers, now our kids, everybody’s played it, everybody loves it, everybody watches it and it’s one of the biggest parts of our lives.”
Like his older brother, Gary , a 12-year big league shortstop with the Angels and now the manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Glenn starred on the diamond at Billerica Memorial High before continuing his baseball career at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Their uncle Joe was captain of the 1968-69 baseball squad for the Minutemen.
Those days have long passed.
Twenty-plus years removed from when Gary and Glenn took their shot at pro ball, two younger DiSarcinas are preparing to begin their collegiate careers with the same trademark family passion.
This fall, Glenn and Peggy’s son, 18-year-old Cam DiSarcina , a recent graduate of the Groton School, will attend Merrimack College — and play baseball.
Meanwhile, his cousin, Tommy Zarro, also 18 and graduated from Billerica this month (he’s the oldest child of John and Jean Marie, the sister of Gary and Glenn), is headed to the University of Southern Maine to play ball.
“For me, my three best years were at UMass playing baseball,” Gary said when asked about the accomplishments of his nephews.
“I always look back on those three years and a smile gets put on my face.
“I’m excited for both of them to have similar experiences at two different schools. Whether it is Division 1, 2, or 3, it doesn’t matter; each of them [will be] at schools where they’re going to challenge themselves both academically and on the baseball field. I have confidence in both of them.”
Before they depart for college, however, they’re spending the summer playing American Legion ball, as competitors in Zone 5.
DiSarcina, a Shirley resident, is suiting up for North Chelmsford Post 313, while Zarro is donning the familiar Billerica green for hometown Post 268.
In DiSarcina’s senior season at Groton, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound left-handed-hitting shortstop collected 20 hits in 52 plate appearances with 13 RBIs. He cocaptained the Zebras to an 11-5 record, which kept them in contention for the Independent School League title until the season’s final weeks.
When he chose Merrimack, it was a decision based on more than just baseball. DiSarcina found an ideal fit with its four-year engineering program and close geographic proximity, along with a solid baseball program where he’ll have the chance to contribute right away.
“My dad got recruited to Division 1 and all that stuff,” DiSarcina said. “But he told me that it’s not about going to play D1. It’s about finding the place where you’re going to be the happiest on and off the field.”
This summer, DiSarcina is focused on expanding his inside plate coverage, adding more muscle, and developing his fielding skills at other positions, including the outfield.
With North Chelmsford off to a 2-0 start, DiSarcina’s addition is already paying dividends.
“He’s a great hitter,” first-year Post 313 coach Dan Ruggiero said. “And in the field he’s so fundamental.”
Zarro cited similar criteria when explaining his college decision.
“I love the campus, love the coach,’’ Ed Flaherty , he said. “I had a few other options, but I feel like Southern Maine is the perfect fit for me personally both school-wise and comfort-wise.”
The 6-foot, 180-pound right-handed hitter, who strained the ulnar collateral ligament in his right throwing elbow last fall, has been limited this spring since reaggravating the injury in the season opener for Billerica High. Though he batted .295 over 22 plate appearances, those numbers paled when compared with his junior season, when he produced 22 hits in 57 at-bats.
While Billerica (18-7) — which upset St. John’s Prep in the Division 1 North title game before losing in the state semifinals to Bridgewater-Raynham — had its most successful season since Uncle Gary and Tom Glavine led the Indians to the 1983 state title, Zarro was mostly relegated to pinch-hitting. “It was hard watching the guys winning and having fun,” he admitted.
Still, Zarro’s mental makeup has not wavered according to his American Legion coach, Jeff Paquette.
“Thomas is a kid that shows up every single day,” he said. “He’s got a great attitude, great work ethic.”
Whether spitting seeds in the dugout, fielding their position, taking batting practice, or greeting a teammate who just scored, the passion for baseball exemplified by DiSarcina and Zarro is undeniable.
Perhaps it’s best traced to their lineage.
“Every time I get together with my uncles,” Zarro said, “all we ever talk about is baseball. Sometimes we kind of get sick of it, but we love it so much that we can’t stop talking about it.”
Added DiSarcina, “It’s nice to listen to guys who know pretty much all there is to know about the game. Listening to my uncle, my dad, and their father, my grandpa [Geno], just talk about different situations and sometimes argue — get a little bit heated — and watch games together, it definitely has been really important to me growing up.”
For at least another summer followed by four more seasons of college baseball, DiSarcina and Zarro will have an opportunity to continue playing a game from which most are forced to retire after high school.
“When I think about all that they accomplished,” DiSarcina said of his dad and uncle, “it just kind of puts it into perspective. Baseball doesn’t last forever. All they tell me to do is just enjoy it and do the best I can; work hard and good things will happen.”