There’s no denying Sandwich senior John Tropea’s dedication to his Blue Knight baseball team.
While waiting in the dugout while his team batted against East Bridgewater on April 17, Tropea was talking with his catcher about his approach in the next inning, when he was struck in the face with an errant line-dive foul ball. Despite later finding out he had fractured two orbital bones in his face, he didn’t want to leave the game—although he ultimately listened to head coach Brian Tomasini.
Doctors told him he’d have to sit out for two weeks to let the fractures heal. The idea of sitting idly while his team competed tore apart the senior co-captain.
“When I tell you I was mad, I was very mad,” he said. “Something about it being my senior year really made me think to make the most of my last season with my brothers on the field.”
Two weeks later, with the swelling down and bones finally healed, Tropea was given the okay to start against Dennis-Yarmouth in a game that would decide the Atlantic Coast League championship.
And Tropea did not disappoint, tossing a complete-game victory, striking out six and allowing two earned runs to avenge the Knights’ first loss of the season at the hands of the Dolphins. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he helped his own cause at the plate, going 2-for-4 with an RBI-single in the seventh inning.
“Even though I wasn’t allowed to practice after the injury, I went to the cages after every practice just to make sure I didn’t lose my feel for the game,” Tropea said.
It was that sort of dedication to the game and his teammates that made the decision easy for Tomasini to name Tropea a captain on a team that boasts 15 seniors. And, it doesn’t hurt that he’s a pretty dominant pitcher either. Last year, as a junior, Tropea took the ferry over to Martha’s Vineyard and no-hit the island squad, striking out 10 in the process.
Although he grew up playing multiple sports—basketball, soccer, lacrosse and golf among them—his true love has always been the National Pastime. He started at the YMCA T-ball league before advancing to Little League and eventually the AAU circuit. After making the JV team as a freshman, he made his varsity debut for the Blue Knights midway through his sophomore campaign.
What do you love about baseball? What drew you to the sport, and what made you stick with it?
My parents really wanted me to get in all the sports when I was really young. So when I was around 3 or 4, I just picked up a wiffle ball bat and started playing T-ball. From there I played baseball basically for the rest of my life.
What is your favorite pregame warmup music?
I like to listen to “Weather The Storm” by DJ Khaled, “Smile Back” by Mac Miller and “Millidelphia” by Meek Mill before games to get pumped up.
If you could be one fictional character, who would you be?
I would be Tony Stark, because he is very rich and very smart. RIP, Tony Stark!
Who is on your Mount Rushmore of role models?
On my Mount Rushmore of role models are Tom Brady, Big Papi, Patrice Bergeron, and Kevin Garnett. They all just give so much to the game that they play in. They all put the team first, and from a big sports fan, you have to love to see the heart these guys show.
Do you have any plans after graduation?
I will be attending Massachusetts Maritime Academy to play baseball and also study marine transportation.
What is your favorite school subject?
I really enjoy history. It is just interesting to see the changes that the world had to go through in order to be like it is today.
What is your greatest high school moment, either athletically or academically?
One thing that really sticks out for me is this year at our home-opener. Against Barnstable, we were down, 7-3, at the bottom of the fifth, then came back and won, 9-7. That really let me see how much heart our team has for the game.
Which three people would you invite to a dinner party? What would you serve?
I would invite Tom Brady (aka The GOAT), Julian Edelman, and Rob Gronkowski to a dinner party. That, to me, is just a good balance of crazy. We would just be eating massive steaks.
Which professional athlete do you most relate to?
I think I relate most to Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. The guy was really the underdog in his career. I love being in that situation and trying to succeed.
You’re stranded on a deserted island with only a backpack of your most prized possessions. What’s in your backpack?
In my backpack would be a jar of peanut butter for sure, a phone with some headphones, a dog, preferably a beagle, some fireworks, and a baseball bat. Peanut butter because it tastes good and it can fill you up; a phone for music and showing off the dope vacation I’m having on this island; a beagle because it’s really cute and can help me hunt; fireworks just to either signal for help or to have some fun. And a baseball ball to help my hunt or just hit things into the water if I’m bored.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
I would really love to thank my mom and dad, Susan and Robert Tropea, along with the rest of my family—they’ve stuck by my side to help me achieve my dream. I would also like to thank all of my teachers and coaches along the way for constantly supporting me.