On Saturday night, the first-place Staten Island Yankees host the Tri-City ValleyCats in a matchup of Class A New York-Penn League teams. And ESPN will be there in full force.
Actually, ESPN’s Tony Reali will be there and fans will get to take the Around the Horn host home with them. Sort of.
The first 2,500 fans in attendance will receive a Reali bobblehead depicting the Staten Island native at the ATH desk. He will also throw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch and sign autographs for fans.
“Our team is always looking for ways to recognize the people and products that come from Staten Island,” said Staten Island Yankees marketing manager Ian Fontenot. “With Tony being a native Staten Islander, the decision to reach out and create a bobblehead of him was a no-brainer. Being a minor league team, we also try to do things in a fun and unique way, so having him sitting at his iconic Around the Horn desk throwing balled-up paper rather than a baseball makes this a one-of-a-kind item for collectors.”
In advance of the weekend, Reali spoke with Front Row about his special honor and why Staten Island is so important to him.
– ATH host Tony Reali on his Staten Island Yankees bobblehead
What do you think of your bobblehead likeness?
In my “Stat Boy” days [on ESPN’s PTI, I looked like [former Yankee] Andy Pettitte. This bobblehead kind of looks like Jorge Posada. I think it’s pretty solid but my barber wishes it had my fade.
What did growing up in Staten Island mean to you?
Like so many Italian-American families, my family had that exotic migratory pattern: The Boot (Italy), Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Jersey. I was the Staten Island, Jersey end. St. Charles. Pizza Town. Miller Field. Staten Island in the 1980s was its own planet. It was all about volume. Volume in voice, volume in hair. Both were a must for me in the early episodes of Around the Horn.
How would you describe Staten Island?
I think if we had a Horn where the contestants were the five boroughs of New York City, Staten Island would probably win for no other reason than it would have the will to do what the others wouldn’t. It’s as relentless as an iTunes update. It has stayed with me all these years with an accent that comes out when I’m at my most Antny Joey Paulie Reali.
– Reali on his guests planning to watch him throw out the first pitch Saturday
Who will be with you this weekend at the game?
We’ll be rolling 30 deep. Ma, Pop, Bros, Sis, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Cousin’s Cousins. And (daughter) Baby Francesca leading the way. Thirty Realis bringing the ruckus.
How are you approaching the first pitch?
A first pitch is a high-pressure situation. I’m gonna give a big wind up, look up to the sky like Fernando [Valenzuela, former MLB pitcher] and hopefully do what I’ve done a record 33 times in 2,707 tries with the Horn paper toss – throw a perfect strike.