By Brendan Nordstrom
Eddie Micheletti Jr. was wearing a fitted red Firebirds cap with a black brim above a blue sweatshirt.
Micheletti, a teenager, was watching the Firebirds compete in the playoffs like he had since he was seven years old when his family began renting a house in Orleans. His family then bought a house on Cedar Lane Road, cementing Firebirds baseball as an annual tradition for the young ballplayer from July to August.
Micheletti sat on a blanket and ran back and forth to the concession stand to retrieve food for his family under the lights of Eldredge Park. He and his three younger sisters traveled to the fence outside the dugout in the later innings to take pictures of the stars of tomorrow.
“Where on the hill did you sit?”
Micheletti, now donning the Orleans red jersey with the top button unbuttoned and a pair of upside-down Oakleys that laid on top of the camouflage Red Shirt Friday hat, pointed 30 feet from the picnic table he was sitting at.
Sporting the colors he grew up wearing, Micheletti, now 21, finds himself in the top half of Orleans’ lineup, flashing his power in front of the hometown fans on a nightly basis.
“I always played baseball so I obviously love watching the guys, and I knew that it was the top town in the nation,” Micheletti said, peering over to the diamond. “When I picture a baseball field, this is one of the first ones that come up in my mind.”
A distinct memory of Micheletti’s is watching a left-handed batter from Vanderbilt crank a homerun the opposite way, nearly hitting the scoreboard. He thought to himself: “Wow, I want to do that. That was awesome.”
It was a dream that became a reality on June 11 when he smoked a ball over the right field wall, pushing him to the brink of tears. It wouldn’t be the last time he trotted 360 feet, clearing the bandstand in right field against Cotuit, rounding the bases with an unwavering smile.
“You can see it after he hits a home run or after he scores a run, he gets fired up,” manager Kelly Nicholson said about Micheletti’s game. “It’s high energy. It’s passionate. He’s got a little Pete Rose in him.”
Participating in an Orleans tradition, Micheletti learned how to surf on Nauset Beach. He recalls riding a wave in Nauset’s blood-soaked waters after a shark attacked a seal just 30 yards away from him. A combination of great whites and his family selling the Orleans house in 2018 deterred Micheletti from surfing on Nauset again, but he said he might try it one more time this summer.
Utilizing his family’s house near Seaside Heights on the Jersey Shore, Micheletti maintains his morning tradition.
“Your mind is at ease, and just all you’re focused on is one thing: You’re trying to catch a wave and enjoy the ride.”
His face lit up midway through the sentence as he connected his two passions together.
“That’s kind of what I like about baseball. Trying to find the pitch and just enjoy the ride … It’s kind of the same thing.”
Micheletti’s ride with baseball began thanks to his father. Ed Sr. would watch New York Yankees games with his son, throwing him batting practice and playing wiffle ball after work.
He also instilled a strict philosophy: “If you want to do something, be great at it. Don’t just be average.”
It’s extremely evident today. Micheletti prides himself on “being the hardest worker I know,” and everyone who talked about him agreed, mentioning his daily drive to improve.
“He’s a cage rat, you can’t get him out of the cage,” hitting coach Max Fecske said. “He’ll come in with a very direct question and want to have a process for how to implement it into his game.”
Micheletti, a lineman in football and a right winger in hockey, didn’t want to settle for mediocrity and dropped both sports upon entering high school at Wilmington Friends in Delaware. He took the basketball court as a power forward in his freshman year but also dropped it because he “wasn’t that good,” he said with a laugh — a laugh Firebirds catcher Owen Carapellotti says is the team’s most infectious.
Micheletti became locked in on baseball — and he became great at it. The Delaware native batted an impressive .561 average in his junior year. While the field he played at didn’t have a fence in the outfield, Micheletti still found a way to hit it out of the park.
“I was just hitting the ball so far that they were just calling them home runs,” Micheletti said. “That was when I was like, ‘I think I have a chance with baseball.’”
Micheletti opted to attend George Washington University, playing baseball for three years before announcing his transfer to Virginia Tech just last week. With his competitive nature, Micheletti wants to use his final two years of eligibility to compete in postseason baseball.
“I played against him a couple of times in my college career, and he’s always been the guy that we’re like, ‘we’re not gonna let him beat us,’” Georgetown’s Carapellotti said. “Being able to have him on my team for the summer, that’s refreshing.”
It was always Micheletti’s dream to wear the red Orleans hat with the black brim as a player, but a weak freshman campaign and a broken jaw from a high-and-inside pitch during his sophomore year postponed those hopes.
After leading the Atlantic 10 Conference in hits with a .384 batting average and a team MVP to top it off, Micheletti decided this summer was prime time to reach out to Nicholson.
“If I can play for Orleans,” Micheletti said glancing back over to the field, “I want to play for Orleans.”
Now, Micheletti is back in Orleans for the first time in five years, wearing the colors he used to watch, working the clinics he used to participate in and launching home runs he used to dream about.
“It’s a tremendous honor, and it comes with a lot of responsibility,” Micheletti beamed with pride. “You’re really part of the community, and you’re a role model.”
While Micheletti admits he falls victim to the whim of the universe, he has his sights set on one place. And if the universe can bring him back to Orleans, who knows what it has in store for his future.
“I want to be a Hall of Fame baseball player,” Micheletti said. “My goals are to put 100% in every day and see where it takes me.”