Every pitch Ansonia senior Sean Bonaparte threw on April 14 against rival Derby was working. The Chargers had not defeated the Red Raiders in two years, and after Bonaparte had made it past the dreaded fourth inning, which he calls his struggle inning because it’s when his mechanics tend to break down, he had yet to give up a hit.
“There was an angel on the mound with me,” he said.
That angel was his father, who lost his battle with colon, liver and lung cancer one day before the start of Bonaparte’s junior year. Bonaparte, with the help of his dad, completed the no-hitter with 12 strikeouts in a 7-1 victory. All the pitcher could think of after the game was his dad.
“Every pitch I was doing it for him,” he said. “I knew how much he would’ve loved to see me pitch my senior season.”
After practice the day before his junior school year began, he came home and his father needed help.
“He said he had shortness of breath and he needed us to call an ambulance for him,” Bonaparte said.
His father’s kidneys were failing. He was rushed to the hospital and the day didn’t get any better.
“They had to put him on dialysis and he was in intensive care, it was just awful,” Bonaparte said. “I remember that day from start to finish.”
On Sept. 3, 2012, Bonaparte’s father died. His older bother, Vinny, was at UConn getting ready for his freshman year of college. Sean said he told his older brother what happened. He said it was tough on both of them.
“He meant everything to us,” Sean said. “He was always here every game I’ve played in my life. He never missed one.”
However, he said Vinny took the news in stride.
“He reminds me a lot of my dad,” Sean said. “He’s one of the most hard working kids I know. One of the most respectful kids I know. He just never lets anything get to him.”
Sean had a much harder time moving forward. He said the next school year would be an uphill battle everyday. His head coach Mike Vacca noticed a change.
“His junior year, it happened in September (that year), was a total blank to him,” Vacca said. “I think he was totally in a fog the whole year.”
Vacca, who knew Bonaparte’s father well, said his dad was a great man. He said the loss was understandably hard for the then junior to get through.
“He was only 15 years old at the time,” the coach said.
After a rough junior year, Sean’s teammates stepped up during fall ball of his senior year. They gave him a pep talk, according to Sean. He said fall ball with his teammates was the beginning of the healing process.
“That’s when I knew I lost my father, but I didn’t lose everything I had,” he said.
And that culminated on April 14 when Bonaparte threw the best, most meaningful game of his life. As he and his teammates celebrated after the big win, he felt the presence of another familiar face on the field.
“(My father) was there,” he said. “He was there with us at all times.”