Family, friends, classmates, teammates and the current Revere High softball team paid tribute to two outstanding individuals who were synonymous with softball excellence Friday.
The city held a dedication ceremony for Ardagna Field, named in memory of former coach and youth softball league official Tony Ardagna and his daughter, former RHS softball star Vanessa Ardagna. The new softball field is located at Griswold Park, which is home to the Revere High softball team.
“It gives me great pleasure every day to come down here and look at that scoreboard and see those names,” RHS Softball Coach Joe Ciccarello told the assemblage at the ceremony. “I know them very personally. I taught and coached Vanessa and I taught and coached [Vanessa’s sister] Natalia. And I came to know Tony very well for being the gentle giant that taught so many girls the game of softball and instilled in them a great love for the game. His heart was bigger than his body. He was a great man.”
Ciccarello said Vanessa Ardagna was “all smiles but such a dirt dog – and there’s really no better tribute to call a softball player somebody who gets their uniform dirty with a smile on their face.”
The RHS coach also lauded Vanessa’s mother, Maria Ardagna (“such a great woman’’) and older sister, UMass/Boston head softball Coach Natalia Ardagna (“she’s made such a great name for herself in the softball world leading UMass/Boston to great heights’’).
“I’m so glad and happy that this day is finally here that we dedicate this field,” said Ciccarello.
Mayor Brian Arrigo began the ceremony, saying that “Vanessa will forever be teammates of everyone who plays on this field.”
“Fourteen years ago Vanessa was a vibrant young woman enjoying the exciting final months of her senior year at Revere High,” said Arrigo, “She was a good person in every imaginable way. She personified the kind of student-athlete that we all admire. Vanessa possessed the characteristics of a leader, a captain of the soccer, track, and softball teams.
“She was an outstanding student with a glowing life ahead of her,” said Arrigo. “She led an energetic and wholesome life embraced by a loving family and wonderful friends. This field will now bear Vanessa’s name and her story will be an inspiration to the thousands of young people who play on this field.
“We honor Vanessa’s memory today,” said Arrigo. She will be forever young in both our minds and in our hearts.”
UMass/Boston softball coach Natalia Ardagna speaks at ceremony
Speaking on behalf of the family at the field dedication ceremony, Natalia Ardagna thanked the Revere Recreation Department “for making this amazing tribute to my family come to fruition.”
“I would also like to thank Mr. Ciccarello and the Revere High softball team for donating their time for this dedication,” said Natalia.
Natalia was a positive role model for her younger sister, who followed her as an elite softball catcher for the RHS team. They began their careers in the St. Mary’s Softball League and were All-Stars at every level in the city.
“Growing up like many other families here, we spent so much time not just at St. Mary’s but also what was formerly known as Hill Park,” said Natalia. “Both my sister, Vanessa, and I made our athletic debut here at this very complex. Our dad, Tony, was our very first coach. As we continued to grow, so did our love for the game. Once I moved on to playing softball in high school I then moved on to college, and as I continued my softball career, my sister continued to develop hers.
“We both followed in the footsteps of our father and became catchers – this was unnerving for my mom and she was always making sure we didn’t get hurt,” related Natalia. “Her time around my father, sister and me had turned her in to a super fan. She never missed a game and she still doesn’t.
“This complex, this field has led me down a path that I have been lucky enough to be able to turn in to my passion, my family’s passion, and I turned in to a career. Being a collegiate head softball coach is a gift that I believe my father and sister gave to my mother and me.”
“Every day that I hear cleats on the pavement or the snap of leather from a glove, I am reminded of the experience this complex gave us. The game was and is what bonds my family. It keeps us all together to this day. Now that I’m older and my mom can only cheer me on at alumni games, having this field dedicated in memory of my father and sister not only represents what softball gave to us, but what it provides for every young woman who plays down here, whether she makes a new friend or a great play or overcomes an injury, it will happen here at the Ardagna Family Field with two angels watching over them.”