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The Zak Zone

April 4, 2012

Well, it's finally the day for which we've all been waiting so long, and by that I mean for which at least I have been waiting so long: Opening Day.

Unfortunately, this means finally giving up on any last-second trades sending PAHS grad and Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco to my beloved Buccos.

It's time to face the music and admit that from start to finish this year, I'll be rooting for the Reds.

While the checklist of career firsts winds down for Mesoraco, the first he will face today — his first Opening Day in the Majors — is definitely one worth recognizing.

Mesoraco has been Punxsy's quiet superstar for some time, just based on the promise he showed, but after his late-season call up last year, and all the hype he's received in the offseason, it's hard to keep it quiet anymore.

This week, I spoke with his grandfather, who expressed excitement for the season opener at 4 p.m. today, and he couldn't have been prouder.

And that's the beauty of the whole thing.

While the town of Punxsy, and what used to be its faithful, Pirate-following base, have had little to be excited for — even on Opening Day — over the past decade, there's a new buzz on top of the perennial promise shown in the Punxsy high school programs.

Our hometown kid, the one I grew up watching play ball, is on the big stage now.

And a large part of the reason that everyone in Punxsy is so happy for him is the way he has handled himself throughout the process.

Over the winter, folks may have run into Devin at the high school basketball games or walking around downtown, and the Devin they talked to was the same one they'd known for years.

Quiet and reserved, he would politely say, "Hello" when greeted and politely say, "Thank you," when folks congratulated him. But beneath the respectful attitude, the one thing that shone through was humility.

Today, whether he takes the field for the Opening Day start or fellow Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan gets the starting nod, it'll be one more opportunity for Mesoraco to take it all in.

All his hard work and dedication to practicing and making his God-given talents fruitful is paying off, and if I know him at all, he's taking it all in quite humbly.

Devin is the sort of representative that makes Punxsy proud.

And the thing about it is he is a great representative for us, but he's also a great representative of our town.

The few times I've spoken with him since the September call-up, Mesoraco always made sure to point out his thankfulness to the folks who helped him get where he is today.

He certainly gave credit to his family and his coaches, but he's always made a point to thank the folks who came out and supported him from Day 1, as well.

It's evident that he knows exactly where he came from, and he knows that where he came from helped shape him into the man that he is today: A Major League catcher.

He gives the kids of Punxsutawney something to strive for. There's excitement at the prospect that they just may be the next Devin Mesoraco. But even if they don't make the bigs, they still have a good model to look up to as a person.

Again, my time speaking with him has been limited, but Devin's humility, hard work and dedication are traits that make Punxsy proud because they represent what Punxsy residents are all about.

Today, I'd like to wish Devin good luck as he takes in another first and begins his first full season in the Majors.

But as the town of Punxsy says "Good luck, Devin," I think it's also appropriate that to say, "Thanks," as well.

So, good luck and thanks, Devin. We'll be pulling for you, not only as the catcher for the Reds, but in your continued modeling of humility and dedication in your success.

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