Ellis Stanton: In only a few weeks, he will be walking across the stage. But five years ago, Anthony Ruggiero had no idea he would up here.
Anthony Ruggiero: I only applied to Syracuse because I had a fee waiver. I really kicked it as a last-minute option and kicked it to the curb.
Stanton: Originally it were the waves that were calling him. He wanted to see for himself if the West Coast is actually the best coast. He had his plane ticket booked for Malibu.
Ruggiero: I know a lot of times people go away to school. They go “I want to get away from family, I want to do this, I want to expand myself.” I feel like I wanted to go away to expand myself and to see a new place because all of my family just stayed in Utica.
Stanton: But instead of traveling over 2,000 miles west, he only traveled 50 miles. He gave up on going across the county and stayed in the single digit degree weather… all for his grandfather.
Ruggiero: So it’s kind of difficult if you want to go to a new place, but you want to take care of your family. And I was raised on the part of taking care of your family. So that’s why I wanted to stay close to him and to stay close to home. Because he took care of me when my mom and dad were away, I have to take care of him when he’s getting old age.
Stanton: Growing up, his grandpa would watch him when his mom and dad went to work. Together, they were a team.
Ruggiero: He taught me how to fish with my dad, taught me how to cook because I’d be over the house with them and I’d be like six, seven years old making pizza, making pasta with them.
Stanton: On the weekends his freshman year, Anthony would get in his car… drive an hour… to be home… with his grandpa. But his decision to stay didn’t come without doubts.
Ruggiero: A lot of the time, even at times, especially first semester freshman year, I was thinking of transferring just because like, it was a tough situation to get thrown into. I wanted to go back out west, but then I just wanted to stay close to my grandpa, and I said, I’ll stick it out another semester this year, see where that takes me.
Stanton: Anthony knew his time with his grandfather was limited and that he would have to find a new team. And after sticking out another semester he did! But not with the sport he played growing up for boys. Softball helped him write his path here at Syracuse.
Ruggiero: When I was a freshman, I tried out for the club baseball team, ended up making that. Then softball’s first ever manager in their history, Dax, came up and asked me, hey you seem like a good guy, do you want to be the softball manager with me? I said yes because I feel like it would give me something to do. I wasn’t the one to go out anyways and I just said, you know what? Like I go home on the weekends anyways, this will get me to stay. It will get me around more people and it’ll get me out on the weekends but for a better cause.
Stanton: After his freshman year, his grandfather passed away. But the bond he made with his new team helped the calls from the ocean stay distant.
Ruggiero: So softball made me stay. My family at home at home turned into a family at school. And the good thing is I found something I could work for, something I could stay around and be helpful with.
Stanton: And Anthony doesn’t hope to leave the softball world anytime soon. He has applied for graduate assistant positions to colleges all over the country to help him one day become a coach. Soon the waves may be finally calling his name again.
In Syracuse, Ellis Stanton, NCC News