For three years, Old Forge baseball coach Tony DiMattia has watched Mike Vieira grow up.
But he is still amazed at the level of intensity his senior third baseman brings to the Blue Devils.
“He would run through a wall for you,” DiMattia said. “He’s very energetic, a good kid. I wish they all had his passion. He gives you 2, 2-and-a half hours of energy every practice.”
That effort pays off for the senior, who is lauded for his leadership on a team that has a dozen seniors.
“He’s the straw that stirs the drink,” DiMattia said. “He’s the first to compliment someone if they do something well, and the first to let them know if they’ve done something wrong.”
Having that attitude is easy when a team has been together for a long time.
“They’re great guys; you couldn’t ask for a better group of teammates,” Vieira said. “We’ve been playing together since we were young; we grew up with each other.”
Having lost to Mid Valley and Lakeland within a week, it’s up to Vieira to make sure the Blue Devils stay the course and retain their confidence.
“You’re going to have some losses, but we have to come back and do anything we can to win,” Vieira said. “We have a competitive group of guys, and we’ll keep our heads up.
“We can’t forget it, but we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Vieira has bounced back from a junior season that featured a lot of misfortune with his offense.
“Last year he hit into more tough luck, but he always put the ball in play,” DiMattia said. “He must have hit 10 balls where people made good or great plays on him. I remember against Dunmore, their centerfielder laid out to make a catch.”
Despite Vieira’s struggles, DiMattia never stopped believing in him.
“He got a little discouraged to a degree, but we knew we were getting quality at-bats every time,” DiMattia said. “We knew teams would pitch around our three and four hitters, but we didn’t mind because he was hitting fifth.”
“I’m seeing the ball a lot better,” Vieira said. “I was inconsistent in the past, so the main thing I’m trying to do is put the ball in play and make plays for the team.”
As a result of his persistence, now Vieira is among the Lackawanna League Division III leaders in hits and average. With his offense catching up to his defense, Vieira looms as a key player in the Blue Devils’ drive for a division title.
“All my life, I felt I had more of an edge in the infield,” Vieira said. “My bat has come around of late. I’m on a rhythm right now.”
“He takes pride in his defense,” DiMattia said. “He gets mad if he bobbles a ball, makes a mistake or an error.”
By holding himself to a high level of accountability, Vieira has emerged as a leader, fully knowing he has the backing of the coaches and respect from his teammates. That can be harder to show on defense, but he tries his best to do his best.
“I know our pitchers are giving 110 percent, so we have to have our pitchers’ backs,” Vieira said. “We sacrifice for each other.”
All with the hope that all the hard work will lead to victory. That’s a formula that Vieira has followed all his baseball life.
“As a sophomore, he played mainly JV, but we used him as a courtesy runner for the catcher,” DiMattia said. “He totally accepted his role, he owned it and worked hard every day on that because he knew that’s how he was going to help the team.”
That captures Vieira’s attitude in a nutshell. It’s all about the team, all the time.