Families Make Road Trips To See Their Jammer Sons

Jamestown’s Ben Livorsi prepares to throw the ball back to the pitcher during Wednesday night’s Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game in Elmira. P-J photo by Alex Shipherd

ELMIRA — Tony and Amy Livorsi had planned a visit to the area this week to spend the Jamestown Jammers’ three days off with their son, Ben.

They were going to use the downtime exploring the area and possibly take a trip to Niagara Falls.

Plans changed.

Ben’s performance thus far in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League warranted a selection to the all-star game and the Minnetonka, Minnesota natives decided to drive a little farther east.

“We were super excited,” Amy said Wednesday afternoon while watching all-star workouts at Dunn Field.

Aaron and Angel Keng, second row, watch Wednesday night's Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game with Tony and Amy Livorsi, front row, at Dunn Field in Elmira. The Kengs are the parents of Jammers center fielder Chase Keng while the Livorsis are the parents of Jammers catcher Ben Livorsi. P-J photo by Alex Shipherd

“All the hard work and perseverance … you realize there are a lot of ups and downs,” added Tony, who pitched collegiately at the University of Notre Dame. “It’s a grind, so to get recognized by your coaches is a huge feather in your cap.”

Heading into his sophomore year at Saint Louis University, the Livorsis hope Ben’s selection to the summer league all-star game is just the next step toward their son’s ultimate baseball dream of playing in the Major Leagues.

The 6-foot, 210-pound Livorsi grew up playing Little League baseball in the suburbs of the Twin Cities and did not join the travel circuits until his middle school years. Playing collegiately turned from a dream to a reality shortly thereafter.

“It was always taking this whole process with your eyes wide open and knowing where you stand with objective feedback to see what’s realistic,” Tony said. “After freshman year, Division I became a reality and it really picked up after sophomore year when colleges came calling.”

On the season, Livorsi is hitting .269 with two doubles, a triple and four home runs while driving in 19 runs. He recently moved up to the No. 5 spot in the batting order after hitting lower for much of the first half of the season. This comes after a spring season with the Billikens during which he hit .257 with four RBIs and a .400 slugging percentage in 23 games — including five starts.

Charlene and Tim O'Donnell watch their son, Jammers shortstop Alex O'Donnell, play in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game on Wednesday night at Dunn Field in Elmira. P-J photo by Alex Shipherd

“He got the benefit of going with his sister to see different types of school. To him, school size was a huge deal. … He knew Division I, but what type of Division I?,” Amy said.

“The other piece that came into it were schools that liked his bat, but wanted to move him from behind the plate,” Tony added. “That made him think about what passion he has for catching. … I think he likes the chess match of being able to call his own game and set up hitters.”

The Livorsis weren’t the only proud parents in the crowd rooting on the five-man Jammers contingent and manager Anthony Barone.

Joining them were Tim and Charlene O’Donnell of Lockport, in support of their son, Alex.

The Mercyhurst University shortstop took a little different route to PGCBL honors, albeit ending up with the same recognition as Livorsi.

Alex O’Donnell is a fourth-year Jammer, spending his first season with manager Anthony Barone and the Jamestown franchise in the Prospect League before making the shift to the PGCBL for the past three seasons.

O’Donnell struggled early on in his summer league career, but has grown each season since, to the point of leading the Jammers in hitting at .349 entering the break.

“Anthony does push him and that’s what Alex needs to be challenged all the time,” Tim O’Donnell said. “I give Coach Barone a lot of credit because he gave Alex a chance right out of high school where maybe some coaches wouldn’t have. He got him in there and mentored Alex. … I think it’s a really good relationship with those two. I’m super glad that Anthony is part of his baseball life.”

The Starpoint Central School graduate spent his first two collegiate seasons at Canisius College before transferring to NCAA Division II Mercyhurst in Erie, Pennsylvania before his junior year. O’Donnell hit .258 with nine doubles, three triples and two home runs while driving in 29 for the Lakers this spring.

“It’s been pretty easy for Alex. He adapts really fast,” Charlene said. “Baseball is a very important part of his life, but he knows he needs the education, too. He knew he wanted to play baseball somewhere, so that had to work for sure.”

The step down in division doesn’t necessarily end O’Donnell’s dreams of playing in the big leagues. Mercyhurst had two players drafted in this past June’s first-year player draft, pitchers Chris Vallimont — a former Jammer — and Andrew Ciolli. They joined former Lakers Cam Balego (2017), Hank Morrison (2016), Colin McKee (2016), Dan Altavilla (2014) and Zak Blair (2013) drafted in the past five years.

“We’re seeing more of a reality with that maybe, just this year because he has worked really hard to get to where he is,” Charlene said of prospective professional opportunities. ” … Whatever happens will be his destiny. Wherever he goes, we’ll know he’s going to be a good teacher, if that’s what ends up being. He still loves baseball and that will always be something that he is doing.”

The infielder has made the most of his opportunities this summer, hitting out of the No. 3 hole in the Barone’s order for most of the season and taking over a shortstop after Josh Lamb was lost for the year a few weeks ago.

Livorsi and O’Donnell will now join fellow all-stars Chase Keng, Isaiah Moten and Ryan Boyer focusing on the Jammers’ ultimate goal for the summer — winning a PGCBL title, which they came up a game short of doing a year ago.

For their parents, opportunities for their children at the highest levels of the sport are what they’ve hoped for ever since the young men were little boys.

“It’s just kind of part of the process. Baseball is a journey. He has always had a really good concept of ‘I’ve never made it,'” Amy Livorsi said of her son. “Just to have the opportunity to show your stuff and get feedback on what you can do better has been a huge part of his development. It’s an honor, but it’s just part of the process.”

“Since he was 8 years old, every single day of his life has been baseball,” Tim O’Donnell said of his son. “It’s rewarding. I have to give a lot of credit to Alex, he’s put a lot of hard work in over the years.”