By Dave Ricci firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Lina Mirabella knows tonight’s East-West double header at Sheridan Park will be special. Not because it’s her first, but because it’s her brother John’s last.
Tonight John and Lina Mirabella will be part of the annual under-the-lights event that is the highlight of the Ken-Ton spring sports season, as Kenmore East and Kenmore West will clash in both baseball (6:30 p.m.) and softball (7:00 p.m.).
While siblings playing in the Sheridan Park double header is part of this long standing tradition, what makes the Mirabella’s story unique is John, a senior right fielder, will be playing baseball for Ken-East. While Lina, a freshman, will be donning the blue and white of Ken-West in softball.
It’ll be yet another special night in a lifetime of always being there for each other.
“Me and my sister play street hockey, she was the goalie and I shoot at her and she lets me fire (street hockey) balls at her outside or in the basement,” John Mirabella said with a smile.
Playing whiffle ball together during lazy summer days, John Mirabella said he never saw it as a situation where he was forced or told to spend time with his baby sister. It just always felt natural to be together.
“He encouraged me to play softball and hockey with him,” Lina Mirabella said. “He thought it was pretty cool that he had a younger sister who was playing too.”
Sharing a passion for ice hockey, Lina — who plays catcher and serves as a pinch runner for the Lady Blue Devils — was a member of the Kenmore girls team that went to the state tournament this year.
John, meanwhile, was part of the Bulldogs hockey team that captured the state championship last year.
Flashing a smile that makes her the spitting-image of her mother, Josephine, Lina recalled those early days of playing hockey with her brother, and how she always seemed to be the goalie — though to this day Lina doesn’t know if it was because she wanted to play net or because John always talked her into it.
“It was 50-50 but I enjoyed it,” Lina Mirabella said with a laugh.
While matching NFL schedules make it tough for John and Lina to get to each others’ games John said they both go that extra mile to watch each other every chance they get. Even if it means racing from one school to the other just to catch an inning or two.
“Whenever I have a practice and she has a game I go there right after practice and she does the same,” John Mirabella said. “She’s been to a couple of my games and I’ve been to a couple of her games this year. It’s hard but they’re fun to go to and see her play. She’s very supportive of me.”
“It’s great to know that he’s there watching me even though he goes to a different school,” Lina Mirabella said.
The conflicting schedules also make it challenging for their parents, John and Josephine Mirabella, to get to every game. But John and Lina say mom and dad do their best to divide their time equally as possible.
Both are team-first players who are extremely unselfish, the heart of what makes John and Lina Mirabella the kind of kids you would want on your team is the character and strong values of dedication and hard work that their parents instilled in them.
“They both have outstanding values,” said Ken East baseball coach Leslie Simon.”They’re just very grounded, polite kids. Also good athletes too.”
Simon also added that the Mirabella’s were gracious hosts for a team spaghetti dinner the East baseball team had earlier in the year.
Bonded by their love of the Bisons, Sabres and Blue Jays, John and Lina Mirabella know that long after their competitive sports days have passed them by they will still be in each others’ corner. Every step of the way.Find contributor Dave Ricci on Twitter @DaveARicci.