By John Swinconeck, Contributing Writer
Westboroug’s Frank DeSiata will have capped off what could be his final months as Westborough Recreation Director with an award named for one of the children DeSiata once coached.
The Greg Montalbano Award is named for the late Spinners’ alumnus and former Red Sox top prospect, according to the Spinners official website. DeSiata was to be honored Jan. 11, during the Roberts Highlights Hot Stove Dinner to raise money for Lowell Spinners charities.
DeSiata has also coached and refereed youth sports, including high school sports, in addition to his 36 years working at the Recreation Department.
Sharon Montalbano, Greg Montalbano’s mother, praised DeSiata for his dedication to the department and to Westborough’s youth.
“He’s a great guy,” she said. “He’s done tremendous work in developing the Recreation Department into what it is today.”
DeSiata said he started with the department in 1978, shortly after graduating from UMass with a degree in elementary education.
“I have loved the job since day one,” he said. “It’s been a great fit for me. There’s nothing else I would have rather done.”
However, DeSatio said that both he and his wife, Recreation Department Program Coordinator Karen DeSiata, are considering retirement this spring.
“I’s 65 now. I’se been able to work with my wife for 30 years but we feel it might be time to slow the pace,” he said. “We’se never been able to take a summer off in over 30 years.”
DeSiata said leaving would be “bittersweet,” but that he was proud of what the Recreation Department, which in 2012 offered more than 300 programs ranging from basketball to yoga to swimming, has become.
“I feel as though we’se created a department that’s top-notch in the community, and in the area,” DeSiata said. “The most important things here are to be fair and to treat everyone with respect.”
DeSiata has been long-time friends with the Montalbano family. “His mom was a neighbor of mine and we were friends in grade school. His father, Andy, and I played softball for 20 years. Greg was our batboy.”
Greg Montalbano grew up in Westborough, playing on the town’s little league teams. His first coach was DeSiata.
“I know [DeSiata] had an impact as a coach,” Sharon Montalbano said. “He was instrumental in instilling sportsmanship, friendship, camaraderie. He went over and above as coach.”
DeSiata remembered Greg Montalbano as a youth who put his team first, who loved scouting and the outdoors.
“Greg was a guy whose smile would light up the room,” DeSiata said. “He had a grin where you’s look at it and go, “Greg, what are you thinking?” All the kids loved him.”
Montalbano gained acclaim as a star pitcher at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury.
“I wasn’s happy about that because I was the coach at Westborough High School at the time,” DeSiata recalled, “but he was still a good friend of mine.”
Montalbano later earned All American Honors pitching at Northeastern University. He was still a student there when he was first diagnosed with cancer. He continued to play through treatment and surgery, and was eventually drafted by the Red Sox. He was named the Sox’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2001, but failing health prevented him from ever taking the mound at Fenway.
In addition to the Spinners, Montalbano also played for the Sarasota Red Sox, Trenton Thunder, Portland Sea Dogs, and the Worcester Tornadoes, before leaving baseball and becoming an engineer.
Montalbano succumbed to testicular cancer in 2009. He was 31. His memory continues to be honored by the community. The former Upton Road Ball Field, where the Spinners” pitcher once played Little League, was named “Greg’s Field” in honor of Montalbano in 2010. (For more on the dedication click here). In addition, the annual Greg Montalbano Golf Classic charity golf tournament is held each summer.