A tree planting and a plaque dedication at the John Street Complex in Bay Park last Saturday honored the memory of Giovanni “Gio” Cipriano, a 14-year-old Lynbrook boy who died in October 2013 after having a severe allergic reaction to peanuts.
Gio’s parents, Georgina and John, and his younger sister, Gianna, attended the ceremony, along with members of East Rockaway Little League Baseball’s senior and junior division teams, their coaches, and village and town officials.
“It was overwhelming being there, because it was the first time I had walked on the field since he died,” said John, who once coached in the league. “It was touching … beautiful. You could see how much these kids were affected by Gio — he made a connection with everyone, young and old.”
John said that his son was a good player, but wanted to be the best. “After he passed, we found this saying that he posted on his Facebook page: ‘I don’t wanna be remembered as an average ball player, I wanna be remembered as the best ever to step on a diamond.’ [this quote was attributed to Jimmy Wilson, who began his pro career in 1923 with the Philadelphia Phillies.]
Gio, who had suffered from severe allergies since he was a baby, died two weeks after falling into a coma brought on by anaphylactic shock after he accidentally ingested food that contained peanuts. He was a freshman at Holy Trinity Diocesan High School in Hicksville, and played travel baseball.
“It was a wonderful ceremony,” said East Rockaway Little League Baseball President Tom LaBarbera. “The weather was overcast in the beginning, and when we started, the rain just stopped. It was almost like he knew.”
LaBarbera’s son, Matthew, 15, an East Rockaway High School sophomore, was a friend and teammate of Gio’s. “He was a great person, a great player,” Matthew said. “He loved playing ball, he was outgoing, he was always there if anyone needed something … he knew what to do in a pinch.”
The plaque and the tree, Matthew said, would keep his friend’s memory on the field. “We also started to play a game on his birthday, August 18, last year,” he said, “and now we want to make it an annual thing.” Matthew, who has been playing ball since he was 4 or 5, added that talking about Gio helps.
The plaque will be mounted on a stone that will be set between two trees behind centerfield. Deacon Neil Squitieri, of Our Lady of Peace Church in Lynbrook, blessed the grounds, the new flowering cherry tree that was planted, and the plaque.