Athlete Spotlight: Matt Yonta
By Mike Meyer and Max Bregande
Photo by Christian Charles
Senior Matt Yonta has had a long-time problem with a neighbor. Not because they are bad neighbors, but because they’re Red Sox fans. Yonta and his family have been Yankees fans for as long as he can remember. As a result of playing baseball from early on, Yonta was an early fan. “My dad got me into it at a really young age, and my neighbor was a Red Sox fan and we were Yankees fans so I was interested.”
He began playing in Jamesville-DeWitt Youth Little League at age 5, and continued to play until seventh grade when he joined the Jamesville-DeWitt Boys Modified Baseball team under Coach Joe Corridori. This experience led to Yonta being pulled up from the junior varsity team to the varsity team for sectionals as a freshman. As a sophomore, Yonta was on the varsity team for the entire season- and has been a member ever since. Once a shortstop, Yonta has now focused his talent on pitching. He is the varsity’s ace this season according to varsity Baseball Coach Ryan Dera.
“Being a pitcher is my favorite because I’m always involved in the game and I have total control of it,” said Yonta.
In addition to being a member of the team at J-DHS Yonta has also spent many of his playing days as a member of the Syracuse Sportszone Baseball Academy. This is a travel team organization that takes the top players from all over Central New York and participates in out-of-state tournaments. Yonta has played in tournaments in places like New Jersey and Long Island, but he has even ventured as far as Atlanta, GA. to play in an elite tournament with players that have extremely high caliber talent.
Yonta also has two Babe Ruth World Series appearances with a local travel team called Valley Babe Ruth. This team played the series in Boston, Mass. when Yonta was 14 and in Alphredo, Wash. when he was 17. His 14 and under team placed in the top ten in the nation that year.
As far as baseball after high school goes, Yonta has earned a spot on the Union College Baseball team. “Union is a great school, and I’m happy that baseball helped me get in,” Yonta said. “Union is a good fit for Yonta, he should do well there.” said Coach Dera. For now, he is undecided as to what major he would like to pursue.
“He doesn’t put anyone down, he just tells you how you can improve,” said J-DHS Varsity baseball teammate Brendon Schunck. “He consistently performs well under pressure,” he added. Schunck predicts a bright future for Yonta at Union College. “If Matt pitches at his top potential he’ll definitely have a spot in the starting rotation,” he said. “Matt’s work ethic is what college level coaches look for.” said Schunck
“He loves the game of baseball,” said former baseball teammate and senior Josh Fitzgibbons, “he’s really driven.”
“He’s a great athlete,” said physical education teacher Jeff Ike. “Matt’s a very hard worker. He has the ability to pick things up quickly since he’s very knowledgeable.”
“Matty is a hard worker and his hard work pays off on the field, “ said Dera “he spent all off-season developing five pitches that he can use in a game and all of them are nasty.”
Yonta’s work ethic also extends into the classroom. Throughout high school he has been on high honor roll every marking period. He has taken three AP courses and six honors level classes.
“He’s a good student,” said Physics teacher Patrick Ferrick, “he has good intentions and he is very conscientious and knows how to get stuff done.”
Yonta also spends some of his time away from baseball volunteering. He recently took a trip to New Orleans to help out in the relief for Hurricane Katrina with a group called Operation Southern Comfort. This opportunity was given to Yonta through Donna Oppedisano, a history teacher at J-DHS. The group of students from J-DHS including Yonta worked there for a week rebuilding damaged property, and planting trees for the environment there.