Don’t let Anthony D’Onofrio’s height fool you.
At 5-8, the Wantagh shortstop is used to being underestimated. But with one swing of the bat, stolen base, or throw from the hole, D’Onofrio proves his measurements are the last thing that defines him.
“To be honest with you,” D’Onofrio said, “when I’m on the field, I feel like I’m the biggest player on the field.”
And for good reason. D’Onofrio, who has started every game at shortstop for the last four seasons, never spent a day on the junior varsity. When trying out four years ago as a freshman, Wantagh coach Keith Sachs told the junior varsity coach not to bother looking at D’Onofrio, because Sachs had bigger plans for him.
And on Wednesday, D’Onofrio was awarded the Diamond Award as Nassau’s top positional baseball player.
“It’s feels amazing,” the senior said. “I know how hard I worked in the offseason and all that hard work paid off and it’s really special to me.
D’Onofrio has accepted and conquered every challenge on the diamond the past four years, as an integral part of the Wantagh baseball team advancing to the state semifinals each of the last three seasons.
“He plays with a chip on his shoulder like he has to prove something every swing, every time he runs the bases, every ground ball,” Sachs said. “Even at practice, he never takes a play off. He has to challenge himself.”
D’Onofrio, committed to Hofstra, said winning the Diamond Award was a motivation for him throughout the offseason. The extra workouts resulted in a .512 batting average with 41 runs, five home runs, 31 RBIs and successfully stealing 25 of 26 bases through Wantagh’s run to the state Class A semifinal.
In his four varsity seasons, D’Onofrio hit .438 with 126 runs, 49 extra-base hits, 73 RBIs and 64 stolen bases on 67 attempts.
“He’s just worked on his craft ridiculously, to the point where every year’s he’s improved, which is hard to do,” Sachs said. “He set the bar so high and still improved every year.”
Both Sachs and D’Onofrio said although many moments come to mind, the shortstop’s leadoff double off Shoreham-Wading River’s Brian Morrell, who went on to be drafted by the Phillies and is playing at Notre Dame, in a 4-2 victory in the 2017 Long Island Class A final best defines D’Onofrio.
“To have 10 radar guns clocking the pitcher who’s getting drafted,” Sachs said, “and having the 5-8 kid hit it off the leftfield fence on one swing just propelled us.
“I felt it was the only game we were true underdogs in, and he turned the game on one swing.”