MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
There was always little for coaches to worry about when Matt Lonardo was on the field or on the floor.
Lonardo was an indispensable leader across all three of his sports and his talent shined through in whatever he chose to play during his four years at Cranston West. His work in the backfield earned him a Second Team All-State selection in the fall, and he bookended his three full seasons on the varsity baseball team with First-Team honors.
“His hard work, his dedication, the time he puts in, making sure he takes care of the little things to get better,” West baseball manager Rob Malo said, describing some of Lonardo’s best qualities. “He’s always looking to improve his game.”
West’s offense averaged just 13.5 points per game during a 2-6 football campaign in Division I, but Lonardo was always reliable at the running back position. He capped his career in pads with a two-touchdown performance on Thanksgiving as the Falcons thrashed rival Cranston East, 43-21.
“First you have to talk primarily about Matt as an individual,” West basketball coach John Macera said. “He’s very grounded. He’s a competitor no matter the sport. He works to make his team better.”
Lonardo next took his ability to the court for the winter season, where he chipped in 3.7 points per game during a 3-13 season. More importantly, though, Lonardo was a leader and mentor to the younger players, leading by example as he made his minutes count.
“Having a number of individuals from baseball and football on the basketball team, just how well he gets along with others speaks volumes about how other kids feel about him,” Macera said. “The camaraderie was competitive but also successful. I think overall he sees the big picture, it’s not just about him. It’s about his team and trying to make his team better.”
The senior went out with his best performance of the year during the spring, leading the Falcons to a spot in the Division I baseball Final Four at McCarthy Field. After a down junior season, Lonardo surged back to go out with a bang. He hit .314 with four doubles, one home run and a team-high 16 RBIs.
He was also a standout at shortstop, making just four errors on 113 total chances for a .965 fielding percentage.
“He’s been a starter since midway through his freshman year. I didn’t have to worry about shortstop,” Malo said. “If he had to be vocal, he was vocal. If he needed to get the kids up and be an extension of the coaching staff he did that, too. He did a good job at being a captain, being a leader, but it depended on the situation for the type of leader that he was.”
It will be an unenviable task to replace Lonardo next season as he takes the next step at the University of Rhode Island. He will try to walk on to the baseball team, which is fresh off an Atlantic 10 Championship and a trip to the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament.
“I don’t doubt that his work ethic will put him in the best position possible,” Macera said. “I think it’s important. I don’t think Matt will ever stray away from who he is. Hopefully the coaches at URI can recognize that.”
“There’s some guys there that are working hard to fill his spot, but it will definitely be different,” Malo said. “It’ll be different not having him in the lineup.”