A Brother’s Long Battle Inspires Championship Run

Matthew Pinto ’21 lost his brother during baseball season. Like Dowdell, he battled on, knowing that his brother would want him to keep playing the sport he loved.

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Matthew Pinto takes the phrase “attitude with gratitude” to heart way, way more than most student-athletes tend to.

The reason is the battle Pinto's younger brother, Vincent, battled for his short and impactful time on earth.

Vincent was born in 2002 with C.H.A.R.G.E. syndrome. Because of this, he could not see, or could not hear. And, because of that, he could not play sports. Seeing the daily hardships his brother went through, Pinto worked harder than anyone, for several reasons.

“Whenever I stepped on that field, I did it not only for me but also for him as well,” he said. “He impacted my athletic career more than anyone knows. Whether I was in the weight room not wanting to lift or in the batting cage struggling, I remembered if only he had the chance I have, he would make the most of it.”

Pinto used this personal drive to not only become a better baseball player but an outstanding teammate, leader and student. Happy to play his role, every step of the way, and always remembering to take advantage of every day and opportunity.

But, just as Pinto and the Royals were about to embark on the 2021 season after having their 2020 campaign cut far too soon because of COVID-19, tragedy struck. On March 21, Vincent lost his battle with C.H.A.R.G.E syndrome at the age of 18.

Vincent’s death fell right in the outset of Scranton’s abbreviated season, and despite this, many of Pinto’s teammates made the long trip to Massapequa Park, New York, for the funeral to support the family. The outpouring of support by the Scranton baseball community meant the world to Matt.

"Whether I was in the weight room not wanting to lift or in the batting cage struggling, I remembered if only he had the chance I have, he would make the most of it."

“That day was the toughest day of my life and seeing those guys gave me hope in a time of need,” he said. “I remember standing outside the church saying thank you to all of them and I was able to have a normal conversation with one of my teammates besides the chaos that was going on that day. The reminder of normalcy for five minutes went a long way.

“Losing my younger brother was the hardest thing in my life, but having my teammates treat me like family really helped me through the healing process that I continue to go through. Everyone deserves a Scranton baseball community; I was just lucky enough to have them.”

After a week away from the team, Pinto returned to the Royals with a heavy heart and mind, and battled on, knowing that his brother would want him to keep playing the sport he loved.

Throughout the season, constant reminders of Vincent were present throughout the Royals. Pinto wore a blue wristband with the initials “VP” on it and wrote on his cleats “VP #74 my angel”. He also wore his brothers initials on his helmet in form of a sticker, something that several members of the team also did.

From the moment Pinto rejoined the team, Scranton went on an historic run.

Winning seemingly multiple times a week in dramatic fashion, Scranton’s season came to a head on May 23 in the final game of the Landmark Championship series against Elizabethtown. There, the Royals knocked off the Blue Jays, 6-3, to win their first ever conference title.

On such an historic day, Pinto couldn’t be bothered about thinking about another event going on about 20 miles from Volpe Field — University of Scranton graduation.

“Honestly, every college graduate has a graduation day, but not many get to win the first Landmark Conference championship in school history, so graduation was kind of on the back burner,” he said. “We all got some pictures in our cap and gowns afterwards, but the most memorable pictures from that day came from the field with our caps on and the Landmark Championship shirts on.

“I think I had the Landmark Championship flag wrapped around me for about 30 minutes after we got handed the trophy.”

The Royals moved onto the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time the next week, and despite bowing out after two games, Pinto made even more memories he will cherish forever.

As he now embarks on finishing up his MBA at Scranton this fall and professional life after, Pinto continues to think about the long-lasting impact his younger brother not only had on his own life but the entire Scranton baseball community.

“If everyone can learn to just have fun being a part of the team no matter what the role, then Vincent will be a part of the Scranton baseball team forever,” he said. “Because Vincent is the reason for my actions, my passion, my pride and the joy I had on that field, even if that was sitting beside the best teammates on that bench.

“I hope players can cherish every moment because no one knows when it will be our last.”

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