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2013-08-21 / Sports

Carmine at the bat

Meet the county’s fiercest softball slugger
By Fred Jeter
CONTRIBUTING WRITER


Carmine Praino Jr. is a personal trainer by day who transforms into a fired-up softball star on evenings and weekends. Praino plays for the HH-Gashouse and Batta Boom teams. 
James Haskins/Chesterfield Observer Carmine Praino Jr. is a personal trainer by day who transforms into a fired-up softball star on evenings and weekends. Praino plays for the HH-Gashouse and Batta Boom teams. James Haskins/Chesterfield Observer On the national landscape, there is a short list of athletes recognizable merely by their first name or nickname.

Tiger. LeBron. Kobe. RG3. A-Rod. Around Chesterfield County, no formal surname is required in discussing a certain swift, energetic, long-ball swatting softball slugger.

Just mention “Carmine,” within the softball community and everyone will know who you speak of.

Not a soul will ask, “Carmine who?”

Even Jason Seeley, his good friend and manager on two different teams (HH-Gashouse and Batta Boom), concedes Carmine is “a mystery” in terms of formal naming.

Seeley had to consult a printed roster to come up with his star outfielder’s last name.

“Everyone knows him by Carmine,” said Seeley, chuckling at the thought. “He goes by one name, like Madonna.”

In fact, on Seeley’s Thursday night HHGashouse team, players’ jerseys display last names on the back – with one exception: Carmine.

Officially, the man behind all those muscles and tattoos is Carmine Praino Jr., 43, a transplanted New Yorker. He is a personal trainer by day; then transforms into a fired-up softball star evenings and weekends.

The sculpted 6-foot, 210-pounder is a wily veteran who plays with all the enthusiasm and reckless abandon of a rookie.

He has dedicated his hitting, fielding and base running to his late father, Carmine Praino Sr., who passed away in 2008. Carmine Jr. moved to the county in 2007 to be closer to his parents. Carmine now resides with his mother, Miriam, in Midlothian.

“My father taught me how to play baseball and softball … he is my inspiration,” Carmine said.

“I play with a lot of heart … and lot of passion; that’s how I was raised.”

As spirit and skill goes, Carmine is a prodigy.

Performing for HH-Gashouse in the Thursday night playoffs Aug. 8, he walloped grand slams in his first at-bat each game.

Suiting up for Batta Boom in the Wednesday playoffs Aug. 14, he blasted a home run that seemed to still be rising as it rocketed not only over the 300-foot centerfield fence, but also over a grove of trees behind that.

Few hit the ball farther, track fly balls more relentlessly or run the bases with more enthusiasm than Carmine, who wears knee pads on both legs for sliding protection.

Born in the Bronx, his family moved to Deer Park on Long Island when he was a child. He grew up a Yankees fan, with ex- Pinstriper Don Mattingly, now manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, his favorite player.

His late father is of Italian ancestry. His mother has Puerto Rican bloodlines. The name, Carmine, of Latin origin, is the masculine equivalent of Carmen, and means “song.”

It is fitting he plays softball to a hip-hop beat.

This summer, both HH-Gashouse (Thursdays at Iron Bridge) and Batta Boom (Wednesdays at Warbro) dominated their competition.

The teams’ combined record was something like 50-4.

Seeley, Clint Walker and Carmine are the only three to play on both teams. Seeley and Walker are both Clover Hill High graduates.

For some, softball is like a grand buffet … and they never get their fill.

Such is the case with Carmine, although it hasn’t always been the smoothest of rides.

He broke a wrist soon after moving to Virginia in and had operations on both ears to correct his hearing.

“Now I don’t have to play music so loud,” he said. “I don’t talk as loud, either … I used to talk too loud without knowing it.”

As soon as summer softball season ends, fall-ball commences for the gung-ho.

And this fall, Carmine plans on sponsoring and managing his own team.

Plans are to call it Carmine’s Mafia. And, rest assured, his competitors in the county won’t be asking, Carmine who?

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