Sponsor: Boyertown Midget Baseball League and Private Donations from family, friends, teammates
Artist: Kylie McGrath, family friend
Sunday, August 12, 2023, was a beautiful, but bittersweet day for the Boyertown Midget Baseball League (BMBL) and the Rota family who gathered with friends, family, baseball teammates and coaches to attend BMBL's dedication of a Bear Fever bear that was created to remember former player Anthony Rota who perished in a motorcycle accident two years ago.
Hundreds attended the dedication, and hundreds were expected at a celebratory dinner featuring the “infamous Boyertown gravy burger” later that evening so that attendees could share memories of their time together on or off the ball field. During Anthony’s 15-year baseball career, he caught for many Boyertown teams including the Bear Cubs, the 2016 high school state championship team, and the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) Crimson Hawks.
Scott Rath, president of the BMLB, offered remarks to begin the ceremony and then invited others to share memories and tributes. Former teammate Patrick Maloney shared a story involving water guns; coach Todd Moyer urged those who attended to remember the support of friends and teammates.
Anthony’s father Tony gave thanks for the support and generosity the family received, saying,
“On behalf of Joy, Elise, and myself, thank you all for coming today. A huge thanks to Boyertown Midget Baseball League, especially Scott Rath, Pat Maloney, John Endy, Bud Harner, Troy Moser, the Mackey family, and so many others for honoring Anthony in such a profound and meaningful way.
“Thank you to Anthony’s former employer, Penn Beer Sales, for the banner. For our friends, family, the Boyertown baseball community, and Anthony’s IUP teammates who have supported and loved us over the past two years; we have no words to adequately convey how much you mean to us. We are humbled and overwhelmed.
“It’s a happy day. I miss him every day and treasure the stories I hear, so keep ‘em coming.”
Anthony’s mother Joy acknowledged Kylie McGrath, the artist of Anthony’s bear and offered details about Anthony and about the bear before inviting her to unveil the bear named “Catching Summer.”
Joy, said, “There is one special young woman who deserves a mountain of recognition today. Kylie McGrath, you worked on Anthony’s bear for an entire year—in a freezing garage--and your incredible talent speaks for itself.
“Kylie, you are loved beyond measure; and we can never repay you for your time and the breathtaking result of your artistry. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This, however, leaves us speechless.
In describing the images on the bear, Joy continued,
“One side of the bear is dedicated to the 15 years Anthony played and excelled at his favorite sport and some words of encouragement for the next generation of players.
“Anthony loved baseball. He would play for anybody, anytime, anywhere; and give each game 110%. He played for BMBL from T-Ball in 2006 through the Black Bears 12-year-old tournament team. He then played for Boyertown Jr. Legion Bear Cubs, US Elite, the Bally Bear Cats, Boyertown Oilers, Pine Forge, Gablesville Owls and the IUP Crimson Hawks.
“In 2016, he also represented Pennsylvania in the Big 26 Border Klash. All-Star, MVP, State Champ, Home Run Derby winner, Bench Clown, Catcher, are just a few of his titles.
“The sunbeam on home plate is from a picture that was taken two days after Anthony passed away. We believe it is a sign from heaven that he is still with us.
“But Anthony was more than baseball which is why we felt it was important to share the man he was off the diamond. Anthony had a kind, compassionate heart and a giving spirit. The frog was included as it represents some of his cousins’ favorite memories of Anthony; teaching them how to catch frogs and his love of sharing his passion for the outdoors with others.
“The bow and arrow are reminders of his special bond with his favorite neighbor, Donny Miller, who took Ant under his wing and taught him to hunt. Now, when Ant hunted, the only thing he usually caught were some ZZZ’s in the tree-stand.
“The strawberries and corn stalk represent Anthony’s work ethic. Anthony spent many, long, hot 12+ hour days working with his friend Gunnar at Trout Run Farms. He would return home hungry and exhausted but a smile on his face and a story of the shenanigans they would use to make the workday fun.
“If Anthony wasn’t at work or on the ballfield, you would usually find him catching fish (even in December) on the Ironstone and Manatawny Creeks, Schuylkill River. He loved to fly-fish and stay out all night catching catfish.
“The night sky and shooting star on the back of the bear are meant to portray the bond between Anthony and Elise and a memory she and Kylie have of him. It is also meant to show that the love of family, friends, and teammates knows no limits – and neither time nor space will change that. It is also a reminder from Anthony, as he was always encouraging others, to never give up and always reach for the stars.
Kylie is a 2020 graduate of Boyertown High School. She has done several commissioned pieces of art and is Anthony’s sister Elise’s best friend.
Joy, explained, “Finally, Anthony had a deep love for his country. He had the Constitution hanging on his bedroom wall as a teenager. He also memorized the entire document – not just the preamble.
“During college, Anthony got one of the worst American flag tattoos in the history of ink! We used to beg him to get it corrected and even offered to pay… well, Ant, we fixed it for you!
The Rotas invited the attendees to examine “Catching Summer” and take photos to help them remember the day.
Funding for the Bear Fever bear and mounting were provided by BMBL and private donations, many by his former teammates.
Donations from Anthony’s Memorial Fund are to fund a new flagpole at Mackey Field.