Tricarico managed three sports teams at Lyons.
LYONS — He sports a rusty, well-trimmed beard. That alone sets him apart.
At a football game, or baseball game, or a Saturday night at a basketball game, he’s close to the coach when things are happening. If a player needs something, he’s there to provide whatever help he can.
Gino Tricarico, 28, is the team manager for three sports in Lyons. It’s difficult to find anyone involved in any way with sports in town who doesn’t know him or know of him.
“He’s the biggest Lyons supporter in the world,” said Dean Schott, the head baseball coach and JV basketball coach.
“I’ve known Gino since I came here,” said Zac Young, the head basketball coach. “He really enjoys being around the kids. He keeps them loose. He’s a vocal supporter.”
“The kids respect him, listen to him,” said Randy Wadhams, the head football coach. “And in some ways, he’s just one of the kids, even though he’s more of an adult. They really don’t know him other than being the manager of the football, or basketball or baseball teams.”
“It’s hard to explain. In some ways, I think our kids look out for him. In some ways, with his Down Syndrome, he has a pretty good life. He’s good at what he does for our teams. He’s a good motivator: he loves what he does. Kids see that aspect of him — his love for the game, loving what the kids do on the teams. They see that in him.”
Down Syndrome is what Gino has; it doesn’t define him. It’s not what he is. None of us is typecast in life by our color or gender or religion. We are what we make ourselves to be.
Gino Tricarico is busy doing everything he can to be someone whom people respect for all that he does for his community, a community that nourishes him in kind.
“I want to have fun with the coaches and players,” he says. Whatever a coach needs, he takes care of. He gets towels ready, has water bottles filled, puts everything away after a game.
For the baseball team, he keeps a scorebook. “He tells me what hitters have done earlier in the game and lets me know what he thinks hitters have done in previous games,” said Schott. He catches for me in outfield practice, makes sure the umpires have lineups before the game. And anything he sees that might have been missed, he’ll let me know.”
“Gino keeps stats in basketball,” said Young. “A half-hour before a game, sometimes he’ll give some of the players a little pep talk.”
“I get them fired up,” Gino adds, certainty in his voice.
He is busy. He works at the Community Center cleaning and setting up for events and in-house games. “I get the rooms ready for people,” he said. “I dust and mop.”
In the mornings, he helps out his dad, Steve, a carpet installer. “I get all the stuff he needs for his van,” Gino said.
Saturday afternoons, he’s an altar server at the 4 p.m. mass at St. Michael’s Church.
“I have a big family,” Gino said. “On Saturday after church I come home and have dinner with my dad, or go to my aunt’s house.” His mom, Jody, is a waitress at Emile’s in Geneva.
But Gino’s focus is always on sports, Lyons sports.
“He’s important to me,” said Young. “I like to have him around. I do my best to keep him informed. I give him something to do and it gets done. He stays pretty busy and doesn’t have a lot of down time.
“The community kind of keeps an eye on him, and the kids treat him with respect: he’s dedicated, he shows up, he comes to everything and he’s cheery and positive. The kids like him, and I think it’s good for our kids to work with someone who has a disability.”
Coach Wadhams went to high school with Gino’s mom. He has known Gino from infancy. “He keeps me sane,” Wadhams said. “He’ll really put a smile on your face when you meet him. He can make you laugh.”
In football season, “he helps me with equipment, gets stuff out for us. He’ll call me to make sure he knows when the buses are leaving for a game.”
Gino played football when he was in high school and in his last year, when Lyons played Marcus Whitman, Wadhams put in a play that gave Gino a chance to score … and the magic happened, with the cooperation of the other team. “The kids looked out for him,” Wadhams said.
“He’s a real loving kid,” Schott said. “He cares a ton about Lyons. I’ve known him his whole life — he danced with my wife at our wedding. Gino has the biggest heart of any kid I know. The kids all love him and they show him the respect he deserves. If he’s not there, they wonder where he is and why he’s not there. He’s like an older brother to them.
“Being around the guys, being around the sports, when Lyons wins it makes him extremely happy. And his family — it makes them extremely happy because he’s been given the opportunity to do all this,” Schott added. “Every night when I take him home he thanks me so much. He calls my house if he thinks there’s anything wrong with me, my wife, my family, or there’s a schedule thing I might have missed.”
“He’s fun-loving,” said Young, who made sure he checked to find out how big a meatball sandwich Gino had consumed before the game. “He enjoys a good meal going into the games.
“Gino is someone who really cares if we win or lose … it’s important to him.”