Here’s how Niagara Falls High School assistant baseball coach Matt Bernat recalls pitcher Matt LaSota: “A really good kid, soft spoken, gave you everything he had.”

He figured LaSota had a future somewhere in baseball and he was right. One of the last graduates of “old” Niagara Falls High School, Matt now works for the Buffalo Bisons. Bernat, he recalls, “always said, ‘First pitch, fast ball, every time, and make it a strike.’”

LaSota couldn’t do it often enough to be one of the rare ones making a living between the foul lines, but he’s still calling signals. They sound like this:

“Okay, that’s OK, get Buster off the field, cut the music, we’re ready to play. Good job, everybody, get ready for next inning’s dizzy bat race.”

He’s now in his second year as the Herd’s co-ordinator of game-day promotions. While manager Torey Lovullo is outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the day’s (or night’s) opponent, LaSota and staff are sizing up their own game plan. Job One, LaSota says, “is making sure the fans have a good time.”

Few, if any, ballplayers object to the circus which sometimes upstages the game. “They do understand the business aspect,” LaSota says. “A lot of them make very good suggestions, such as the music to be playing during batting practice.”

LaSota at work reminds Base Paths of retired major-leaguer Joe Hesketh pitching with the Muny AAA East Aurora Swingers just for fun, like a scoutmaster to the mostly young team, with teaching, fun and respect all wrapped up in one. Despite the “tremendous pressure” of bringing order to baseball’s oft-chaotic promotions, LaSota enthusiastically encourages his team of mostly unpaid interns. He draws on every strength, circumvents every weakness. Like LoVullo, he gets the most out of everyone.

Matt graduated as a Cataract in 2000 and was the winning pitcher in the last-ever game between Niagara Falls and LaSalle. “I’d pitched the day before, but they still let me finish,” he recalls. “I really wanted to play in that game.”

He played briefly for Division II Mercyhurst, then returned to UB, played for the club team, graduated and then earned a Sports Management Masters at Canisius. He, too, was basically “interning,” in sales, when the position in promotions, one of the most coveted in minor-league ball, opened up.

“I’m indebted to ‘Booch’ (general manager Mike Buczkowski) and to Chris Hill, director of sales, who wanted to find me a job.”

LaSota’s “Big Game” arrives on July 3 — the annual Buffalo Philharmonic and Fireworks Night at Dunn Tire Park, a sellout every time (a couple thousand tickets remain.) Parachute landings and parades of giant flags all require split-second timing.

“Last year,” he admits, “that was like a monkey on my back. I was terrified. But when it was over, I felt like a million dollars. This year, I’m excited.”

LaSota does more than co-ordinate chaos. Often he creates it. Many of the “storylines” for the coquettish mascot Belle start with him and he had much to do with the Hawaiian uniforms worn by the Bisons Friday night, later raffled off, raising some $1,600 for police benefactors.

Soft-spoken, but still able to deliver that fast pitch with authority — that’s Matt LaSota, one more Niagarian in the big time.

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