DiMaggio LoNero is often the star of his sister’s basketball half-time shows at Winchester Thurston High School in Pittsburgh—and his parents said he usually receives an outpouring of applause.
But then again, there aren’t many little guys who have his skills.
His parents, Amy and Billy LoNero, of Cecil Township, said the YouTube video that caught the eye of reporters was meant for a cousin in Italy who used to play baseball professionally there.
It shows DiMaggio running a basketball drill—simultaneously dribbling two basketballs while weaving his way through a set of cones.
Did we mention that by “little guy” we mean he’s 6?
“It comes to him naturally,” Amy LoNero said of her son. “You give him a drill and he can master it immediately.”
DiMaggio’s father, Billy, said the kindergartner at St. Patrick in Canonsburg practices every day, and not only participates in basketball activities at the school, but also tags along when his dad coaches at Brookline Regional Catholic School.
But there, he is playing with kids in fourth, fifth and sixth grades.
“It’s kind of easy,” DiMaggio said with a smile and a shrug when asked what it was like practicing with the older kids. “But the sixth-graders are harder.”
Billy LoNero said his son—who the family nicknamed Gio—is a motivation for some of the older kids.
He said when some of the older kids say they can’t do a certain drill, he said he gets Gio to come out on the court and show them how it’s done.
“I say, ‘Look at this guy—if he can do it, you can do it,’” Billy LoNero said. “At first people are amazed, but I think it gives the kids confidence.”
And playing and practicing with kids twice his age has helped Gio, too, he said.
“I’m a firm believer that if you can play up, you should always play up,” Billy LoNero said. “When he plays against the older kids, it steps his game up.”
But Gio just isn’t a basketball standout.
“This isn’t even his best sport—his best sport is baseball,” he said of his son.
At 2, Gio had mastered hitting a ball off a tee, and by the time he was 5 he was playing with kids who were in the 7 and 8-year-old programs.
“He’s actually doing kids pitch at 6 years old and he’s doing pretty well at it,” Billy LoNero said.
But all that takes practice, and both Amy and Bill LoNero said that’s never a problem for their son.
Gio, they said, always wants to practice his basketball drills and baseball skills—whether it’s at the hoop in the family’s backyard or at the baseball batting net in their basement.