SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Ben Bilotti’s baseball career ended last spring, when the Prout baseball team lost in the semifinals of the Division II playoffs, but the former catcher is still behind the dish in another realm.
Now heading into his sophomore year at Providence College, Bilotti started a podcast called “Behind the Dish Sports,” and is working hard to make it something special. The show features sports talk by Bilotti and friends Robbie Cannon and Matt Marasco, and guests like former Bryant University standout and current Dodgers minor leaguer Jimmy Titus, Boston Red Sox beat writer Chris Cotillo and Bleacher Report’s Steve Perrault.
“Baseball is still a passion of mine and this keeps me involved,” Bilotti said. “It’s an awesome opportunity.”
A Westerly resident, Bilotti grew up playing baseball and had a strong career at Prout, where he grabbed the starting catcher’s job as a sophomore and remained a key player. When he first jumped into the lineup, he had goals of playing at the collegiate level, but he realized over the years that he was under-sized and better defensively than he was with the bat.
“Early high school, I really wanted to play in college. I didn’t care which division,” Bilotti said. “You start going to prospect camps, touring schools. I knew I was a very good defensive catcher, but there were a lot of guys in the league who were better than me offensively, so I knew I would have to improve.”
He had opportunities to hook on at the Division II or Division III level, even getting interest from American International University last summer, when he had already decided on Providence. It was the right fit, baseball or not.
“I knew I had D-III open, but at the end of the day, I wanted to go where I was comfortable academically and where there were other opportunities,” Bilotti said. “It’s a huge sports school, so that appealed to me. It was more about education and overall fit, as I kind of learned there were a lot of people better than me at baseball.”
At Providence College, Bilotti is majoring in marketing and sees working in sports as a possibility. He worked with the Ocean State Waves gameday staff last year and was set to do the same with the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod Baseball League this summer, before the season was canceled. Sports media is also on his radar, which brought him to the student radio station at PC.
“I signed up for the station,” Bilotti said. “In the interview, they were like, ‘Yeah, you know a lot about baseball.’”
His sports show hit the airwaves in the fall semester. Cannon expressed interest in joining the show, and the two expanded beyond baseball to all sports in the winter. They also decided to record the show and put it online in podcast form. "Behind the Dish Sports" has a channel on YouTube.
“Not everyone can listen to the show at the designated time slot, so I figured why not record it on my laptop and I’ll put it out on YouTube,” Bilotti said. “That’s really how it started.”
This semester, the coronavirus pandemic moved classes online but offered a silver lining for the show in terms of extra time and more opportunity to connect with possible guests.
Titus, who starred for Bryant and the Ocean State Waves, is waiting out the pandemic with the minor league baseball season on hold and joined the show. They’ve also had former Waves Austin Upshaw and Jake Palomaki, plus Cotillo and Perreault from the media world.
Marasco, who also played baseball at Prout and now attends Boston College, has joined the show as a host.
Possible upcoming guests include former Prout pitcher Mason Feole, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery in the Padres organization.
“The first time we had a guest, we were like, ‘We don’t care what your story is. If it’s interesting, we want to hear from you,’” Bilotti said. “I think having people on like that, with interesting stories or personalities, will help grow it.”
Any growth would be welcome but mostly icing on the cake for now. Bilotti is having fun doing the show regardless of where it goes.
He’s happy to still be behind the dish.
“I don’t know how far it will go, but it’s a hobby that’s awesome,” he said.