A dose of reality ... TV: Teen discusses debut on the small screen

Joe McConnell

Saugus High sophomore Stephen LaMonica found out reality TV is not all it’s cracked up to be.

As LaMonica watched his debut on MTV’s “Made” program Saturday morning, he noticed that the producers made some changes for dramatic effect.

He was portrayed as a gay teenage actor who wanted to prove to people that he could learn and play sports with his peers. It’s given LaMonica a good idea of how the small screen works.

"It’s funny; it was not really how they were supposed to portray me,” he said from his home in Saugus, Mass. “I understand why they did it, but I know I’m not that negative. They also made me look like I was faking it, but I was really sick, not once, but twice.”

LaMonica had a double ear infection during the first week of taping in early February followed by a stomach bug the third week.

“When they showed me leaving a practice to go to the bathroom with the dry heaves and it was pointed out that I was nervous -- but I was sick and dehydrated because of it. ... When I came out of the bathroom, I still wasn’t feeling too well, and that’s why I got pissed at Jonathan [Pollard], my coach,” LaMonica said.

“We were at Extra Innings, and when we left there, we had to pull over several times because I had to throw up,” he said. “When they told me I was going to Florida to a baseball camp with pro prospects, it was the day that I got home from the hospital during the third week of production, and I still had my wrist band on.”

He recalled that the producers would sneak into his bedroom to wake him up spontaneously, but one time he wasn’t home because he had spent the night at his aunt’s house. His aunt had to bring LaMonica home immediately so the producers could stage the wake-up scene again.

“But most of it was real and how it took place,” he said. “I was really hit in the face with the ball and also in the wrist. But I really worked my butt off, and I think that I really progressed in time for [high school] tryouts.

“For the most part, our reactions weren’t staged. When we [LaMonica and Pollard] were upset at each other, the dialogue was real. The producers never told us what to say,” said LaMonica, who really enjoyed the Florida experience and meeting some pro prospects. They gave him a Jose Reyes New York Mets practice helmet as a gift.

While LaMonica was not compensated with a salary, the producers did buy him equipment to use in the production and he was allowed to keep it.

The bat he used cost $360; the goggles he wore were worth $450; and his baseball glove was a $150 model. There were also spikes and turf shoes, several shirts, two pairs of baseball pants and socks, a batting helmet, several caps and two pairs of batting gloves, not to mention the trips to Florida for the camp and New York City for the voiceover.

“All in all, I was happy with the arrangement, and I hope Jonathan [Pollard] and I still stay in touch with each other from time to time,” LaMonica said.

In the end, LaMonica was good enough to make Coach Mike Nelson’s jayvee team but won’t suit up this year. Besides academics, he has a hectic schedule, from piano and voice lessons to working on the costumes for the Saugus Drama Club May production of the “Odd Couple.”

“I’d like to try out for the team next year, as long as I have a schedule that I can work around,” LaMonica said.