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CCU Atheneum: Sammy DiDonato
Sammy DiDonato

Take the Stare-Down Sammy Challenge!

by Doug Bell
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Visitors to the Coastal Carolina University Magazine’s Facebook page have a chance to relive one of the most memorable moments of the legendary 2016 College World Series by locking eyes with Sammy DiDonato, the original “Stare Down Sammy” who became an overnight social media sensation after his impromptu performance was captured by a fixed-position camera on ESPN during the CWS game against Texas Christian University on June 25.

While laying out the latest CCU magazine, which covers the Chanticleers’ historic national baseball title win, Rob Wyeth, senior director of creative services in the Office of University Communication, had an idea that, rather than just run a picture of the freckle-faced 10-year-old, it might to fun to create an interactive video with Sammy himself.

“I contacted his mother with an idea for a ‘Stare-Down Sammy Challenge’ in which Sammy invites CCU alumni and friends to see if they can out-stare him,” said Wyeth.

Taking care not to violate any NCAA regulations, he sent Sammy a CCU championship shirt and hat. (DiDonato is under 13 so no recruitment rules were violated.) His mom, Trish Mischo DiDonato, filmed 20 different clips of Sammy reprising his CWS performance, twitching his eyebrows and shrugging his shoulders.

To provide some comic relief, Wyeth recruited graphic designer Jonathan Ady to suit up in the Chanticleer mascot outfit for a series of cut-ins showing him impatiently marking time during the stare-down. At the end, Sammy concedes graciously with a “You win!” and walks off camera. He makes a final appearance, jutting his head back into the screen and asking viewers: “Are you still here?” — a homage to the movies “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Dead Pool.”

The video was edited by CCU graphic designer Daniel Mableton and David Russell, assistant director of video productions in the Office of Media Services. It has received more than 14,000 views on Facebook to date.

DiDonato and his family live in Omaha. Sammy, son of a retired lieutenant in the Omaha Police Department, is the youngest of three brothers. The family attends the CWS every year, usually rooting for the underdog. Sammy’s epic stare-down went viral immediately after it aired on ESPN, gathering more than 50 million hits. He was interviewed by ESPN and other many news organizations following the event.

 

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