Tag Archives: Archbishop Molloy

“The Pride of Whitestone”: Mike Baxter’s lifelong baseball dream realized in Queens


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

It was late in the game on June 1 when Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina knocked a fly ball to left field. Johan Santana, the Mets starting ace who was still working his way back after missing the entire previous season, was facing a multi-base hit — what could have been the first of any hits that night.

Mike Baxter headed back to the wall, trying to keep the no-no intact. He caught the ball and bounced into the blue padding at a high speed. A few innings later, Santana would go on to record the team’s first no-hitter in a 50-year history.

Whitestone native Baxter, however, would end up throwing his shoulder out during the catch — giving up his own health for the sake of the team he grew up loving and watching.

“It was bitter sweet,” said dad Ray Baxter, who hasn’t missed a home game his son has played since joining the team. “It was great while it happened but all of a sudden, 10 seconds later, you start to worry: it’s your child out there that’s hurt. He’s not getting up, and you see him walk off the field and they’re holding his arm like he’s got a broken arm.”

A few hours after the game, as Santana went through a number of interviews, teammate Justin Turner got to Twitter and dubbed his friend “The Pride of Whitestone.” The nickname has since stuck.

Baxter, 27, has come full circle in his still-young baseball journey. He grew up playing baseball in the Bayside Little League, and then at Archbishop Molloy High School.

From there he went on to play college ball at Columbia University, but found himself unhappy with the program, his father said.

He found a home, to this day, in Tennessee where he transferred to play and study at Vanderbilt University, and still keeps a home today.

Baxter played under long-time Commodores coach Tim Corbin, who said he could always tell the Queens product would make it into the majors based on his all-around abilities and determination.

The young player, his former coach said, could do a number of things at the plate and was resilient in his time at Vanderbilt. It was these factors, among others, that brought Baxter to the majors, Corbin said.

After spending six years with the San Diego Padres organization, Baxter was released in 2011. Nearly instantly, however, the Mets picked him up — making it a bittersweet phone call home.

“It was a tough phone call,” Ray Baxter said, in reference to his son being released from the Padres. “You’ve got to take a breath.”

Baxter acknowledged the same sort of feeling, but went on to say that putting on the Met jersey for the first time was an unbelievable feeling.

“That was just a great day, it all happened so quickly,” he said. “You could say it was a dream come true.”

He finally returned to the team during a series in San Francisco on July 30. A few nights later, against his first big league team, Baxter would tie a team record by drawing five walks. When he returned for his first night back at Citi Field on August 7, Baxter said he was most proud to be back in front of the fans.

“I love playing in New York,” he said. “When you come back to New York and you get back in front of the fans, some of the greatest in the world in my opinion, it’s always exciting taking the field out here.”

The Whitestone native’s future is still to be written and it is unclear what will come in the next few years. His dad, on the other hand, is certain his son will stay in baseball for as long as humanly possible, even after he hangs up his glove.

“In my heart, I believe Michael is not leaving baseball.”

Vincent Piazza, ‘Lucky Luciano’ from ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ celebrates Basil’s grand opening


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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Vincent Piazza, who portrays Lucky Luciano on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” joined family and friends to cut the ribbon at Basil’s grand opening in Astoria last night.

The actor, raised in Maspeth, sat down with The Courier to discuss his Queens upbringing and the upcoming season of Boardwalk Empire at the opening of his relative’s new pizzeria.

“It manages to one up last season,” said Piazza, who graduated from Archbishop Molloy. “It’s the ‘Year of the Gangster.’”

 

Holy Cross continues winning tradition


| smosco@queenscourier.com

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The Holy Cross Knights capped off a rough season on a high note by defeating the Bishop Loughlin Lions, 60-57, netting the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan title for the second time in the last seven years.

Made up mostly of seniors, the second-seeded Knights fell behind by double digits early but clamped down defensively and went into halftime down by four. The fifth-seeded Lions showed their sophomore inexperience and relinquished the lead for good in the second half.

Senior Marquise Moore led all scorers dropping 21 points for Knights, while senior teammate Anthony Libroia finished the game with 10 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists. Elisha Boone led the Lions with 18 points. The Knights also recently defeated Archbishop Molloy in the CHSAA intersectional quarterfinals. Moore starred again, scoring 23 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out six assists.

Molloy mobilizes to help paralyzed teen


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Joe Sommo

Justin Thompson had just gotten his learner’s permit.

His parents’ only cause for concern at the time was the thought of their newly-minted 16 year old one day hitting the roads solo.
But all slated plans to drive, to land a starting spot in varsity soccer, to lead a normal teenage life, came screeching to a halt in October 2011 when the Springfield Gardens teen was shot in the back.

“In my mind, as a parent, I thought driving would be the next worry, the next hurdle,” Donald Thompson said. “This shows you life throws you some unexpected things.”

Justin and his friends were leaving a party in Cambria Heights when they suddenly saw a herd of people running “in all kinds of directions.”
“All hell broke loose,” the family said.

There was a shot fired, and Justin felt a burning in his back before losing his legs and hitting the ground.

The bullet — traveling from the right to left side of Justin’s back — was embedded in his armpit. It bruised, but did not sever, his spinal cord, doctors said.

Now, Justin is paralyzed below the waist.

“We hope it’s temporary,” Donald said. “But no doctor will say he’ll never walk again and no doctor will say he’ll be up and running by tomorrow.”

Still, his family said “since day one, his spirits have been high,” and that eternal positive attitude is something they are grateful for.

“We’re trying to keep our heads up, but sometimes you just want to break down,” Donald told The Courier. “But when you see Justin and his positive attitude, you can’t help but smile.”

Justin is currently undergoing a rigorous rehabilitation routine and is being home schooled, the family said. He will begin physical therapy soon.
But though most services are covered by insurance, the family has suffered pricey expenses, including a wheelchair ramp installed outside their home that cost $4,200.

The family is also seeking standard at-home machinery to keep Justin’s muscles ready “for when the nerves in his legs decide to wake up.” But if insurance doesn’t cover the equipment, the family can expect to shell out up to $20,000.

“It’s so important in his rehabilitation, and it’s still being tossed around. It’s kind of up in the air,” Donald said about the equipment coverage. “It’s just a life-changing experience. You had a healthy 16 year old playing soccer and basketball, and now — due to an unprovoked act — we’re dealing with this.”

To help with costs, Justin’s school — Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood — hosted a fundraiser on February 3, which has raised more than $30,000 so far for the family.

“It was so moving and emotional. The school’s efforts were unreal,” Donald said. “It’s just a great school and a great family-oriented place. When one of their students is in need, everyone comes forward. They’re really great people.”

While Justin continues to be courageous, his family will continue to keep their heads up.

“He’s been a real trooper. He’s really displayed such courage. It brings tears to my eyes,” Donald said. “No matter what the doctor says, he’ll be up and running and back in the hallways.”

And when that time comes, school officials will welcome him back with open arms.

“He’s a wonderful kid and a good player,” said Mike McCleary, the school’s athletic director, who said Justin remarkably managed to balance playing both varsity soccer and junior varsity basketball before the injury. “It was really a terrible thing that he was a victim of a senseless crime. Whether or not he gets on the field in time for his high school career, I just want him to be able to walk again.”

Meanwhile, the NYPD is offering a $12,000 reward to find Justin’s shooter. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.

Donations to “Guidance Fund – Justin Thompson” can also be mailed to Archbishop Molloy High School, located at 83-53 Manton Street in Briarwood. Call 718-441-9210 for more information.

 

Lady Terriers capture crown; now seek state title


| ncarousso@queenscourier.com

Photo by Stephanie Horan  Back Row: Kiara Pierre, Kelly Flynn, Jen Hussey, Caroline Gorecki 2nd Row: Johary Rivadeneira, Tara O’Rourke, Kaitlyn Sluyk, Jaclyn LaForgia, Caroline Vallone, Kiara Otero, Nicole Tong, Kendra McCalla Front Row (Captains): Caitlin O’Doherty, Talia Colasante, Allison Betito

Over the past half-decade, the St. Francis Prep ladies volleyball team has dominated the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA).

That domination continued as the Lady Terriers defeated the Stanners of Archbishop Molloy in the Brooklyn/Queens CHSAA championship game in Fresh Meadows on November 2.

Before the championship game, the Stanners and Lady Terriers met three times this year, including a tiebreaking match for the highest seed. The Lady Terriers won that match to clinch the number one seed. Team captain Talia Colasante, who recorded 22 kills in the championship match, was one of the reasons for the Lady Terriers’ incredible success this season.

“During the championship we wanted to do the same thing [as they did by beating Archbishop Molloy in the tiebreaking match] and show them who’s boss,” Colasante said.

The Lady Terriers used the emotional loss in the last regular season match on “Senior Night” as motivation to defeat Molloy in the tiebreaker and in the finals.

If the loss to the Stanners that snapped the Lady Terriers regular season winning streak wasn’t motivation enough, Prep would find a motivation in the practices leading up to each match.

Caroline Vallone played an integral role in securing the victory against the Stanners in the finals.

“This team is one of the most motivated teams I’ve seen and with whatever rotation Mr. C. puts us in we can still overcome any obstacle and take down any team put in our path,” said Vallone.

“Mr. C.” or head coach Kevin Colucci prepared his team for the playoffs all season. Although the ladies were disappointed about losing on “Senior Night,” Colucci saw the big picture in getting to the Brooklyn/Queens finals and winning their fifth consecutive Brooklyn/Queens CHSAA title.

“We put it together at the end and it was nice to see them win the championship,” Colucci said. “I was hoping that we would get back to the states and see how we play against the other teams.”

This finals match was a battle and a nail biter to watch. Under Colucci’s direction, they played with “clear eyes” and a “full heart,” part of the team’s motto that is displayed on team sweatshirts.

“He drives me to play to the best of my ability,” said team captain Allison Betito, referring to Colucci and his coaching techniques.

St. Francis plays in the CHSAA class AA state tournament on Saturday, November 12. Their opponent, St. Anthony’s, has won the state tournament the last two years, but the Lady Terriers have the camaraderie and proficiency to win this year. Team captain Caitlin O’Doherty talked about what St. Francis needs to do in order to be a competitor in the state tournament.

“As a team [we] have to be more motivated, more enthusiastic and work together, play hard and in general have the mindset of wanting to win and not let the little things get the best of us and play hard,” she said.

These ladies surely have the mindset of a winning team – playing through injuries and other obstacles over the course of the season. Kelly Flynn, a junior on the team, has been a bright spot for the Lady Terriers all season long. She was forced to sit out the semifinal match against The Mary Louis Academy due to a mild concussion and early in the first game of the best of five series in the final match, she went down with an ankle injury. However, Flynn came back to record eighteen kills and five blocks to give St. Francis the push they needed to win the fourth and fifth sets.

“It’s a mindset that you have to have that nothing could hold you back,” said Flynn.

Now, the Lady Terriers face the state tournament in Buffalo on Saturday.