The University at Albany is getting a special baseball player from Smithtown East next year, but if his family and coach are to be believed, they are getting a special person as well.
Patrick Lagravinese, who will be playing at Albany when the 2016 college baseball season begins, had a standout senior season playing shortstop and pitching for the Bulls. Smithtown East saw its record from 2014 to 2015 improve by 12 wins for one major reason — Lagravinese transferred back to Smithtown East ahead of his senior season after spending two years at St. John the Baptist.
While he was playing at St. John’s, all he managed to do was help the team win back-to-back Catholic league championships. He made the difficult decision to transfer back to Smithtown East, the school district he attended until his freshman year, despite the opportunity he had in front of him to win a third consecutive league title.
“Nothing’s better than being able to finish up your high school career with the friends and family that were there when you first started playing the sport,” Lagravinese said.
When Lagravinese decided he wanted to return to Smithtown East, he said he spoke with his parents and they supported the decision.
“He loved St. John’s but he felt like he was missing something his senior year,” Lagravinese’s dad, Chet, said. “But it wasn’t something I was going to do for him.”
The shortstop notified his head coach John Habyan, and said that phone call was “the hardest thing ever.”
“The amount of memories and relationships I made with this team will go a long way and I don’t regret any decisions I made crossing this path,” Lagravinese said.
With St. John’s in his rear view, Lagravinese was outstanding in 2015. He went 5-0 on the mound and hit .363 while playing solid at shortstop and earned an invitation to the Grand Slam Challenge, a Suffolk County versus Nassau County All-Star game.
“Senior year at Smithtown East was everything I could ask for,” Lagravinese said. “The coaches and players were great to me and made me feel like I never left.”
Welcoming him back was easy, though watching him move on will be much harder for the Bulls.
“We’re going to do the best we can to slot someone in [at shortstop], but you don’t replace a Pat Lagravinese,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said about the reality of being without Lagravinese, who he called extremely coachable and hard working, next season. “He’s unique in the fact that he’s clearly the best kid on your team, but doesn’t want any of the credit.”
Klee added that when the team heard Lagravinese was returning, it immediately raised the Bulls’ expectations for the season. It was like the team found its missing piece.
Leadership was a word frequently used by those who are close to Lagravinese. Klee said that Lagravinese being around again raised everybody’s game.
“During practices I would try my best to be a leader even though I wasn’t a captain,” Lagravinese said. “Not being a captain doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help out and take charge when needed. Kids on my team looked at me as if I was a captain and I really appreciated that.”
That is a quality usually representative of truly special players like the one that Lagravinese said he models his game after.
“My favorite player is Jose Reyes,” he said. “I would always watch videos on YouTube and try and use the same style of play. I was a huge Mets fan up until he left, and now I love watching him play on the Toronto Blue Jays.”
University at Albany head coach Jon Mueller did not immediately respond to requests for comment, though he was quoted on the school’s official site after Lagravinese’s commitment to Albany: “Pat is a smooth fielding left-handed hitting infielder with good arm strength. He comes from both a great high school
program and summer organization. We anticipate Pat having an immediate impact for us in 2016.”
Chet Lagravinese spoke with pride when describing his son, both for the player he is and the person that he has become.
“He’s one of those kids that anything I say, he takes everything with pride,” he said. “He does whatever he has to do to make things right.”