A lot of young boys grow up wanting to be baseball players.
Michael Ciminiello wasn’t necessarily one of them.
While his talent on the diamond once launched him toward a professional baseball career, his desire to follow a different path cut it short.
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember,” said Dr. Ciminiello, a former minor league baseball player now working as an orthopedic surgeon at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead “Once I didn’t exactly love baseball anymore, that was it.”
Dr. Ciminiello, 41, was a promising baseball prospect at Smithtown East High School, where he was a sophomore star on the school’s state championship team in 1990 and won the Carl Yastrzemski Award as Suffolk County’s best player two years later.
He went on to play for Princeton University, where he was a three-time captain and All-Ivy Academic team performer.
He also showed a dramatic improvement in his game between his junior and senior seasons. A right-handed hitting catcher, he batted .396 in his final year of college in 1996, blasting 13 home runs and driving home 48 RBIs in 46 games.
Later that spring, he became a 46th-round selection of the Detroit Tigers in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft.
Humbly, Dr. Ciminiello admits today that his statistics his senior season might not be entirely indicative of his playing abilities. He says he was riding a personal hot streak that saw his batting average continue to climb that season.
“Baseball’s such a streaky sport,” he said. “If I played another 40 games, who knows where I might have finished up. That’s just the way it goes.”
As it turned out, he ended up with the Jamestown Jammers of the New York-Penn League, where he played alongside five players who now boast Major League résumés. Among them was the Tigers’ fifth round pick and fellow catcher Robert Fick, who would continue on to a 10-year big league career.
“When you’re the 46th round pick and you play the same position as the fifth round pick the writing’s on the wall,” Dr. Ciminiello said. “It really started to become a job and not necessarily something I wanted to do every day.”
At the end of that season, Dr. Ciminiello walked away from baseball. His professional career lasted all of 10 games played and 18 at-bats. He finished with two hits, both of them singles, and one RBI.
He went on to enroll in medical school at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, where his brother, Angelo, followed along a year later and both became orthopedic surgeons.
Dr. Ciminiello said that while a lot of former athletes are attracted to orthopedics, he estimates far more are drawn specifically to surgery, due to their stellar hand-eye coordination.
PBMC president and CEO Andrew Mitchell said Dr. Ciminiello brings to PBMC Health “the highest quality of surgical expertise.”
“Aside from being a highly trained orthopedic surgeon, if there is one defining characteristic of Dr. Ciminiello it is his passion,” Mitchell said. “It is shown in his top-notch surgical care, entrusting patient-physician relationships, and commitment to always offering the best available treatments.”
Dr. Ciminiello said practicing medicine gives him something important to do each day as he works through a variety of treatments with patients. His specialties are total knee replacement and total hip replacement, as well as knee and hip reconstruction.
“It’s very rewarding being able to help people live their lives the way they want to live their lives,” he said. “Whether it be playing with their grandchildren or continuing to work, just taking pain away is a great gift for me to be able to give to people.”
Today, Dr. Ciminiello lives in Smithtown with his wife, Noelle, and their four children. Baseball, he said, is still a big part of his life because of his kids. On the desk inside his Commerce Drive office is a baseball that reads “Father of the Year.”
Looking back on his two careers and his home life today, Dr. Ciminiello said he knows he made the right decision to pursue medicine.
“I knew I didn’t want to toil around in the minor leagues,” he said. “Being a doctor is important to me and it’s important to me because I like doing it.”
Top photo: Dr. Michael Ciminiello in a photo shoot for the alumni magazine at Thomas Jefferson University. (Credit: Christopher Appoldt)