Player transfers giveth and taketh. This time, Riverhead receiveth.
After the proposed Riverhead budget for the 2020-21 school year was twice defeated at the polls and it looked as if the Blue Waves baseball team would not have a season last spring because of cutbacks, catcher Terrence LeGrady was among a number of Riverhead athletes, fearful of losing a season, who transferred to other schools. The summer before his junior year, the decision was made that he would attend St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington.
“Me and my parents sat down,” he said. “It wasn’t really all my decision, but I wanted to go as well, just come and play baseball for them because we weren’t gonna have a season.”
As it turned out, Riverhead found money to field its spring sports teams last year. It was too late for LeGrady, though. He was playing for St. Anthony’s junior varsity team, but yearning for home. Riverhead remained in his heart.
LeGrady said he talked to some of his former Riverhead teammates at the time and said: “I’m going to come back. I miss you guys.” Then he told his parents, “I’ve got to come back to Riverhead.”
LeGrady, who lives in Baiting Hollow, grew up in the town and had been a part of Riverhead’s baseball program from grades 7 through 10. After one year at St. Anthony’s, he followed his heart and he’s back in Riverhead for his senior year.
“I wouldn’t ever say anything bad about St. Ant’s,” LeGrady said during Tuesday’s practice. “They’re awesome. It’s just this is kind of more for me. I wanted to come here because I wanted to play here.”
And LeGrady, beaming with delight over being reunited with his old friends and teammates, has been welcomed back with open arms. “I felt like I was wanted here, and like they accepted me back immediately,” he said.
LeGrady’s return couldn’t have come at a better time. Riverhead’s first-string catcher last year, Collin Bendernagel, graduated after injury interrupted his senior season. With no clear backup in place, the position became a problem.
Now, with LeGrady back, problem solved. Coach Rob Maccone now has a starting catcher who brings a middle-of-the-lineup bat.
“Gritty, tough kid, drives the ball pretty well,” Maccone said. “You know, he’s got a pretty good arm behind the plate, receives well. You know, when he was younger, he needed to work on blocking. So far, you know, in the offseason workouts and in here, it looks like he did that last year at St. Anthony’s, so you know, he probably got a little step up. I know he was saying that St. Anthony’s had a bunch of good catchers, so maybe that made him, you know, strive to be better.”
Jackson Loper, a senior pitcher/outfielder/first baseman, said LeGrady will be a tremendous asset, offensively and defensively.
“He’s back,” Loper said. “He’s great. Last year, you know, [we] struggled when our starting catcher got hurt, and we really didn’t have much, so it’s great to have him back and be able to play and produce.”
Senior pitcher/first baseman Matt Caputo, a longtime friend of LeGrady’s, appreciates the opportunity to pitch to his buddy.
Asked to describe LeGrady as a player, Caputo injected some humor, saying, “He’s a really good hitter, a good defender, but speed and base running, that’s a different story.”
Maccone said Riverhead baseball lost five other players to transfers after the failed budget who haven’t returned, but he is grateful to have LeGrady back in blue, calling it “a big plus for us.”
In last year’s COVID-19-compressed season, Riverhead, competing in Suffolk County League I for the first time, started off the season 2-5 before dropping 10 of its final 11 games for a 3-15 record, overall and in league play.
The good news is Riverhead has 10 players who saw a lot of playing time last year. One of those players, junior Aaron Miller, watched practice while sitting in the dugout, wearing a boot. Miller, an all-league player and the team’s No. 1 pitcher, rolled an ankle and will miss the first two series of the season, said Maccone.
Riverhead will participate in three scrimmages before opening its season at home against William Floyd March 28.
“I think there’s a lot of promise,” Loper said. “I really think this is a playoff team and anything but playoffs is, in my opinion, a disappointment.”
Maccone, asked if this is an exciting time of the year for him, pointed out the unpleasantness of making roster cuts.
“When we’re making cuts it’s not that exciting,” he said. “That’s one thing that, you know, every parent thinks that coaches are just cold-hearted and don’t care, but it’s always the worst time. The first three or four days are always the worst time for a coach because no one likes to make cuts.”
LeGrady said it feels as if nothing has changed since he last wore a Riverhead uniform.
“Honest, I think it was just like, you know, we’re a family here,” he said. “Like I missed having my family. Like St. Ant’s, again, the athletics are great, but I just didn’t know those guys the way I knew my coach here, the way I knew my JV coach as well and these guys. Like, I just feel like this is where I’m supposed to be.”