By Everett Fell
The brother and sister tandem of Christine and Tommy Catalanotto are on the move.
Christine, a former point guard for the famed Christ the King girls’ basketball team, is transferring to Rider University for her junior year after spending two years at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her younger brother Tommy, who is finishing up his baseball career with the defending CHSAA champion Archbishop Molloy Stanners, has committed to Concordia College in Bronxville.
As accomplished as the pair from Flushing has been, they are by no means the first Catalanottos to make a big splash in the sports work. Another Catalanotto competes on a much bigger stage north of the border, under The Sky Dome’s retractable roof, where Christine and Tommy’s cousin Frank tracks down fly balls in right field for the Blue Jays.
Frank Catalanotto, a native of Smithtown, L.I., is in his seventh season in the big leagues, having spent time with the Texas Rangers, with whom, he batted lead-off and scored 77 runs as in 2001. He carries a lifetime .300 average.
“I’m always reading about him in the paper,” Christine said. “I’m happy to see he’s a great athlete.”
“He’s a great guy and a real person,” said Tommy, who also plays right field.
Christine and Tommy’s father, Tom Catalanotto Sr., has ensures the Catalanotto name remains on the local sports scene. He is the assistant girl’s basketball coach at Molloy, this past year’s New York State Class C Federation Champs and also coached Christine in Little League.
“Christine has improved her game,” Tom Catalanotto Sr. said. “She’s had some great coaches in high school.”
Still, Christine’s dad never hesitates to help his daughter’s game.
“Anytime he’s at my games, he tells me what I did wrong,” Christine said. “There’s some pressure when he’s there, but I’m glad he’s at the game. My family is a total influence on me and they have guided me along the way.”
Christine’s dad missed out on the opportunity to see his daughter progress during her first two years of school. The 5-foot-8 guard attended UMBC where she averaged 11.1 points during the 2002-03 Northeast Conference season. Christine said she is looking forward to transferring to Rider University for her junior year.
“(Rider is) a great school academically,” Christine said. “I want to help them win in the MAAC Conference.”
Last season Rider finished 3-15 in conference play and 8-20 overall.
Christine said she intends to study psychology and live on campus in Lawrenceville, N.J., an hour and 20 minutes away from home. Her dad said he plans on attending as many games as possible.
“I like the freedom at school, but I was definitely homesick,” Christine said.
Christine’s time at Christ the King prepared her for collegiate play at UMBC. The Lady Royals have won 13 consecutive CHSAA state championships and have consistently been one of the top-ranked high school teams in the nation, producing WNBA stars Chamique Holdsclaw and Sue Bird.
“At Christ the King I played some of the best teams in the nation,” Christine said. “We were so good because of our tough practices.”
Rider offered Christine a three-year scholarship, but she has only two years of eligibility left. She said wants to play ball overseas or coach at the collegiate level after she graduates.
While Christine dribbles the Catalanotto name onto the courts of the NCAA, Tommy sticks with what made his baseball-playing cousin a local star. However, Tommy’s time in the local sports spotlight has been brief. He suffered a stress fracture to his right tibia before this season. The injury sidelined the senior for most of the year. Fortunately, he is committed to playing baseball next year for Concordia College in Bronxville.
“I’m extremely excited about having him (Tommy) on the team,” said Bob Greiner, coach for Concordia. “He’s a hard-working kid with a strong bat who can play either left field or right field.”
Tommy steps into a fine baseball program in Concordia. During last week’s Major League Baseball’s First Year Player Draft, the Kansas City Royals used their seventh-round pick to select Concordia’s All-American shortstop, Mike Aviles. Aviles batted .500 with 22 home runs for Concordia and was named the 2003 Division II Player of the Year.
Aviles reached this plateau despite only batting around .260 in his freshman year. Greiner anticipates a similar improvement from Tommy.
“He (Tommy) didn’t play much as a junior, since Molloy has a reputation of playing only seniors,” Greiner said. “I expect him to be a pretty good college athlete. Right now he’s not reached even close to his potential.”
Greiner’s optimism is justified by Tommy’s work ethic. Tommy spent a majority of his senior season in rehabilitation. He rode his bicycle and weight lifted to stay in shape. Even before the injury, Tommy practiced with his cousin Frank in the winter.
“He (Frank) helped me with my batting stance,” Tommy said. “He told me to keep my hands further back. “
With Frank now on the road Tommy looks to his dad for help.
“My dad knows a lot about baseball,” Tommy said. “He gives good advice and hits fly balls or plays catch with me.”
Tommy also receives pointers and praise from his high school coach.
“He’s got a great work ethic,” said Molloy coach Jack Curran “He’s perfect at No. 5 in the lineup.”
The 6-foot-1, 192-pound righty recently took one step closer to full recovery. Tommy had three hits for Molloy in a seeding game against Moore Catholic.
“He came back and didn’t miss a beat,” Tom Catalanotto Sr. said.
However, Tommy’s role in Molloy’s pursuit of another CHSAA championship is minimal.
“Right now he’s not baseball ready,” Curran said. “Hopefully he’ll do good in college.”
With Frank still making frequent visits to Yankee Stadium, Christine playing D-I hoops in New Jersey and Tommy starting a fresh college career in Westchester, the Catalanottos have staked out a claim on the Northeastern sports scene.
Reach contributing writer Everett Fell by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.