A hit on the field

THE COURIER/Photo by Michael Pantelidis

For Anthony Kavalis, balancing school and sports is more than an obligation — it is a way of life. And even as the winter chill fills the air, Kavalis’ mind is still centered squarely on baseball.

The 16-year-old Bayside resident, who attends Benjamin Cardozo High School, has been playing organized sports for over a decade. He is currently a member of the Cardozo Junior Varsity Baseball team and the Saint Nicholas Church team of the Metropolitan Greek Orthodox Basketball League (MGOBL).

Despite his expertise as a shooting guard on the basketball court, Kavalis says his true home is a baseball outfield.

“Nothing is better than hitting a shot right in someone’s face in basketball, but my passion will always be playing baseball,” said Kavalis, who joined his first baseball team at age six. “I like playing the outfield because I feel a natural high when I make a catch. I get a rush when I have to make a quick throw to the infield to tag out a runner. It tests my reaction time and reflexes, and it also keeps me on my toes constantly. When I’m on a baseball field it just feels right, as if I am meant to be there.”

Although he enjoys displaying his defensive prowess, Kavalis is no slouch at the plate. In his sophomore season last year, he hit .563 with a .720 on-base percentage. Along with scoring 11 runs, he had 10 RBI and stole six bases.

One of his fondest memories from the season came when he had a bat in his hands during a critical situation for his team.

“I stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded,” said the teen slugger. “I was obviously trying to hit a grand slam, which is every child’s dream, but instead I crushed the ball over the right fielder’s head for a bases clearing triple. I would have liked to hit a homer, but I couldn’t complain because my team ended up getting the win.”

Cardozo completed the season 10-0 and was crowned Queens East Champions, while Saint Nicholas had a record of 12-0 before losing in the league championship game.

“It was amazing winning the title with Cardozo,” said Kavalis. “It’s nice to be rewarded for all your hard work and training. Even though I didn’t win with Saint Nicholas, we were undefeated and made it to the finals, and we will just have to work a little harder next year.”

Kavalis, who is as gifted with a book in his hands as he is with a baseball glove, also finished with nearly an “A” average last school year. He admits it is not easy being a student athlete, and that often, it is tempting to give less effort in one area.

“Juggling schoolwork and sports can be pretty complicated, especially when I have practice or a game,” said Kavalis. “That kind of stuff can frequently interfere with projects or tests. After playing nine innings of baseball, it can be hard to come home and study chemistry, but you have to buckle down and focus if you want to accomplish your goals on and off the field.”

He went on to say that if concessions must be made, it should not be in the classroom.

“School always comes first, and then come the extracurricular activities,” said Kavalis. “Everyone would love to be a superstar on the field, but that’s not always realistic. Succeed in school first, and then apply that work ethic to sports, and everything will be fine.”

After high school, Kavalis hopes to attend the University of North Carolina and wear the uniform of a Tar Heel, an accomplishment he knows requires as much brain power as it does arm strength.