Pitcher changes career focus to coaching

Pitcher changes career focus to coaching
After his own career on the diamond came up short, Queens native Greg Modica turned his attention to helping other big-league hopefuls, coaching the Midville Dodgers scout team.
Photo by Laura Amato
By Laura Amato

Greg Modica grew up with a baseball bat in his hand.

The Glendale native spent days playing the game, desperate to make a name for himself at Archbishop Molloy. After an up-and-down high school career, Modica committed to NAIA Culver-Stockton College in Missouri, nearly bursting at the seams with big-league dreams.

He never realized those dreams.

Despite signing a free-agent contract with the San Diego Padres in 2001—and a few solid seasons on the mound with the Independent League—Modica’s career was hampered by injuries. When he tore his rotator cuff in 2006, he knew he would never get to the majors.

It was a moment that changed his life and one that forced him to alter the way he looked at the game that had defined him. Now, nearly a decade after the injury, Modica is helping jump-start the careers of other Big League hopefuls, coaching the Midville Dodgers scout team.

It’s an ironic turn of events, but one Modica has taken in stride.

“As a player I’ve seen mistakes that people have made,” Modica said. “I’ve seen what people have done right, what people have done wrong and you can kind of try to push these kids in the right direction. You want them to have an easier path.”

Modica always knew he wanted to coach—eventually.

Even when he was pitching, he showed up at the ball park hours early, just to be part of the pre-game routine. He wanted to learn every aspect of the game, determined to be able to offer the best advice to his future players.

“I was the guy who got to the field two hours early and helped the infield instructor work out,” Modica said. “I’d catch for them just so I could be out there. Guys would come in early and take extra batting practice and I’d just hang around the cages. I wanted to hear what was going on. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the game.”

But while Modica was certain he’d be a coach one day, he’s the first to admit that watching his own career get cut short was a tough pill to swallow.

“I was bitter, but not at the game,” he said. “When I first got hurt, I didn’t attend pro baseball games and I didn’t talk to my friends in pro ball quite as often because it hurt not to be there with them.”

It didn’t take long for Modica to channel that frustration into something else. He simply transferred all his Big League dreams to the amateur level—but he didn’t just fall into his current role with Midville.

In fact, a different travel club offered him a coaching job shortly after his injuries forced him off the mound. It didn’t take long for Modica to realize that opportunity wasn’t the right fit and he, somewhat begrudingly, took a chance on Midville.

It paid off.

“Really there was no appeal at all,” Modica said of his initial response to the Dodgers. “But I was able to do my own thing and I got very comfortable and just decided to stay with Midville and help it grow.”

Midville has been nothing short of dominant since Modica joined the program, regularly bringing in some of the best baseball talent in the entire city.

It’s a source of pride for Modica, something he wasn’t ever sure he would be able to get again after putting his playing days behind him. Modica isn’t sure how long he’ll stay with the Dodgers—knowing better than most that nothing is set in stone—but for the time being he’s enjoying this moment and, most importantly, is determined to help the players who view him as a role model.

“I put 110 percent into it and I want this organization to succeed and I want the kids to get better,” Modica said. “I just want to get the most kids I can an opportunity to be as successful as they can be. To be the best person they can be.”

More from Around New York