Sports Union November 2016 - Page 35

NOVEMBER 2016 | SportsUnion 35 ‘Guarding’ The Plate When you think of life at a military academy most people think of Army, Navy or the Air Force. Those are the big three that many students strive to go to. There is a lot of prestige in attending one of the top three military academies in the country. By Matt Ondesko Managing Editor What a lot of people might not know is there is another academy that is high in prestige, both in academics and athletics. Going to this academy allows you to see the world just like the other three. Many students, and parents, don’t know much about the United States Coast Guard Academy. Founded in 1878, the United States Coast Guard Academy is the military academy of the United States Coast Guard. Located in New London, Connecticut, it is the smallest of the five federal service academies. The academy provides education to the future Coast Guard officers in one of eight major fields of study. Unlike the other service academies does not require a congressional nomination. Pittsford native Christian Toscano wanted a challenge. He wanted to do something that not a lot of his friends were doing. He wanted to take that leap that not many were going to take. At the same time he still wanted to play baseball at the next level. Playing baseball in the northeast is not very easy. The harsh winters that last into the spring makes recruiting pretty hard. Northeast baseball is lucky to get 14 to 16 games in during a regular high school season. While kids do get offers, and some even drafted, it is pretty rare. Toscano was a standout in high school. He had some offers to play baseball, but there was one offer that caught his attention. The offer came from the United States Coast Guard academy. It gave him the opportunity to play baseball at a high level, while going to a military school to earn his degree. “Pretty much through high school I always wanted to serve, I just didn’t know what branch,” stated Toscano. “When is came close to graduating I decided that I wanted to do something that had a lasting effect. Baseball was a big draw as well. I didn’t want to stop playing baseball after high school. Division I wasn’t an option, but Division III definitely was.” While most kids were getting ready to enjoy their summer vacation after graduation, Toscano was gearing up to head to Connecticut. Just two days after graduating the 18-yearold freshman was getting ready for life in the military. He was gearing up for a life he was not accustomed to, early days and late nights. You always hear stories about the summer le ading up to your freshman year at other academies. How they tear you down and build you back up. Toscano went through the summer training and said it wasn’t that bad at all. It just took time getting used to it. “It’s pretty difficult,” stated Toscano. “I get up pretty much at 6 a.m. everyday. Got to class then go to practice. Sometimes I don’t get back until 8 p.m. and then do homework. It’s pretty hard. Baseball makes it pretty easy. Playing any sport here is like a release. It gives you a break from the military side of it.” On the playing field there was a different kind of training. Because of the military commitment you make there is summer training. You don’t get out on the field to hone your skills like you do if you went to a normal college or university. For Toscano the last time he picked up a bat was his last high school game, and then didn’t pick up one again until fall ball. It made the transition h a r d for him from the standpoint that he was coming into the season battling another player for the starting catching position. It also didn’t help that he was battling someone who played his ball in California, where they play a lot more than 16 games a season. “My first year I didn’t really play, which was difficult since I was a two-year starter in high school,” stated Toscano. “There definitely was a learning curve. Coming here I was competing with someone from California who plays year round. So it was definitely a curve.” Last season was a break out year for the Pittsford native. He split the starting catching duties and hit a respectable .296 with seven RBI. This year he expects even bigger things from himself and the team. The competition in the New England Women’s and Men’s Conference is some of the best in the northeast. The league is based on academic and athletic competition. While most people probably haven’t heard of the conference, Toscano says the competition was an eye opener for him when he first stepped on the diamond. “Our competition is pretty tough,” stated Toscano. “For what we are given and the amount of time we allowed to spend on it, we do really well. I know this year’s team is looking really good. “ But school isn’t just about how he performs on the field. Toscano is there to get an education and serve his country. The United States Coast Guard is a very important branch of the U.S. Military. Even though he is two years away from graduation, Toscano has his eye on the prize. He knows what he wants to do upon graduation. “My hope is once I graduate is to go into law enforcement,” stated Toscano. “Also, I am trying to get into flight school. With what is going on in the world these days it is nice to see a young man take the time to put others first. Serving your country is a valuable thing that many can do, and the fact that he is ready to put his life on the line is a noble act.