With the players selected and the lineups set, there was just one more detail the needed to be taken care of before the start of the girls softball portion of the : exactly who would they be getting to throw out the first pitch?
Wanting a softball player, it was Angel Mangual of Team Long Island Fastpitch who contacted coach Will Hickey who in turn asked Olivia Galati if she wanted to throw out the first pitch before the June 16 game at Nuzzi Field.
Galati, a West Babylon native who just finished her junior year at Hofstra after attending St. John the Baptist and is studying physical ed with a dual degree in health, started playing softball when she was eight, splitting time at second and third and a little at short before converting to the circle a year later, performing in little league, travel and tournament ball.
“Pitching was really what I wanted to do,” she said. “Every year it progressed from there; I started out just like these girls here today.”
Her father Nick can remember how the conversion actually took place. “Her first year she was an infielder then she said ‘Dad, I think I want to pitch,’ I said all right, so I sent her to lessons and that’s how she started,” he said. “Her first official pitch with an umpire it went about 45 feet straight up in the air, took about 10 minutes to come down and then rightfully so he called it a ball. Then she gradually got better.”
New Hyde Park was the third time that Galati, who has the nickname “Secretariat,” has been asked to throw out the first pitch in events around Long Island, being both a local product for the Pride and also a budding star in the sport, despite the event’s elimination from the Olympics this year and at the present time of not having the opportunity to progress to that level of her athletic career as did her predecessors.
“It’s sad to see it out of the Olympics just because I’m a softball player and I know how people across the country work so hard and for it to be taken out of the Olympics is very heartbreaking, especially for the girls and the women who have played for our country,” she said. “We’re hoping to get it back in the Olympics – I think they’re trying to get it for 2016 or 2020 Olympics – so hopefully it’ll be back in.”
This year Hofstra had reached the NCAA Super Regional round – the furthest the program had ever been – and one win away from the College Softball World Series, but ultimately lost to the University of South Florida. Despite having their postseason cut short, the team was honored by the Mets and threw out the first pitch before the June 18 game at Citi Field.
Still, the little leagues might hold more meaning than being on a Major League Baseball field for a day for Galati, with all of the players gathered around her both to watch and shyly ask for an autograph.
“It’s nice to see the things and the events that they do across the island and across the country to have All-Star games to make these girls feel special,” she said. “To make them excited to want something more and to want to get better and to have that internal drive I think is really beneficial for the girls.”