Oct. 26, 2012
The Boston College baseball team will reach the culmination of their fall season with the annual intrasquad Fall World Series, beginning on Friday, Oct. 26. The three-game series is played in the memory of Peter "Sonny" Nictakis.
Nictakis, who was a two-time captain of the Eagles and graduated in 1999, passed away in 2000 after battling Hodgkin's disease for more than seven years.
Head coach Mike Gambino played baseball at The Heights with Nictakis. They were roommates and close friends. One of the main attractions for Gambino to come back to his alma mater was the opportunity to be a part of these games.
"He was one of the best teammates anyone ever had," Gambino said. "He had really high character, led by example, was able to get the most out of all his teammates because he cared about them. Whatever he said, it was like guys hung on his every word. He knew when a guy needed a pat of on the back or a kick in the butt."
Nictakis was a true inspiration to his teammates, not just through what he said but also what he did. There were multiple occasions where Nictakis would show up to practice after having gone through chemotherapy. It really put things in perspective for the other players on the team, Gambino remembered.
In 2011, Gambino's first season as head coach, he began a new tradition by awarding a senior Nictakis' number eight jersey for the year. It is not about on the play on the field, Gambino said, but rather it is about embodying what made Nictakis special: his strong leadership, his high character and his relentless work ethic in the classroom and on the diamond. The coaching staff decides who will receive the honor and Gambino announces it at the team's annual Baseball Night in Boston fundraiser. It is considered the highest honor a member of the team can receive.
"What he did, who he was, what he did for this program and how he represented his family has given us a model not just for the guys he played with but also forever," Gambino said of why he brought the number back.
Nictakis' leadership still resonates with the baseball program constantly impacting Gambino.
"I think about Sonny all the time," Gambino said. "I learned so many lessons from Sonny that he is still affecting decisions I make here every day."
Former BC coach Pete Hughes started the tradition of playing the series in memory of Nictakis. It has become what the players work towards and the highlight of the fall as they finally get to go out on the field in game conditions.
"You spend the whole fall practicing," Gambino said. "You are essentially studying for the test and then your reward is this test, playing against your teammates."
There is a lot of trash talk back and forth amongst the players before, during and after the game, according to Gambino. The players talk about it the rest of the season and beyond, as the winners have ultimate bragging rights.
Even with all the chirping going on between the players, they keep Nictakis in the back of their minds as they play the same game he once did in the same uniform he once did.
"Doing it in his honor is awesome and I look forward to it every year," Gambino said of getting to be a part of this World Series. "It's great that kids in this program are still talking about Sonny and it means a lot to me personally."
The battle between Maroon and Gold will begin at 3 p.m. on Friday with a seven-inning contest. The best of three series will continue on Sunday at 8 a.m. Follow @BCBirdball on Twitter for live updates of the action.
Story written by senior Eddie Lockhart.