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An ace on the mound and in class

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Hats off to this multi-talented grad.

When Nazareth High School’s Willie Gomez graduates on June 14, he’ll give a speech as the school’s salutatorian, and look forward to attending Fordham University come September, where he has accepted an academic scholarship and looks to continue his impressive baseball career as a catcher.

Graduating with a 92 average, Gomez was chosen by his school to be its salutatorian. Classmate Syaisha Hewitt is be the valedictorian of Nazareth.

“I feel very good about being chosen as a salutatori­an,” said Gomez, a catcher, after a baseball game toward the end of the season. “School has taught me a lot and I put in four years of hard work.”

There was an application process for him to hold such an honor. He, along with ten other students, submitted his paper work, to the Nazareth administration, and the teachers from the East Flatbush school selected him. Gomez plans on making a speech combining a little of everything, combining athletics and academics. He looks to study computer science at Fordam and join the school’s baseball team as a walk on catcher.

The athlete only started playing the sport his first year at Nazareth. He came to the school at the beginning of his freshman year without any baseball experience. He didn’t even know how to play the sport. He tried out for baseball just to do something after classes and be part of a team.

That year he competed on the school’s championship team in a private school league.

“I took him on the team because he had a 95 average,” Coach Issie Padilla said. “He...never played baseball.”

Gomez came to Brooklyn at about the age of seven and followed the professional game, especially the New York Yankees. At that time he said that he wanted to play baseball when he entered high school.

At the end of his freshman year, he asked his coach if he could take a baseball home.

“He spent the whole winter throwing it,” Padilla said

“I went downstairs of my house and threw a baseball against the cement wall,” the student athlete recalled.

The following year, Gomez improved a great deal and had a great arm. He was an outfielder and a second baseman.

In his junior year, after he worked hard during the off season, nobody wanted to be a catcher on the Nazareth team. He volunteered to do so and did a decent job at his position. He became one of the better catchers in the league.

“I like being a catcher,” Gomez said. “It’s a tough position. I like the feeling of being in the game all the time.”

As a senior, this past season, he caught and pitched and become one of the Kingsmen’s better pitchers and offensive players, as well.

“He’s an all-around beautiful person,” Padilla said. “And he’s a tremendous citizen as well.”

Overall, Nazareth put together a young baseball team on the field. As the players matured, they learned more about the game and at times they played better and better during the latter part of the season than in the beginning portion of it. They lost some games by a slim margin.

The coaching staff was very proud of their players.

Padilla does a great job with the players. Assistant coach and former head coach Bob Mistretta, who is in his 35th year of coaching, only has praise for the work turned in by Padilla..

“The whole season was a work-in-progress,” Padilla added. “We kept getting better and better. Most of the players are juniors. Next year’s team will be super strong.”

“We had a very good team,” Gomez said.

As for next season, a one that will lose Gomez, Padilla hopes to move into the Catholic High School Athletic Association league, though as of press time officials had yet to make a decision.

“I would like to go back into that league [once again] because we are getting more players,” said Padilla. “There is also the possibility we may play in both leagues for a while.”

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