Ricky Pacione: From the Hudson Valley to the World Series
Do you have a favorite underdog in this year's World Series? While the Chicago Cubs are baseball's lovable losers, it’s also been quite some time since their opponent has won a championship. And only the Cleveland Indians boast someone from the Hudson Valley.
Just hours before Game 1 of the World Series, Newburgh native Ricky Pacione, now in his third season as bullpen catcher with the Indians, was having a hard-time wrapping his head around the fact that he was going to participate in the World Series.
“Really can’t put it into words,” Pacione told Hudson Valley Post over the phone from Cleveland. “I’m just excited for everyone back home--family and friends. It’s hard work paying off. Everyone who has helped me along the way gets to enjoy it too.”
Pacione grew up playing little league baseball in Newburgh. He then went on star in high school for Newburgh Free Academy. Pacione stayed local to play college baseball at Marist. He finished ranked in the program’s top 10 all-time in 10 statistical categories.
After graduating from Marist, Pacione was drafted in the 48th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft. He spent two years in the Angel’s minor league system.
Shortly after the Angels released him, Pacione got a phone call from a Willie Fraser--a family friend, NFA graduate and scout with the Miami Marlins--about a job opening as a bullpen catcher with the Cleveland Indians.
After going through a number of interviews with Indian coaches and other employees, the now 27-year-old was offered the job.
“I know the path is a little different, but the path is just as enjoyable. I wouldn’t change a thing," Pacione said. “Growing up you dream of playing in it, but no matter how you get there, in my eyes, it’s equally as exciting.”
His days start early. He arrived at the ballpark just after noon on Tuesday for an 8 p.m. scheduled first pitch. Before every game, he helps the starting pitcher prepare for their start, catches other pitchers completing side work, and throws batting practice. During the game his primary job is to warm up relief pitchers.
“It’s hard to consider this going to ‘work’ every day, because you enjoy it so much," he said. “The guys are just like you and me, they are just really good at baseball!”
Pacione plans to come home to the Hudson Valley, as he does each off-season, during the winter. He just hopes this time he returns home as a World Series champion.