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Around the Diamond with Niki Barbato

Niki Barbato of Holy Trinity softball.

Niki Barbato of Holy Trinity softball. (Credit: handout)

Welcome to another installment of Around the Diamond.  Each week we’ll sit down with a local high school softball player and ask her a series of questions…some that relate to softball, some that don’t, and some that may even be slightly embarrassing.

If you'd like to be featured, e-mail me at michael.gavin@newsday.com, or message me on Twitter at @mgavinjr, or just come talk to me at a game. 

This week we feature Holy Trinity outfielder Niki Barbato, who is bound for Adelphi. She  has provided veteran leadership in the outfield, where she displays one of the strongest arms in the CHSAA and, as you’ll soon find out, once had an embarassing incident thanks to some geese.  

Niki Barbato now takes us Around the Diamond…

Brag about yourself, what do you do well on the field and at the plate? “On the field, I use my communication skills to help younger varsity players get into the correct position and let them know when a bunt or a steal is going down.  I’ve been told I have a big mouth.  At the plate, I try to work the pitch count until it is in my favor or until I find the pitch I like to hit.”

What happened in your first varsity at-bat? “Freshman year was my first year playing at the varsity level.  Being one of the youngest players on the team and batting lead off, I didn’t let my nerves get the best of me and was able to hit a double.  It felt great to know I could play at the level and would be able to contribute to my team.”

What’s the most embarrassing song on your iPod? "’If You Want To Be My Lover’  by The Spice Girls and ‘I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas.’" 

Which would you prefer, to hit a walk-off home run or make a diving stop with the tying run on third to end the game? “I would prefer to make a diving catch over hitting a home run because I feel it would be more for my team than for myself.  It would also help my pitcher out who just happens to be my best friend.  It would also be a great opportunity to show my coach I really was listening and the drills we did at practice really paid off.”

Who’s the most intimidating pitcher you’ve faced in high school softball? “The most intimidating pitcher I have faced is Aileen Rilley (St. Anthony’s).  She is one of my close friends and knows my strengths and weaknesses.  I know if I start crowding the plate, she will not hesitate to pluck me.”

What’s something your teammates would be surprised to learn about you? “That I am extremely close with my brother and that I call every kind of meat chicken.  I have been doing this my whole life.  If I was eating prime rib and somebody asked what I was eating, I would tell them, chicken.”

What’s something your teammates tease you about? “I have ADD and my teammates make fun of my short attention span.  I am glad that I can supply them with some laughs at practices and games.”

What’s been your favorite moment while playing for Holy Trinity? “My favorite moment was in my sophomore year when I hit two home runs in one game.”

Who is your funniest teammate? “Taylor Fortunato.  It is her first year playing varsity and she would often ask me many questions in the outfield.  After every time answering her she would finish with her reply of, “Thanks chief”.  She also likes my pep talks before her at bats so that she can hit the ball out of the stadium…even though we only play on a field. “

Who is your most competitive teammate? “Alicia Parenty is one of the most competitive players on our team.  The thing we both have in common is that we don’t like to lose.  We will both put it all out there on the field and always give it our best so that we could help out team come out with the win.”

What are your pregame rituals or superstitions? "I always pray before my games and always blast the same pump-up playlist to the point that my teammates don’t even need earphones to listen to my songs.  They have no idea how I haven’t blown my eardrums out by now.  As I go out to my position in center field, I always make a pit-stop at the pitcher’s mound to give my best friend Alyssa Bavaro a high five and say something stupid to her to make her laugh and loosen up.”

Do you have a nickname? “I received the name “The Cannon” from my strong arm and throwing girls out at home from the outfield.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? “A special education teacher.  I chose this occupation because I love children and seem to gravitate to those who learn in a different way.  Having suffered with ADD all my life, I can show compassion for children with learning disabilities because I was that child.  Things can be hard to learn but with help, obstacles can be tackled as they are thrown in your way.”

What’s your favorite TV show? “My favorite TV show is Dance Moms because it makes me realize there are more intense and crazy parents in the world, not just softball parents.”

What’s your most embarrassing on-field moment? “My most embarrassing on the field moment was when we played Wantagh this year.  It was runners on second and third, two outs and the score was tied in the bottom of the seventh.  There was a do or die fly ball hit right over second base.  I dove for the ball, caught it and jumped up ecstatically running in to give my teammates high fives.  Everyone was hysterical laughing at me.  I didn’t know why until a chunk of goose poop fell off of my forehead.  I was covered from head to toe in goose poop.” 

If you were the coach of your team for a day, what would you do? “I would invite a special education challenger team down to practice with us for the day.  Not only would it open my teammates’ eyes to those less fortunate than us but it would make them see that they are awesome children full of fun and humor.” 

If you were President for a day, what would you do? “I would establish a law to get Softball back into the Olympic Games. “

If you could have dinner with any three people throughout history, who would they be? “I would invite Jennie Finch, Mike Trout and Channing Tatum to dinner.  I chose Jennie Finch because not only is she an amazing pitcher, she also modeled and became a mom.  I admire her because she was able to do it all without letting her head get too big.  She always seemed to remain humble.  I chose Mike Trout because I think he is one of the best outfielders ever to play in the MLB.  I would love to ask him to give me some tips on how to play the outfield better.  Finally I would invite Channing Tatum because I just love looking at him.”