Looking back on his high school career, Matt Reistetter said one of the proudest moments was being named an All-County catcher after his freshman year at Hauppauge.
That spring, Reistetter was playing in honor of his father, Eric, who had drowned after saving a woman's life while vacationing with his family in Anguilla.
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"I broke down and cried to my mom [Robin] because I played that season for him. That was a big turning point in my life," said the 5-10, 180-pound Reistetter, who batted .441 with 149 hits, 101 RBIs and 102 runs and displayed an outstanding throwing arm in his five-year Eagles career. "He saw me play as an eighth-grader and always wanted me to play hard, play every day and play like it's your last."
As if his father's passing wasn't hard enough, Reistetter then had to overcome the loss of his high school sweetheart, Courtney Tomkin, who died of brain cancer when Reistetter was a junior.
Eric and Courtney would be proud to know that Reistetter, 21, signed a free-agent contract with the Washington Nationals that was announced on July 17.
Reistetter, who played three years at Hofstra and was a community health major, said the Nationals agreed to pay for his last year of college and included a $10,000 signing bonus.
He is playing for the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays (Class A short season) of the New York-Penn League. Including Friday's action, he has gone 3-for-15 (.200) in six games.
"It feels great," said Reistetter, who reported to the Nationals' spring training facility in Florida before joining the Doubledays. "I really take into consideration everything on and off the field. Live life to the fullest in everything you are doing."
Hofstra baseball coach John Russo called Reistetter's signing a "big accomplishment" for the Pride program. In his six seasons, four as an assistant and the last two as the head coach, Russo has seen three other Pride players sign big-league deals.
The list includes righthander Bryan Verbitsky (Island Trees), a third-round pick by the San Diego Padres in 2013; outfielder Danny Poma, a 10th-round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012, and catcher Kevin Flynn, also a free-agent signee by the Nationals this year.
"I feel like it's the next step to winning, which is getting kids to that next level," Russo said. "[Reistetter] was a big part of helping change the culture and the winning tradition of Hofstra baseball."
Gulf Coast League Nationals rookie ball manager Patrick Anderson understands where Russo is coming from with regard to Reistetter, who led the Pride in batting this past season with a .326 average and posted a .986 fielding percentage.
Anderson was the coach at Hofstra when he and Russo helped recruit Reistetter.
"We were in need of a catcher and on the day I laid eyes on that young man, I personally made it a mission of getting him in the program," Anderson said. "He was everything that we needed. I couldn't be more proud of him and the Hofstra program as well. It's something very special."
Having spent two weeks at the Class A level, Reistetter said he is quickly getting comfortable with everyone on the Doubledays in terms of communication and how to go about your business, setting a routine and being prepared each and every day.
His goal is to get to the big leagues, but he isn't looking too far ahead.
"One step at a time," Reistetter said. "I don't want to leave the ballpark saying I didn't get what I was supposed to get done. Hopefully, one day my work ethic and talent will get me there."