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Craig Biggio, Kings Park High alum, elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Houston Astros' Craig Biggio is seen during a

Houston Astros' Craig Biggio is seen during a press conference in 2008. Credit: AP

Craig Biggio played in Houston for 20 years, but his now Hall of Fame baseball career started on Long Island, notably at Kings Park High School, and the former Newsday carrier went on to become Long Island's most successful big-leaguer since Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski of Bridgehampton.

"This is something that is very overwhelming and humbling," Biggio said Tuesday on a conference call. Earlier, Biggio said he cried when he learned of his election in his third year on the ballot.

"I remember where I came from," he said. "I remember how hard it was to get to the big leagues. I tried to go out there and play every game like it was going to be my last game."

Denied in his first two years of eligibility -- by only two votes last year -- the Smithtown-born Biggio, a catcher in high school who eventually was converted to second base by the Astros, received 82.7 percent of the vote and will be inducted into Cooperstown in July.

Biggio, 49, said of his years in Kings Park: "My memories of growing up in Kings Park are nothing but fond and great memories . . . There's great coaches that I was around and part of and great friends. I'm happy for them that they can enjoy this with me."

It was a big day for Biggio's high school, its varsity baseball coach Mike Luzim said.

"As someone who went through the program and now to coach there, it's great to see," he said. "Wherever I go and tell people the town that I'm from, if they are a baseball fan, they say 'Craig Biggio.' "

Now, Hall of Famer can be added.

Kings Park senior outfielder Luke Psoinas added: "It definitely rouses a sense of pride in our town and our community. There's someone who came from Kings Park, walked the same halls as you and has done something so profound, it gives you a sense of 'I can do something like that.' "

Biggio mentioned his late parents, his father, Gordon, in particular. "He would throw me batting practice, he tried to hit me some ground balls, he would tie me up to the backstop to stop lunging at the ball. He worked hard and he was a good dad."

Biggio's ascent to pro ball was a decidedly Long Island-produced venture, though a career in football nearly interceded. Biggio won Newsday's Hansen Award as Suffolk's best player in 1983 and assistant high school football coach John Bogenshutz noted at the time that then-Boston College coach Jack Bicknell said the diminutive Biggio could be another Doug Flutie, the nationally heralded quarterback at BC.

"I wanted to play football in college; baseball was going to be the backup plan," Biggio said. "The right thing happened, obviously."

Kings Park alumnus John Flynn, who played in the Tigers' minor-league system, was a teammate of Biggio's older brother, Terry.

"It's been an amazing career," Flynn said. "Coming from Kings Park, a small little town on Long Island, he did it the right way, I call it Jeteresque. He was the same kind of guy. Went to work every day, worked hard, good example for young kids. He's the whole package."

Biggio, who totaled 3,060 hits for the Astros, started receiving attention from pro scouts in his junior year at Kings Park. Deer Park's Larry Izzo, who worked for the Major League Scouting Bureau, and his supervisor, former Massapequa resident Bryan Lambe, originally went to a game to see another player.

"The game is over, I said [to Izzo], 'Go get a card on him,' " Lambe said. "He said, 'I got a card on him.' I said 'him' meaning Biggio, that catcher."

Izzo said of Biggio: "His makeup was off the charts, a great athlete, loved to play and was a good kid. He ran so fast, I told him, 'You're never going to stay a catcher.' The last sentence I wrote was 'potential move to second base.' "

Izzo visited Biggio and his family to determine his "signability" and said Biggio's mother told him he was going to college. Enter Ed Blankmeyer, a former star at North Shore High School, who was the associate head coach at Seton Hall. Biggio played there for three years before being drafted by Houston. Biggio credited Blankmeyer and head coach Mike Sheppard at Seton Hall for helping to shape his career.

"I went in as a kid and came out as a man, those guys taught me a lot," Biggio said. "They molded me and guided me."

"Craig Biggio is a Hall of Fame guy," said Blankmeyer, now the head coach at St. John's. "He did everything the right way. If I had any influence whatsoever, an ounce of it, I feel good. He deserves it."

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