Baseball in the family: Giada Simone joins brother Nick for Valley Stream South
The batter stepped into the righthanded box on the field at Malverne High, ready to take a swing at things.
The legs were evenly balanced in an upright stance and the bat sat just about parallel over the right shoulder for this first at-bat.
But there was one giveaway that this was no ordinary hitter for Valley Stream South’s varsity team.
The long, wavy hair flowed down from out of the back of the helmet, obscuring most of the white No. 18 on the back of the red jersey.
This was indeed a girl playing among the boys. And the boy waiting on deck happened to be her older brother, who made this an even better experience.
Giada Simone, a 14-year-old girl who looked completely comfortable in her surroundings, is ahead of her time, an eighth-grade starter in leftfield and at second base in a season that just ended Thursday. ,
She is a 5-4 girl with tall dreams and a desire to keep improving.
“Ever since I was younger, I wanted to play in MLB,” Simone said. “I just want to focus on not making errors and not focusing on if I do make an error or do strike out, not focusing on that and just focusing on the next play and doing better.”
Nick Simone started in centerfield for the second straight season and pitched and caught a bit this year. The 15-year-old sophomore’s presence helped his sister’s transition from JV to varsity early in the season.
“We’ve been playing on the same team since, like, forever, like Little League,” said Giada, who started playing baseball when she was around 4 or 5. “It’s definitely a lot easier because first time going on the team, they’re a lot older than me. Having him there, [it] was a lot easier to get in a groove with them and get to know them more.”
Valley Stream South coach Rich Hess had also delivered a message to these boys:
“She’s not here to watch you play. Get used to it.”
And they did — throughout a season in which they finished 9-10.
“They respect her,” her brother said. “They treat her normally.”
That also helped her adapt.
“It’s great being on the team,” she said. “I have a lot of great teammates. They don’t not include me because I’m younger and I’m a girl.”
She was called up for the fourth game of the season April 3 against Lawrence and came in to play two innings at second base. Then she played one more JV game before returning to the varsity to start. An injury had created an opening and she was deemed best to fill it. Her first four starts came in leftfield before she moved and opened the final 10 games at second.
Simone welcomed her quick graduation from being the JV shortstop.
“I was really happy because I love baseball,” she said. “I’ve been playing for a while, and I’ve been working really hard for it."
The siblings teamed up nicely May 2 in a 10-0 win over Nassau Countywide I opponent West Hempstead.
Nick, a 5-7 righty who went 2-2 with a 3.23 ERA, pitched the first three innings for the victory. Giada helped him keep West Hempstead scoreless, turning a 6-4-3 double play to close the second and pulling off an unassisted double play to end the third.
Then she delivered a single and a double and scored three times in the following game against West Hempstead, a 12-2 Falcons win.
Nick loves being Giada’s teammate again.
“It’s great, man,” he said. “I think she’s very deserving, especially in eighth grade to play with us. It’s just really cool and fun to play with my sister.”
He hit .360 with a .522 on-base percentage, and he swiped 27 bases in 28 tries, including six steals in a game at Malverne.
“I’m just looking to run all the time,” he said. “Any base I can take that can help us, just get it.”
His sister also looked the part from the start, helping the cause with some tangibles and some significant intangibles.
Giada had to adjust to varsity pitching and finished with five hits in 32 at-bats, two RBIs, two steals and six runs. She gained a reputation for having good at-bats. And errors at second? None.
“She brings energy,” Hess said. “She brings mental toughness, and that’s what we need. I’m hoping her mental toughness rubs off on the rest of us. She fits in. If she didn’t fit in, we would not have invited her to join us. So she’s earned this. She’s here to stay.
“… Giada has flexibility. I could put Giada at almost any position and I’m confident as well as the other guys on the team that she’s going to make plays. I can put her in leftfield. I can put her in the middle infield. I know she’s going to give effort.”
Joe Dunn noticed.
“Giada was phenomenal,” the Malverne coach said after his team swept a three-game series. “… She came to play. She swung the bat. She wasn’t going to get pushed around.
“… I was very impressed for an eighth-grader. Forget about male or female. You’re an eighth-grader and you know the game that well. She got the ball in a key situation, caught it, knew right to throw to first base. Turned a double play on us. Shortens up her swing with two outs. … And she plays with heart. You can tell.”
The Yankees are her favorite major-league team. Asked if there’s a player she patterns herself after, she mentioned two.
“Aaron Judge,” she said. “Or [Anthony] Volpe.”
Like them, Giada Simone is dedicated to hardball. Softball hasn’t been in the big picture.
“I’ve been playing baseball since I was younger, and I never really switched,” she said. “I never really liked smaller fields anyway. When I moved up to juniors for Little League, it was a lot better because it’s a bigger field and it’s not as small as the softball fields.
“And I also just find it a little more fun.”