No softball team at Port Jefferson. No problem.
Abigail Rolfe made a decision two years ago when Port Jefferson couldn’t field a varsity softball team: She was going to play baseball.
Rolfe, having never played Little League baseball and only girls softball, was up for a new challenge.
“I thought, well, we don’t have a softball team and I love baseball, let’s do it,” she said. “I didn’t want to run track and I wanted the challenge of playing baseball.”
Rolfe’s life is all about challenge. Whether she’s in the classroom or out in the community helping people, she is a determined young woman.
This is what her senior year of high school looked like: She played for three Suffolk championship teams in soccer, basketball and baseball. She was an All-Suffolk selection in all three sports and became the first girl to earn All-County recognition in Long Island baseball history.
Rolfe’s resume includes a 99.3 grade point average, which helped her get accepted into the nursing honors program at Ohio University. She was also vice president of the Varsity Club, which encourages athletes to participate in community service events. She helped organize volleyball tournaments to raise money for Special Olympics and has volunteered at the League of Yes – an organization that helps the disabled experience playing baseball.
For her accomplishments, Rolfe is this year's recipient of Newsday's Marcus A. Henry Award, presented annually to a Long Island high school student who excels in the classroom and in athletics, and displays leadership in the community.
“The Marcus Henry Award means the world to me,” she said. “This has been the most special year of my life. I had tremendous support from my teammates, coaches and family and it’s bittersweet that it ends. I’m going to miss high school and all the things that our teams accomplished. And the baseball guys were great teammates. But I am looking toward an exciting future and being able to help people.”
The award is presented in memory of Henry, who was a sportswriter for Newsday until his death on April 1, 2014, at age 41. In addition to being a well-respected reporter, Henry performed many services for the community in Baldwin where he grew up and was an active member of the Union Baptist Church in Hempstead, where he lived.
Henry was the captain of the Baldwin High School football team and graduated in 1991. He played one year of football at Temple University before a knee injury ended his playing career.
Newsday sports editor Hank Winnicki said Henry "had a quiet grace about him that we all still miss."
"This award means a lot to us at Newsday because it emphasizes the qualities that are most important in life," Winnicki said. "The candidates are more than just great athletes, they are great people who lead by example and dedicate themselves to making the world a better place. Marcus made a difference in so many people's lives and this award carries on that legacy in his name."
Rolfe is the embodiment of everything Henry was, from the playing fields to the classroom and the community.
Rolfe’s parents have been by her side every step of the way. Although her mom, Joan Rolfe, wasn’t exactly on board with baseball at first.
“Oh, I thought spring track would be a good sport for her,” she said with a laugh. “But Abby wanted to give it a shot in baseball. And just like anything that she does, she works very hard at it. We’re both so proud of all her accomplishments not just in the classroom and sports but in our community. I’m thrilled she played baseball.”
Rolfe played the outfield and batted in the middle of the Royals lineup. She drove in 29 runs and batted over .400.
“I wasn’t very good at first and Coach [Anthony] Filippi helped me develop my hitting skills,” she said. “He was there for me every single practice – doing the extra work. He walked me through the hitting skills because softball is very different. And the guys on the team were patient and accepted me.”
Filippi, an assistant coach, remembers the first few workouts.
“Abby was a pleasure to work with,” Filippi said. “She was a determined young player focused on what needed to be done to be a better player. That should be the model for any player – to put in the effort and have the passion. She’s all about heart and soul. And I know the boys on the team embraced her drive and that helped her transition to baseball.”
Port Jefferson baseball coach Jesse Rosen, who also serves as Port Jefferson’s community service advisor, said Rolfe was a fantastic addition to the lineup.
“She’s a great athlete and I told her she’d be good for us,” Rosen said. “She had an unbelievable season to earn that All-County selection.”
Rolfe, who is active in her church and community, also organized a drive-through trick-or-treating experience at Port Jefferson’s elementary school during the height of the 2020 pandemic.
“We knew that the kids would be upset that they couldn’t trick-or-treat,” Rolfe said. “Nothing was normal that year and we wanted them to feel some happiness on Halloween. And all those kids’ smiles made it worth every second of that experience.”
Rolfe said she wants people to be happy in the community. She wants to study to be a nurse and help people heal and feel better.
“I come from a great family who gave me everything and there are so many people who have nothing or very little,” she said. “I really just want to dedicate my whole life to helping and being kind to people.”
She’s a winner in every way.
2014: JOE PERCIVAL, St. Anthony's
2015: THOMAS CUTINELLA, Shoreham-Wading River
2016: LIVINGSTONE HARRIOTT JR., Central Islip
2017: KELSI KING, Baldwin
2018: ALEXANDREA HARRIOTT, Central Islip
2019: KENNETH WEI, Mount Sinai
2020: EMMA WARD, Babylon;
2021: FAVOUR OKODOGBE, St. John the Baptist