Lincoln High senior Andrew Veiga hopes to enhance the Lionsâ playoff prospects when he becomes eligible next month. Come next year, the southpaw will suit up for the University of Albany. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN
Spend time in the company of Andrew Veiga and youâll discover why this young man possesses such a keen sense of direction. The course he mapped out is so precise, with every last detail accounted for, that itâs easy to confuse him for a cartographer rather than a high school student-athlete whose forte is baseball.
Veiga has cast an eye toward the future, yet heâs just as mindful of the present. Both ends are properly secured, thanks to adhering to a step-by-step process that he felt would provide him with the best opportunity to succeed and thrive. Keeping his finger on the pulse regarding everything that materialized over a short period, Veiga unabashedly admits that these days, heâs perfectly content.
Elaborate preamble aside, itâs rare to see someone in this fast-paced world actually take the time to carefully consider all avenues before putting words or thoughts into action. Veiga did, and because he didnât rush to judgment, the senior has a roster spot waiting for him at the University of Albany, a Division I school that resides in the America East Conference. Sliding on a Great Danes jersey will come on the heels of what will be an abbreviated stint with the Lincoln High â9â this spring.
âItâs awesome,â smiled Veiga while sitting at a table inside Cumberlandâs Upper Deck Baseball Academy late last week. âI basically have to pass my classes, have fun this senior year, and Iâm all set.â
Considering weâre talking about someone with a stellar 3.7 GPA and has taken AP and honors classes, Veiga probably wonât lose any sleep over graduating on time. Recruited as a pitcher, the well-built 6-foot-3 lefthander also considered URI and Siena. He took an official visit to Albany in early December and committed to the program a week later.
Much of Veigaâs interaction with Albany was handled through Drew Pearce, who doubles as the programâs pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. Last year, Pearce came to Rhode Island specifically to see Veiga throw on a mound indoors. Apparently, those sessions â Veiga was never informed by Pearce what his fastball was clocked at, though he mentioned he registered 85 miles per hour on the radar gun last autumn â coupled with a glowing endorsement carried a lot of weight.
Spreading the gospel on Veigaâs behalf was Idris Liasu, the former Upper Deck Post 86 mentor and a one-time college assistant at Siena and URI. âHe basically got me in with Albany,â notes the 12th grader. âEverything just felt right. (Pearce) is very inviting and seems like he knows a lot about the game, and I know I can definitely improve with him and the team.â
Not long after hitching his wagon to the Great Danes, Veiga was faced with another important decision. Enrolled at St. Raphael Academy, he started to lend credence to the idea about finishing high school at Lincoln. As fate would have it, Veiga went to Lincoln as a freshman before transferring to SRA during his sophomore year.
Returning to his roots would not come hassle free. Since he wasnât changing his living address, Veiga would be forced to sit out one half of the Lionsâ league games in compliance with the Rhode Island Interscholastic Leagueâs transfer policy. With baseball utilizing an 18-game league slate, Veiga would have to wait until Lincolnâs 10th game before officially toeing the rubber.
Prior to taking the plunge, Veiga sought counsel from Pearce. The recruit explained to the college coach his rationale for switching schools in the middle of his senior year. Once Pearce gave him his blessing, Veiga embarked on the next step.
âBasically just to save money. Iâd rather put that money toward college tuition,â responded Veiga when asked about departing St. Raphael. âI talked to the Albany coach before anything even happened. He said it was fine with him. I definitely called him first just to see what he thought about it before telling anyone else.â
The first day of the second semester at Lincoln High served as Veigaâs official return to familiar hallways. âIt was kind of weird, like, âWhoa, heâs back.â After that, it was like nothing changed. Everyoneâs very happy to have me back.â
Barring any rainouts, Lincolnâs 10th league game is May 3 against defending state champion Bishop Hendricken. Naturally, the date is already circled on Veigaâs calendar. In the interim, he will keep busy by throwing simulated games and serving as a pseudo pitching coach to teammates such as fellow lefty Matt Kinch.
Once his penance is complete, he hopes to serve as the equivalent to a midseason acquisition thatâs brought aboard with bigger and grandiose plans in mind.
â(Lincoln second-year head coach Andy Hallam) is definitely going to make sure I get my work in. Heâs not going to forget about me,â Veiga notes. âIf weâre doing well in the first half of the season, hopefully I can make us even better and get us to McCoy (Stadium, site of the finals). Thatâs our goal.â
When heâs not on the mound, Veiga will patrol first base. At St. Raphael, he was a two-time Second Team All-Division selection, laurels based predominately on his hitting skills (he would routinely hit third in SRAâs lineup). As the Saintsâ ace pitcher, the southpaw earned his stripes last May 17 when he tossed a complete game eight-hitter with nine strikeouts against Cumberland.
Now that time is somewhat standing still, Veiga can look at what the past few months have yielded and take comfort in knowing he was able to complete everything on his terms.
âIt hasnât completely sunk in that my season starts a little later. Other than that, Iâm happy,â he said.
Taking the time to remember
Naturally, there was hesitation on Peter Bertheletteâs part. A succession plan to follow Skee Carter as Burrillville Highâs head baseball coach was never even a consideration, mainly because Berthelette imagined that when the day arrived that Carter felt comfortable in calling it a career, the long-time assistant would also orchestrate a similar exit.
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âI never had aspirations to become a head coach,â said Berthelette. âI just enjoyed coaching with Skee, and as long as Skee continued on, I would continue as well.â
Carterâs sudden passing due to a heart attack he suffered on Jan. 2 changed the dynamic. After careful deliberation, Berthelette informed Burrillville athletic director John Abbate that he planned to apply for the top varsity position after spending the previous 18 seasons as Carterâs top dugout lieutenant. Bertheletteâs appointment was confirmed at a mid-February school committee meeting.
âI want to make sure that I can give these kids a pretty good experience, and hopefully I can do that,â said Berthelette, regarding this passing of the torch as being another in a long list of fitting tributes to the late beloved Broncos coach. âIâm certainly hoping I can do justice to the kind of program that Skee always ran.â
To that end, Burrillvilleâs baseball program will pay homage to Carterâs legacy prior to next Tuesdayâs Division II opener at Eccleston Field. In fitting fashion, Mount St. Charles will serve as that dayâs opponent (Mounties coach Tom Seaver expressed his fondness for Carter in a touching and poignant letter that ran in this newspaper on Jan. 6).
Berthelette says that the pregame on-field ceremony will take place along one of the baselines and conclude with Carterâs son, Chris, and grandson, Aidan, throwing out the first pitch. The honoring will continue when the Broncos take their cuts in the bottom of the first inning.
âIâve told (Abbate) that thereâs no way I can step into Skeeâs coaching box in the first inning of that game,â said Berthelette. âIn sort of a quiet tribute to him, weâre going to leave the third base coachesâ box open. I donât know how legal that is, but Iâm not stepping in that box right away.â
In addition, Burrillvilleâs hats will feature Carterâs jersey number (55) on the side. Commemorative patches are in the process of being sewn on all the varsity uniforms, both home and away.