On Thursday morning at the campus of Monmouth University, Middletown South’s Howie Brey and Brian Healy sat amongst their senior class sporting four-point caps while draped in gowns of navy blue to take part in a graduation ceremony that closed the educational chapter of their high school careers.
However, as the day marched on and sun sank below the tree line, rather than head off to celebratory parties and barbecues, the pair of longtime teammates returned to their high school grounds, to their home away from home, to conclude another, more definitive, phase of their last four years.
The 2012 Shore Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Game, which pits rosters of Monmouth and Ocean County ballplayers against one another, brought Brey and Healy back to Walter Woods Memorial Field for nine more coveted innings in an Eagles uniform and the memories came rushing back.
“I stepped on the mound out here tonight and the feeling hit me that this was going to be the last time I’d be up here,” said Brey, Monmouth’s starter Thursday who led the team to a 10-2 victory over Ocean. “You think about your first varsity start. You think about the A North title we won. You think about all these great memories. It’s kind of an emotional night.”
“As my time in this game started to wind down the two tournaments we won last year (Monmouth County and NJSIAA Central Group III) came back to me,” said Healy, who batted .359 during his senior season with a team-leading two home runs. “We also had a couple of pile-ons this year, too. My teammates, how we came together as a team, how we won together, that’s what I’m thinking about. And I’ll cherish every moment of it.”
The pair of Eagles also used Thursday’s all-star competition as a way to remedy the bad taste left in their mouths after a loss to Manalapan in the state tournament, and they did so in grand fashion.
Brey tossed two shutout innings for the Monmouth squad, including a strikeout of the side in the top half of the first, while Healy went 2-for-3 at the plate in the leadoff spot with a double, single and a run scored in the bottom of the second inning.
“The way I saw it, this was my last chance to represent Middletown South,” Healy said. “I wanted to show everyone here from around the Shore Conference what I’m about, what my team is about, and what my school is about.”
“We didn’t really go out the way we wanted to. So being selected to play in this game was kind of like a second chance to finish the season on a high note.”
Brey and Healy are both college-bound ballplayers who will be competing for their respective programs this coming fall as the lefty hurler will pitch for Rutgers University, while the speedy left fielder will go to the University of Scranton.
“I really loved my time here,” Healy said. “And I’m really going to miss it.”
Chris Rotolo: firstname.lastname@example.org