As a 3-year-old playing wiffle ball in his Valley Stream backyard, Vito Friscia would pretend he was New York Yankee legends Paul O’Neil and Tino Martinez.
Two decades later, Friscia will now get a chance to pursue his childhood dream of playing Major League Baseball after the Philadelphia Phillies selected him in the 40th round of the MLB Draft on June 5, following a standout four-year collegiate career at Hofstra University.
Friscia received a phone call from the Phillies in the final moments of the draft, capping a stressful three days of waiting with friends and family for the Valley Stream Central graduate.
“There were times I didn’t think it was going to happen,” said Friscia, who had also been in contact with the Mets and the Chicago White Sox before the Phillies picked him in the final round. “I have always dreamed for this moment.”
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Frisicia just finished a heralded senior season at Hofstra, where he hit .317, and slugged eight home runs, to earn Second Team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors. He hit .308 during his four years at Hofstra, and was a finalist this spring for the Buster Posey Award, given to the top catcher in NCAA Division I baseball.
“He has been one of the top hitters in the Northeast for the past four years,” Hofstra head coach John Russo said of Friscia, who batted .375 last summer for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Cape Cod League. “Getting drafted puts a stamp on everything he has accomplished.”
Friscia entered Hofstra after shining at Valley Stream Central, where he twice earned All-Long Island honors and hit .455 as a sophomore. He credits much of his development as a hitter and catcher to longtime Valley Stream Central assistant coach Tony Lombardo, who began coaching him as a youngster at Firemen’s Field in the Valbrook Baseball Camp.
“He is self-driven and takes charge,” Lombardo said of Friscia, who captured the 2015 Power Showcase Home Run Derby in Miami. “He deserves everything he gets because he worked so hard for it.”
After the draft, Friscia headed to Florida for workouts with the Phillies’ Gulf Coast League team. He is hoping this summer to move up to the Phillies’ short-season Class A affiliate, the Williamsport Crosscutters, who compete in the New York-Penn League with the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees.
“I’m just going to take it one day at a time and work on the little things,” said Friscia, who earned an accounting degree at Hofstra. “If I do the little things, the big things will come.”