Neumann-Goretti sparked by To

Posted: June 06, 2014

BAY TO can, but few others are able to say they have been serenaded on the way to the plate by a walk-up song blaring their name.

At home games this season, the junior rightfielder for Ss. Neumann-Goretti High sauntered to the plate with a confident bop as the hip-hop song "Ay, Bay Bay," thumped through a speaker.

"I wanted to pick that song because I wanted to say, 'This is me and I finally made it to this spot,' " To said yesterday just before the Saints practiced at 26th and Moore streets.

"I got my own walk-up song, got my name in it and then you're feeling pretty good about yourself, walking to the batter's box, smiling," he continued. "And especially for the people in the stands, when you hear my song, 'Hey, Bay Bay,' you know I'm hitting."

The confines today at Parkland High in Allentown for the Saints' 3:30 p.m. Class AA quarterfinal baseball game against Bloomsburg, the No. 2 seed from District 4, might not be as acoustically friendly. District 12 No. 1 seed La Salle will follow the Saints as part of a doubleheader at Parkland.

"It [won't] bother me at all," To said of potentially playing "theme-songless." "It's just for amusement."

After all, he did play well enough at home and on the road to earn first-team All-Catholic League honors from the coaches. Not bad after playing JV last season.

"Last year, I just didn't get a chance," To said, "so after that season, I just worked my butt off to achieve my goals, and this year, it's been showing. All the hard work, all the strength training, all the speed training, so I'm just really happy it's all coming together and we're doing really well this year."

As a leadoff man, To is a 5-10, 175-pound speedster who wreaks havoc for opposing defenses and provides opportunities for the mashers who follow in the lineup.

"My most important job is to get on base and hopefully score a run," To said, "especially with Josh 'Ock' [Ockimey], Charlie [Jerla] and Tommy [Nardini] behind me. We know that if I get on base, we have a great chance of scoring with those guys behind me."

Ockimey won the Blue Division MVP, Jerla earned second-team honors as an outfielder and a pitcher, and Nardini has been dangerous at the plate. As a pitcher, Jerla has thrown 22 straight scoreless innings this postseason. Juniors Pat Doudican (Blue Pitcher of the Year) and Justin Curtin were also first-team selections.

The Huskies are led by standout pitcher Colton Hock, a Stanford commit, who might see the mound in a relief role after striking out 12 in a first-round win against Lakeland on Monday. The second half of the doubleheader will feature District 12 top seed La Salle and Hazleton, the top dog from District 2, battling for Class AAAA advancement.

In addition to his on-field skills, To also has a knack in job-placement services. When the Saints' head-coaching position opened last season, To passed along the information to eventual head coach Kevin Schneider, who at the time worked with the Tri-State Arsenal, a baseball organization based out of The Hit Doctor Baseball and Softball Academy in Voorhees, N.J.

"He's kinda the reason I'm even here," Schneider joked before practice.

When Schneider got the gig, he reciprocated by giving To, who had played only infield, a job - in rightfield!

"The other coaches were looking at me, like, 'He's never even taken a fly ball!' " Schneider said. "He's just such a great athlete, I knew he could do it."

To, a Southwest Philadelphia (65th Street and Lindbergh Avenue) resident, took advantage and now says colleges such as St. John's, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Stanford, Marist and Wake Forest all have shown varying degrees of interest.

Not bad for the guy who felt slighted by not making varsity last season.

"My heart was torn out of my body, because I worked hard all that offseason," he said.

Sure, he worked to improve his skills with the instructors at Arsenal, but, To said, the true credit belongs to his mom (Lim) and dad (Tilung, "T"), who emigrated from Cambodia years earlier.

"They worked very hard to get money," To said. "Ever since I wanted to play baseball, they've been working their [butts] off to send me to a great school like Neumann-Goretti and to help me play for the Arsenal."

So maybe asking him to play rightfield wasn't such a daunting task after all.

"Anything to get on the field," he said, smiling. "You could put me at first, well, Josh Ock is at first! Wherever you put me, I'll do my best to get our team a W."


On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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