Vineland High School's Johnny Malatesta chose baseball over swimming as a collegiate sport.

Malatesta, a rising senior at Vineland, has committed to attend the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark on an athletic scholarship for baseball. NJIT, an NCAA Division I school, plays in the Great West Conference.

The 17-year-old Vineland resident is a Press first-team All-Star in baseball and swimming.

Malatesta, a shortstop and pitcher, didn't reveal if it was a partial or full scholarship.

"I always wanted to play (college) baseball if I could. That's always been my dream," Malatesta said. "I've had a pretty good amount of success in both (baseball and swimming). But if I had to pick one, it would be baseball."

The Vineland baseball team, coached by Johnny's father John, was 21-7 this spring. Johnny Malatesta batted .457 and led the team in hits (37) and RBIs (24). He was 4-4 on the mound with a 2.48 ERA and 58 strikeouts.

"NJIT was the first place I (visited)," Johnny Malatesta said. "I liked the coaches. They were good guys and they should be able to develop me as a player. I also liked the stadium (Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium) where the team plays. It's where the Newark Bears (of the Can-Am League) play.

"I really liked the campus. Everything was really close. You wouldn't have to drive to anything. I plan to be in civil engineering, and they have one of the best programs for that."

John Malatesta, who was also a long-time girls swimming coach at Vineland, didn't influence his son's decision.

"Which sport (he chose) was up to him," John said. "He played baseball this summer in the Garden State Games and on a juniors-only select team. People were there talking to him and there were some scouts. That's what led to it.

"I'm happy for him. The (NJIT) coaches are younger guys in a new program. The school has great academic standards. They're looking for quality kids, and Johnny fits that role."

The NJIT baseball team was 20-34 this spring and 11-16 in the Great West Conference. Area players for the Highlanders are sophomore outfielder Ed Charlton, from Egg Harbor Township and a former Press Player of the Year at St. Augustine Prep, junior catcher Scott Brosman (St. Augustine) and junior pitcher Zach Emmett (Lacey Township).

Johnny Malatesta will still swim this winter for Vineland, which should have one of its better boys teams in recent years.

"Without any pressure (of looking for a college) I can focus on school," he said.

Do baseball and swimming have anything in common?

"Swimming helps baseball physically, but baseball doesn't help swimming except for the mental aspect (of performing under pressure)," Johnny Malatesta said. "It helps baseball players to get in the pool. It's good for your arm to get in the water and get some (swimming) yardage in. Swimming helps your shoulder and back. It's a full body workout."

Malatesta hasn't totally ruled out the possibility of swimming at NJIT too, but admits it's not likely. One of his friends, former Egg Harbor Township swimmer Anthony Czar, will swim for NJIT this winter, and will certainly tell his coaches about Malatesta.

"With civil engineering, I don't think there would be any time for swimming," Malatesta said.

Contact Guy Gargan:

609-272-7210