Each sport teaches its own lesson.
For example, baseball specializes in how to handle adversity. Just ask Kenny Levari.
The Vineland resident, who completed his junior year at St. Augustine Prep, is in the midst of the summer of his life.
Levari, 17, has already pitched at Fenway Park in Boston and hit 95 mph on the radar gun at a tournament in Georgia. In August, he will participate with many of the nation’s top scholastic players in the Area Code Games and East Coast Pro showcase event before multiple major league scouts.
“Playing professional baseball is a dream,” he said, “and I’m getting a chance to go out there and compete in front of professional scouts and give myself a chance.”
But on June 6, Levari and the Hermits lost to Delbarton 4-3 in eight innings of the state Non-Public A title game. Levari was the losing pitcher and booted a ground ball in the loss.
How he handled that disappointment is an example for all high school athletes.
“I was upset that night,” he said, “but as soon as it was over, there was nothing I could do to change it. The next day it was out of my head, and we were getting ready for next year.”
Levari’s summer began in late June when he tried out at Fenway Park for the East Coast Pro and Area Code Games. Luke Vaks, who just finished his junior year at Cedar Creek, also participated.
Levari took the mound against the Orleans Firebirds of the Cape Cod League, which features many of the country’s top college players. Before he pitched, Levari watched Firebirds bomb home runs over Fenway Park’s left field wall — dubbed the Green Monster — during batting practice.
“They had kids hitting balls out of the stadium,” Levari said.
Levari started the game and threw a perfect inning, striking out two batters and retiring the third batter on a pop-up.
The Area Code Games and East Coast Pro are both showcase events run by big league scouts and designed to expose players to major league teams.
Levari, who has verbally committed to attend Old Dominion University, will play for the Boston Red Sox’s team at East Coast Pro in Hoover, Alabama, from Aug. 1-4.
He will play for the New York Yankees’ team at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, California, from Aug. 5-9.
For the record, Levari is a Philadelphia Phillies fan.
While baseball teaches how to deal with failure, it also emphasizes optimism. There’s almost always a tomorrow in baseball, almost always another game to play.
Like Levari, players just have to be strong enough to withstand the tough times to take advantage.
“If you dwell on failure, you can’t play baseball,” Levari said. “If you have an 0 for 4 day, you have a chance to go out and hit four home runs tomorrow.”
Levari took that attitude to the mound when he gave his baseball career a big boost with a standout performance at one of the nation’s most historic sports venues.
“Nobody can ever take that away from me,” he said. “I can say for the rest of my life that I pitched in Fenway Park. Babe Ruth played on that field.”
Michael McGarry’s Must Win column appears Fridays in The Press.