In the middle of the pile of screaming, cheering Hitmen, senior and captain Nick Gallo stood beaming. The fact that a perfect double play had just secured his seven inning, four hit shutout in the first round of the playoffs was at the back of his mind. All Gallo could think about was that he had prolonged a magical season with a team he loved, even if it was only for one more game. “I love playing with you guys, and I don’t want this season to end,” he told his team as they huddled over him.
Baseball has been a passion for Gallo since he was eight years old. Despite beginning his athletic career as a soccer player, Gallo promptly gave it up because, “it was too much running,” he said. He then picked up baseball, and has stuck with it ever since. After going to his first Yankee game against the Mariners when he was eight, and watching Alex Rodriguez play, baseball was “all I ever wanted to do,” he said. He played for numerous Little League teams, and went to sleep away baseball camps in the summer, finally ending up on the Gothams, one of the elite baseball teams in Manhattan. From that first Yankee game, Gallo’s life was centered around baseball, and it hasn’t stopped being the focus of his life since that time. “People ask me a lot do you ever get sick of it [baseball] or consider it a chore,” Gallo said. “I always say I feel like I’m really fortunate to have something that I love doing so much.”
Despite his solid baseball background, Gallo began his Stuyvesant career as a freshman among other stronger, more experienced varsity players. Although he was the only freshman on the team, Gallo showed his leadership abilities and fiery passion for the game even in his first year. Coach John Carlesi recalled an incident when Gallo was playing center field. “As a freshman, he yelled at an upperclassmen for not covering first base,” Carlesi said. As an underclassmen on the varsity, it is taboo to openly contradict older, more experienced players. Nevertheless, Gallo had the confidence in himself to challenge an upperclassmen’s mistake. “I really ripped into him about what a privilege it is to be on varsity after that,” Carlesi said. “It takes teamwork and when you are new you need to adjust.”
Gallo learned his lesson. “When I came in [to Stuyvesant], I’d been on teams before in little league and summer teams, but they hadn’t really emphasized any principles,” Gallo said. “Whereas on this team it was always about how nobody’s bigger than the team, and nobody’s more important than the team.” It didn’t take Gallo long to adjust to this type of atmosphere on a varsity team. He accepted his position as an underclassmen, and adapted to it easily. He learned his role, and greatly contributed to the team that year, pitching 16 innings with a 1.74 ERA.
“We always used to make fun of Gallo because he thought he was Derek Jeter,” said Brian Schatz (’08), who was a senior when Gallo was a sophomore. “But really that was the attitude he portrayed on the field, like a professional, game after game.” Gallo carried this serious attitude with him as he grew to be a true leader on the team.
As a junior, Gallo put up stellar numbers, going 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA. Despite these successes, Gallo faced some adversity in the team’s spring training trip to Florida. In the last game of the trip, after misplaying a fly ball in center field, Gallo picked up the ball and chucked it over the fence in frustration. Carlesi, fuming, immediately pulled Gallo from the game and told him to sit in the car and think about what he had done. The Hitmen were truly stunned, watching the breakdown of a player they had looked up to and had confidence in. “Since that day, I knew it was going to be hard to earn back people’s trust,” Gallo said. However, when Gallo returned after the game, the look of devastation and the tears welling in his eyes told the team otherwise. Gallo, still only a junior at the time, held a team meeting to apologize personally, letting his team know that he understood he had let them down, that he deserved to be punished, and that he would take whatever punishment was given without complaint. It was a great sign of strength and integrity on Gallo’s part to realize his mistake and to reconcile as he did. Though at first the incident made Carlesi question his decision to name Gallo captain the following year, Gallo’s response to the problem only helped Carlesi understand that he was making the right choice. “I think if helped me be a better captain because I knew that anyone has the ability to make a mistake, and that they should have the opportunity and right to be forgiven,” Gallo said.
When Carlesi informed Gallo that he would be captain of the team this year, Gallo was reluctant. “It’s sort of funny, when coach first told me I was going to be captain, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to because I thought it was a really tough job that I almost didn’t want.” However, his father, Paul Gallo, his friend and confidant, and a devoted scorekeeper for the Hitmen, helped make the decision for him. “My dad told me that I had a responsibility to the team,” Gallo said. “Then he told me it’s going to be really tough, but in the long run it would pay off.” It certainly did. Gallo went undefeated as a senior in six starts for the second year in a row, and defeated division rival Beacon. He settled disputes with underclassmen without resorting to yelling or harsh words. He took an inexperienced, young, lackluster team that merely hoped for a .500 record, and gave them the confidence to go 10-6 and make it to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in five years. “We made it to the second round and I know that every guy on the team worked really hard,” Gallo said. “Whether or not that was because I was captain of the team and I worked hard myself doesn’t matter. I had a lot of pride knowing the guys I played with had given everything they could.” As friends and devoted teammates of Gallo’s we know that it was only his devotion to the team, the hard work he showed on and off the field and the love he showed for the game that made us want so much to perform well for him.
Next year, Gallo will go on to bigger and better things. He has committed to playing baseball at Swarthmore, a small liberal arts college with a developing team. “I am glad I am able to do something I love for another four years at a high level,” Gallo said.
The loss of a leader like Gallo will certainly affect the Hitmen. But the qualities Gallo brought to the team—strength, poise and passion—will remain with them. As Carlesi put it, “Gallo was one of, if not the best, captain we’ve ever had.”