Life is full of battles, some bigger than others. Albany Athletics third baseman Tim O’Connor can certainly relate to that.
“I’m not trying to compare anything in my life to what he’s going through,” the 20-year-old Guilderland High School graduate said of his dad, Joe O’Connor. “We’re talking about two totally different things here.”
Tim O’Connor said his fight for increased playing time at Fordham University is a small one in the grand scheme of things. His dad is in a fight with esophageal cancer.
“My family has been blessed with good health. He’s a guy no one thought it would happen to,” said O’Connor, after helping his team beat the Greenville Spartans, 10-0, in a mercy-rule-shortened game Saturday at the Albany Athletics Baseball Fest at Central Park. “He lives a pretty clean life. It came out of the blue.”
The elder O’Connor, like his son, is steadily winning his battle.
“He began treatment in late March, and we got good news on the last test. There was a 30 percent reduction in the cancer cells. Fifty percent was the original mass,” said O’Connor. “He’s doing awesome. He says he feels 100 percent.
“The support he’s had has been incredible,” O’Connor added. “That’s part of the reason he’s doing so well.”
The Athletics did very well in pool play, beating the Sherrill Blazers Friday, 7-3, and the Philly Bandits Saturday, 4-1, before blanking Greenville at the Coaches vs. Cancer event. Tim’s mom, Peggy O’Connor, threw out the first pitch before Friday’s contest in which her son had a triple, a single, an RBI and two runs scored.
“I’ve been coaching for 19 years. It was time to give back,” said Athletics general manager and head coach Joe Altieri. “The Cancer Society thought it was a great idea.”
This is the second year proceeds from the Baseball Fest are going to the American Cancer Society. The tournament concludes today with semifinal games and then the championship, which Albany has claimed eight times.
“When I see Coaches vs. Cancer, it’s an awseome cause, but it’s never hit home like this,” said O’Connor, who, like most of the players, wore pink wristbands. “It definitely means a lot more. You want to put on a show.”
O’Connor did that often as a football and baseball star at Guilderland, but had few chances to shine as a freshman walk-on at Fordham, when he made two starts and saw action in 12 games. He made 16 starts this season and played in 25 games, and had a four hits against St. Bonaventure in one of his four multiple-hit efforts.
“I came in as a middle infielder. This past season, coach threw me into the outfield, and I ended up getting a lot of time,” said O’Connor, who batted .237 with 10 runs scored and four stolen bases. “I ended up having a pretty good season.”
He’d like to have a busier and more productive junior season for the Rams of the Atlantic 10.
“I’m looking to get a starting outfield role,” said the biology major. “Some seniors graduated and that helps, but I know I’m not going to just walk in and get a position. I’m going to have to compete.”
O’Connor hit an RBI single and scored a run in a five-run first inning against Greenville. Earlier Saturday he picked up two singles against Philly, one of them breaking a 1-1 tie.
O’Connor is one of several 19- and 20-year-olds on an Albany roster that has seen significant change since the 2013 season, and Altieri can see him developing into a team centerpiece.
“He has that kind of ability. He’s quiet, but he’s a hard-nosed player,” Altieri said. “He plays the game the right way. Every inning, every pitch, every at-bat. He’s a coach’s dream.”
Craig Mastroianni’s two-run single capped Albany’s five-run first, and Pat Landers limited Greenville to a first-inning single while striking out eight and walking one.
Ryan McGrath scattered four hits, and Cam Overbaugh had three singles in Albany’s win over Philly.
In other games, Sherrill beat Greenville, 8-3, and the Albany Thunder, 4-3, while Philly topped the Thunder, 6-5.
The Athletics (3-0, 19-7) have a rematch with Greenville (1-3, 3-5) this morning at 10, while the other semifinal will pit Sherrill (2-1, 10-3) against Philly (2-1, 5-2). The title game will start at 1 p.m.
The Athletics have won seven games in a row and 10 of their last 11.
Alb. Athletics 500 311 — 10 9 1
Greenville 000 000 — 0 1 1
Landers and Mastroianni, Scaccia (6); Welsch, Hunt (2), Martin (6) and Cooke.
Philly 001 000 0 — 1 4 1
Alb. Athletics 101 200 x — 4 9 2
Corkhill, DePhillips (5) and Santospago; McGrath and Mastroianni.