Sports

Taking it to the Next Level

Over Manhattan College’s 161 year existence, thousands of athletes have put on a Jasper uniform. Very few have gone on to play professionally.

However, that is not to say that Manhattan hasn’t had its fair share of athletes that have turned pro.

In fact, Manhattan’s baseball program has produced 52 athletes that have played either in the major or minor leagues. Among the most memorable Jaspers is Luis Castro.

Castro, originally from Colombia, attended Manhattan College from 1895-1900, and in 1902, became the first Latin American to play in the major leagues. Castro only played 42 games for the Philadelphia Athletics, but he would go on to play professionally eight more years.

One of the most recent Jaspers to turn pro is Anthony Vega. Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 30th round of the 2012 MLB Draft, Vega has played two seasons of minor league baseball, where he has spent time with the Aberdeen IronBirds and Delmarva Shorebirds, both Class-A affiliates of the Orioles.

While at Manhattan, Vega, who was also on the track team, was regarded as one of the best defensive outfielders and fastest players in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Over his three year career with the Jaspers, Vega tallied 48 steals, 32 of which came in the 2012 season, a figure that was good enough for 13th in the nation.

Anthony Vega, a prodigious base stealer and defender, was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 30th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. Photo courtesy of gojaspers.com

Anthony Vega, a prodigious base stealer and defender, was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 30th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. Photo courtesy of gojaspers.com

“I’ve always been fast, but I wanted to get faster,” Vega said. “I feel like doing the two sports really made me manage my time better and cut the other stuff out. It really made me focus more and get ready for the season. It was just beneficial all around.”

Vega also weighed in on how Manhattan College compares to other schools in terms of infrastructures and facilities.

“I think it’s a shame that as successful as Manhattan baseball has been, that we don’t have some of the things the bigger schools have,” he said.

However, Vega pointed out that despite not having the resources the bigger schools have, the success the team has tasted has helped build character and has placed a chip on each player’s shoulder.

Other than baseball, the sport that has had the most success has been track and field. With 18 Olympians, including two gold medalists, the track and field program has undoubtedly produced some of the top talent out of Manhattan College. Names like Lindy Remigino, winner of two gold medals at the 1952 Olympics; Lou Jones, winner of the gold medal in the 4 x 400 meter relay at the 1956 Olympics; and Aliann Pompey, a four time Olympian, were all at one time Manhattan Jaspers.

Representing your country once in an Olympics is a tough task. Representing it four times, is extremely difficult. That is what Aliann Pompey was able to accomplish. Thanks to an illustrious four year career at Manhattan College—highlighted by a national championship victory in 2000, which was a feat that made her the only female Jasper to win the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship—Pompey was able to represent Guyana at the 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympics.

Pompey realizes what select company she is in, having been to four Olympics.

“There’s nothing quite like it,” she said. “You’re in the company of a very small group of people when you look at how many people are in the world and how many people compete at the Olympics and then how many people have competed at four.”

Aliann Pompey

To this day, Aliann Pompey is the only female Jasper to have won an NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship. She has represented Guyana in four separate Olympics, each under the guidance of Manhattan’s Track and Field Assistant Coach Joe Ryan. Photo from gojaspers.com

Pompey formed a special bond with her college coach Joe Ryan, which continued on into her professional career. Ryan accompanied Pompey to all four of her Olympic appearances; something Pompey believes was the key to a successful career.

“It was an easier transition because when I was done with my college career I went straight to a professional career, and I really didn’t change anything,” she said. “It gave us the opportunity to develop me under a consistent program.”

Manhattan’s basketball program is no slouch when it comes to producing professional athletes either. They’ve had 20 players drafted into the NBA or ABA, and numerous players have played overseas.

The most recent draftee is Luis Flores, Manhattan’s all-time leader in points scored, and leader of Manhattan’s 2003 and 2004 NCAA tournament teams. Flores was selected in the second round of the 2004 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets, which he described as an amazing feeling.

“You just want to get your name called,” he said. He compared the moment when he was drafted to a movie scene in which the main character sees his life flash before his eyes. “You remember picking up the ball, you remember those days you might have cried because you missed a shot, to those days where you hit a big shot and went up against the best player and outplayed him…”

Luis Flores, Manhattan’s all-time leader in points scored with 2046, was drafted by the Houston Rockets in the second round of the 2004 NBA Draft. Photo courtesy of gojaspers.com.

Luis Flores, Manhattan’s all-time leader in points scored with 2046, was drafted by the Houston Rockets in the second round of the 2004 NBA Draft. Photo courtesy of gojaspers.com.

Flores only played in 15 NBA games for the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets, but he has enjoyed nine years of basketball overseas, where he last played for Guaiqueríes de Margarita of the Venezuelan league in 2013.

While the number of professional athletes Manhattan has produced does not compare to some of the other top schools, there is no denying that Manhattan has produced a sufficient amount of success stories.

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