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Former pro baller Jay Loviglio instructs at Pro Game

Q&A with East Islip Grad

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Jay Loviglio was born in Freeport and grew up in East Islip. He graduated from East Islip High School in 1974 and attended Suffolk County Community College, where he played college ball. After an invite to a practice at Eisenhower Park, Loviglio was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies and worked his way up in their minor league system. A few years later, Loviglio reached baseball’s grandest stage, playing MLB for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1980, and was a member of the 1980 World Series Champion Phillies. Loviglio spent two seasons with the Chicago White Sox in 1981 and 1982, who were managed by Hall of Famer Tony La Russa. In 1983, Loviglio played for the Chicago Cubs. After his MLB career, Loviglio was a longtime coach and manager at many different levels of minor league baseball as well as a Long Island Ducks coach in 2011 and 2012. From 2012 to 2015, Loviglio was the head coach of Islip High School varsity baseball. Loviglio has been heavily involved as a coach for the local travel team, the Long Island Black Diamonds, and currently is a hitting and fielding instructor at Pro Game Athletics in Bay Shore.    

Islip Bulletin: You attended East Islip High School, and senior year your coach was the great Sal Ciampi, which was his rookie year as a coach for East Islip baseball. What motivation and advice from Ciampi helped you the most in your career?

Loviglio: I played for him in baseball and football. I was one of those guys that was able to put the bat on the ball and do a lot of things right. Sal pushed me towards what I was doing except at a higher, more aggressive level, particularly with the bat, and that really helped become a different type of hitter. I was a similar hitter, but driving the ball through the infield and into the outfield, where most of my life I had relied on my speed, and I was able to leg out a lot of hits, turn singles into doubles, steal bases. So I definitely have to thank him for that. A lot of that obviously came from football mentality, so having played football for him for three years as well didn’t hurt. It was a big step for me. 

IB: While attending Suffolk County Community College, you were invited to a tryout at Eisenhower Park by the Phillies. Talk about that experience.

Loviglio: The night before, actually, was the end of the playoff series for Suffolk Community. We had gotten beat in extra innings against Farmingdale and at that point in time, I thought my baseball was done because I had pretty much mortgaged everything to try [to] get that last opportunity to play and my grades were not high enough to transfer to a four-year college, so I went home with the idea that that was it. I had to start a different life at that time; then I got a phone call invit[ing] [me] to a tryout. Went there the next day and started off with a 60-yard dash, which obviously was my strength. Took some ground balls to second base. I played shortstop in high school; I played centerfield in college. Second base was not that big of a deal to do as far as catching ground balls and footwork and all that stuff, and then I took some swings and they decided they were going to sign me to fill out a roster in the New York Penn League. They send their prospects there and you have to fill in the holes, so to speak. You draft your players and you don’t get to sign them all, and the ones that don’t sign, well, you need a second baseman, or shortstop, or rightfielder or extra catcher or something like that, and that’s exactly what my role was gonna be, which I actually understood, and I didn’t care because it was just an opportunity and that was the beginning.   

IB: In September 1980, you got called up to the eventual World Champion Phillies, known as “The Cardiac Kids” due to all the close ballgames. On Sept. 24, you scored the winning run on a single by Pete Rose versus a local team: The Mets! Can you explain getting some playing time, especially in those spots pinch-hitting when the game was on the line, and contributing to a historic season while surrounded by superstars your rookie year?

Loviglio: The whole month of September was incredible. Their temperament, which really impressed the heck out of me, was there was never any panic. Talk about professionals! Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Pete Rose, Manny Trillo, Greg Luzinski, Garry Maddox, Bake McBride, Bob Boone, Steve Carlton. I always remember to this day that they were just professionals. They went out there, they knew how to do their thing, and their fundamentals were terrific. Some of the guys, Tug McGraw especially, had that comical personality. Pete in his own right was quite a comedian. The one thing I can remember more than anything is the way I was treated. Being a 26th, 27th, 28th round team, they treated us terrific, all their rookies that got called up, and we had time with them in spring training, so that helped, too. 

IB: It’s difficult being a pinch-hitter or a utility player when you’ve been sitting on the bench eight innings and the coach says, “Grab a glove and get in there.” Can you agree, and also stress the value of a bench player?

Loviglio: Absolutely. I had started and mostly led off my whole entire time in my minor league career. It was something I was comfortable with. I had played three years all for the same manager. He just built up my confidence. You know, you’re the leadoff guy, you’re the second baseman, so that confidence level was really high, and when I got traded to the White Sox it was, ok, now you’re on the bench, and I will be perfectly honest with you—I didn’t know how to handle it and I had no idea. I tried to watch other guys that were in that situation. I recall Greg Pryor. Unfortunately, I didn’t know a handful of guys on that White Sox team, which didn’t make it easier to get on the field like you were part of the team. But the mentality was if I get a chance to play, I gotta do something really good or else I’m not gonna play, and Tony La Russa is a baseball genius, and he was attuned to that, and the best thing he said was, “If you went 4 for 4 or 0 for 4, you’re not gonna start tomorrow (laughs) because you’re there to give, and so I could use you at third base tomorrow, the next day I’m gonna put you at second or whatever and your always gonna be ready to pinch-run or pinch-hit, and it was really difficult, and then when I got the opportunity to play, I got two really tough injuries. One I tore a hip flexor, [which] put me out for six weeks, and my strength was my speed. Then finishing off the last game of the year I dislocated my shoulder. Those two injuries were probably among a little bit of a lack of confidence at the time. It was the beginning of the end. So then I had to look elsewhere and I ended up getting a job in the Cubs organization as a player developer—which, believe me, was the next best thing to playing. 

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