Q&A with Major League Baseball pitcher

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John Habyan graduated St. John the Baptist in 1982 and spent 11 seasons as a Major League Baseball pitcher. Habyan pitched for the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, California Angels, and Colorado Rockies. After his playing career, Habyan was a longtime coach and physical education teacher at St. John the Baptist and recently an assistant coach at Hofstra University. This spring, Habyan took his talents to South Carolina and currently serves as the pitching coach for the Columbia Fireflies, a Minor League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.

IB: In your senior year at St. John the Baptist, you won the 1982 Catholic League Championship. What are your favorite memories from that team?

John Habyan: One thing I like is I’m still friends with a lot of people that I went to high school with [and] still in close contact with our coach Buddy Corr. And it was our third championship in a row, which was nice.

IB: With the Baltimore Orioles, your scouting director was Tom Giordano, who coached and taught at Copiague High School, also a longtime Amityville resident. Talk about Tom Giordano.

JH: Tom was the farming director when I got drafted from Baltimore and Joe Deluca was the scout who was from North Babylon, so we had some Long Island connections there. And Tom was in charge of the Minor League system with the Orioles my whole time up through the minors and a really good baseball guy. He dedicated his whole life to the game. He was just a class act at the game of baseball.

IB: September 1985, in the first game of a double-header at Yankee Stadium, you pitched in relief in the 8th inning, making your big league debut. You can see the white facade, the retired numbers. Can you put into words how enthralling that was, that right then and there you’re in the big leagues? Your dream is now a reality!

JH: Well, actually, that started hitting when I was on the bus on the Major Deegan; driving and seeing Yankee Stadium is when it hits way before I put the uniform on. It’s something I’ll never forget, growing up a New Yorker and making your debut there, absolutely. And it went so fast, and at those moments you really can’t soak it in because you’re young and 21 years old and before you know it, it’s gone.

IB: In 1991 with the Yankees, you had a great season, striking out 70 batters in 90 innings with a 2.30 ERA. Some of your teammates included Don Mattingly and 22-year-old Bernie Williams. How did you enjoy your first full season of getting to wear the pinstripes?

JH: That’s a memory I’ll always remember. It was the first year I made a team out of spring training. Before that, I got called up out of Triple A. That was a special year and I got the locker next to Don Mattingly for the three-plus years I was there. Just watching his preparation on a daily basis was pretty neat. Me and Bernie both played together prior at Columbus in Triple A together and we both made that club in ‘91, so we had some Minor League experience together before we came up to the big leagues. But yeah, ‘91 was a lot of special memories, no doubt. And I know I left a lot of tickets that year [laughs]!

IB: What are some of your favorite memories coaching at St. John the Baptist?

JH: When I first got there, I got to coach a year with my old coach Buddy Corr and he kind of handed off the program to me, and getting a chance to coach with my high school friend Ralph Dalton, who’s presently still the athletic director there, and St. John’s is very much a family. All our coaches were former alumni, so just building that tradition of keeping everything there. We developed some really good players along the way, but we got a lot done there.

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