Like many recent graduates, John MacGregor and Sal Costanzo—both members of the Class of 2012 and both members of Vassar’s baseball team—have their sights set on starting their first post-Vassar jobs. But don’t expect to find either man sitting behind a desk. MacGregor and Costanzo are headed to Europe, where they’ll continue playing baseball in professional leagues.
MacGregor, a right-handed pitcher with a fastball in the mid-80 mph-range, will serve as a player-coach with the Erbach Grasshoppers of Germany's Bundesliga I. Costanzo, a powerful catcher and outfielder, joins the Valencia Astros of the Spanish Elite League. “This is an opportunity to continue playing baseball at a competitive level and get a once in a lifetime cultural experience,” says Vassar head baseball coach Jon Martin.
Costanzo and MacGregor met on the first day of college as freshman roommates in Lathrop House; yet it wasn't until 2011 that the dream of a professional baseball career in Europe independently took shape in each. “What's funny is it hadn't entered our minds as a possibility until this past summer and we hadn't even talked about it with each other,” says MacGregor.
While an intern with the Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball, MacGregor got the itch to continue his baseball career after talking to other interns in baseball operations. “I met someone who had this great experience playing pro in Europe. I didn't even know that existed so I kept bugging him,” says MacGregor.
At the Vassar Baseball Alumni Game in the fall of 2011, Coach Martin introduced MacGregor to Tim Reinhardt '04, who played for Germany’s Grasshoppers. Reinhardt, Vassar's all-time leader in on-base percentage, runs, and stolen bases, opened the door for MacGregor, who locked up a spot on the Grasshoppers with help from Martin.
Following in the footsteps of Pete Rose and Ty Cobb as a player-coach, MacGregor will serve as a coach for the Grasshoppers' junior team and softball team in addition to his pitching duties, which are limited to three innings per game by a rule for American players. He will live in Erbach, a town of 13,000 in the Odenwald mountain range in the German state of Hesse and will likely be the only American on the team. “I've been playing baseball since I was seven and it's amazing that I get to foolishly continue pursuing my dream,” says MacGregor.
Costanzo's shot at the “bigs” arose from a connection Coach Martin made in the international baseball community. While coaching the USA Athletes International team, Martin befriended the Valencia Astros’ coach, Juan Garcia Puig. “We stayed in touch,” says Marin, and when “he was looking for a catcher—I offered Sal.”
Costanzo, whose name dots the Vassar record books in numerous offensive categories, should make an impact at the plate and behind it. “The Spanish league is highly competitive and there will be a few Americans on his team,” says Martin. “He will share catching duties with a guy who spent four years in the minor leagues.” To make it official, Costanzo—a Miami native who speaks some Spanish already—visited the historic city of Valencia earlier this year to sign his contract.
The last decade has seen numerous Brewers make the leap from Vassar to European pro leagues, including Adam Gallari '07, Kristaps Aldins '05, Christopher Maceira '05, Hunter Berryhill '01, Danny Field '00, Stew Walker '00, and Jason Jhung '98, in addition to Reinhardt. Berryhill and Jhung even played together on the same team, Switzerland’s Embrach Rainbows (now the Embrach Mustangs).
“The players we've sent to Europe in the past have done a great job representing Vassar as professionals and leaders,” says Coach Martin. “It's great for the program and we'll keep sending guys to Europe.”
Some have retained ties to the game even after retiring from their careers as active players. Field and Jhung currently work at MLB Productions with David Check '86, a standout and captain in tennis during his time at Vassar. Aldins worked to develop baseball in Latvia with the Major League Baseball Envoy program, continues to coach the Latvian National team, and is currently the head baseball coach at Stevens Institute of Technology. Reinhardt recently finished his third season at the helm of the Hudson High School Hawks, a perennial powerhouse in Massachusetts.
MacGregor has considered coaching baseball down the road as well. “There's definitely an appeal to staying in the uniform and being on the field,” he says. “It's safe to say baseball will be a part of my future.”
–Shane Donahue ’10