Sports

RKA’s Ulysses Luciano ready to ‘juggle’ college career

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There are many different types of leaders.

There are the fiery kind who are as vocal and passionate as it takes to get their team motivated. There are the quiet ones who simply go about their business and lead by example.

And then there are the ones who simply persevere through all odds, who go out and get the job done no matter the circumstances.

Count Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy’s Ulysses Luciano as one of the latter.

It was midway through last baseball season when The Riverdale Press found Luciano, a team captain, organizing the Tigers practice at Van Cortlandt Park. But just as RKA was about to begin its drills, it was forced to leave the field because the team didn’t have a permit.

Some 20 minutes later, after finding another parcel of green on which to practice, the Tigers again unloaded their equipment to begin workouts, only to again be asked to leave by another pair of teams which had a permit for that field that day.

All Luciano did was smile. “We got kicked off twice. We usually only get kicked off once.”

He then found yet another area of the park in which to drop anchor and practice. It was that kind of season for RKA, one filled with adventurous searches for fields on which to play. It was all because the Tigers’ home field, Seton Park, was under renovation.

Those with weaker baseball souls would have quit on the season. Not Luciano, who not only kept his team together, but led them to a surprising 12-3 regular season and a victory in the first round of the Public School Athletic League postseason — a first for Luciano in his career.

All in all, it made for a very memorable season in Luciano’s final year at RKA.

“It was a really great experience, especially with the coaches we had,” Luciano said. “They always pushed us every day. They were tough, but they made it fun, too. And being on the road all the time just gave us more of a reason to go out there and do our best and work that much harder than the other team.”

Now Luciano will use those very same leadership skills when he heads to New England later this month to begin his college career at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, a small school of 1,600 undergraduates in Colchester, the state’s second most-populous town.

“I really liked the environment there and the team as well,” Luciano said. “And the campus is really nice, really pretty.”

But he’ll have to remember to pack his winning ways as Saint Michael’s is coming off a rather forgettable 2019 season in which it went just 9-28.

“The baseball program has been rebuilding lately, so they haven’t been playing their best right now,” Luciano said. “But I’m going to try and help turn things around.”

Luciano leaves RKA with a truckload of great memories, both on and off the field. But his top sports moment came in his next-to-last game when the Tigers finally posted their first postseason win in Luciano’s career.

“Winning that playoff game against Smith was the best,” Luciano said. “We were up 5-2 going into the last inning, and we almost blew it. They scored twice in the seventh inning and had the bases loaded, but we got out of it and held on for the win.

“Finally, after three straight years of losing in the first round, we got that playoff win.”

But with his RKA days now over, Luciano has his sights trained on his next chapter. And he also plans to bring along a certain hidden talent he developed over the years.

“I’m very good at juggling,” Luciano said, laughing. “It started last summer. If I wasn’t catching that game and I was sitting on the bench, we’d play little games, and I learned to juggle baseballs. I’m pretty good at it now. I can move around and do different tricks. The most balls I kept in the air was four, but I’m really good at three.”

So Luciano is more than ready to juggle college work and a new baseball career. But that doesn’t mean he won’t make special appearances at RKA baseball games next season, just to check in.

“I really liked the school and I have a lot of great memories from there,” Luciano said. “I’m really going to miss that place. But I’ll be back to see next year’s team, and I told them they better win when I come to see them.”

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