For the Greenwich baseball team’s seniors, their Cardinals careers ended without an opening day, a final at-bat, or a senior day ceremony.
Like all sports teams, Greenwich’s entire season was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Still, the seniors on the squad, several of whom will continue their baseball careers at the collegiate level, fondly reflected on their days on the diamond at GHS.
Christopher Genaro, one of the Cardinals’ senior captains, would have competed in his third varsity season this spring. A shortstop, Genaro also brought his leadership skills to the hardwood, as one of the school’s basketball team captains.
He leaves the GHS baseball program with plenty of memories.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better high school to attend, area to live and team to be a part of,” Genaro said. “The coaches and teammates really make it seem like a family when you are playing sports here at Greenwich.”
The next stop for Genaro is Fordham University, where he will join the Rams’ baseball squad.
“Playing Division I baseball has been a dream of mine,” said Genaro, who committed to Fordham in September of 2019. “It was the best fit for me academically and athletically. Fordham’s baseball team has been awfully successful, so I have to make sure my body is ready to go in the fall.”
Genaro knows he must play with the same focus he exhibited at Greenwich to earn a spot as a starter at Fordham.
“I’ll be playing with guys three, or four years older than me, so it should be an exciting challenge,” he said. “Since I was eight years old I’ve wanted to play college baseball.”
He was part of a Cardinals team than advanced to the Round of 16 of the CIAC Class LL Tournament in 2018.
“One of my favorite memories was when we defeated New Milford High School in the state tournament to advance to the Sweet 16 round,” said Genaro, who was named to the Rawlings Perfect Game Preseason All American Honorable Mention and All Northeast Honorable Mention 2020 teams. “My sophomore year was one to remember, in terms of making my first varsity start at shortstop.”
Hunter Gruenstrass, also one of the Cardinals’ senior captains, will try out for Western New England University’s baseball team in the fall.
Gruenstrass, who bolstered the Cardinals’ lineup as a catcher last season, was an All-FCIAC Honorable Mention selection in 2018 and All-FCIAC West Division honoree in 2019.
“Junior year, I was feeling stronger and stronger, so it’s tough not to have our senior year,” said Gruenstrass, who also plays first and third base. “I miss the bond our team shared with each other.”
Like Genaro, Gruenstrass played for the Greenwich Senior American Legion Cannons the past several summers.
“The Cannons have also always been in my heart,” said Gruenstrass, who was also a standout skier for the Cardinals throughout his high school career. “They knew I should step up my junior year in high school and I wound up getting a starting spot behind the plate. They saw my potential of being a leader.”
As for his favorite memories of Greenwich baseball, Gruenstrass will also recall opening day.
“Every year, that first game on our home field is what I looked forward to most,” he said. “Nothing beats that excitement.”
Jake Mondschein, was also going to serve as one of the Cards’ senior captains this spring. A pitcher, Mondschein will attend the University of Virginia in the fall. He hopes to make the baseball team as a walk-on.
As member of the Greenwich Cannons, Mondschein helped spark the squad to the 15-under title at the Connecticut State Championship tournament in 2017 and was named MVP.
In the classroom, Mondschein is a member of the Science National Honor Society, Math National Honor Society, National Honor Society and earned AP Scholar with Honor accolades. He was also the recipient of the Math and Social Studies Distinguished Scholar Award.
“The bus rides, team bonding rituals and locker room dance parties were all great memories that I will have of GHS baseball,” Mondschein said.
Ben Nash, an outfielder and catcher, is headed to Kenyon College, where he will take his baseball skills.
“I feel incredibly blessed to continue to play the game I love at the college level,” Nash said. “I have worked really hard to get this opportunity.”
Also known for the many impressive performances he produced as a goalie on Greenwich’s ice hockey team the past several seasons, Nash also spent his summers with the Greenwich Cannons.
He is eagerly anticipating joining the baseball program at Kenyon College.
“The players are super nice, the coaches are great and they have a brand new turf field,” Nash said. “In my freshman recruiting class alone, we have guys from Connecticut, New York, California, Tennessee and Chicago.”
As for his baseball days with the Cardinals: “Greenwich baseball was a huge part of my high school career,” he said. “It was a great experience for me. It helped me make new friends and be a part of a team with guys who are motivated.”
A middle infielder, Andrew Lustosa, will play baseball next season at Manhattanville College.
“It’s exciting and something I’ve always wanted to do, since I was a kid.” Lustosa said of his opportunity to compete at the collegiate level. “I’ll have butterflies, but I know I could do it.”
Lustosa believes the Cardinals had the talent to be a strong team had the spring season been held.
“I thought we had a lot of potential, from our rotation, to our infield, to our outfield,” Lustosa said. “I think our infield would have been really strong, probably the strongest the team’s had in a while.”
Coaches at each level Lustosa played for have provided him with the inspiration and drive to reach his potential.
“I learned a lot from all my coaches,” he said. “They pushed me to work hard, maintain a sense of calm and they taught me how to not let emotions get the best of me.”
Daniel Perez, a senior, will begin a postgraduate year at Cheshire Academy in the fall, where he will play baseball. He was a three-year varsity baseball player and two-year varsity athlete on the football team at Greenwich.
An All-FCIAC Honorable Mention selection in 2019, he was a Rawlings Perfect Game Preseason Underclass All-America Honorable Mention selection (2018, 2019, 2020).
He hopes to play baseball at the collegiate level in the fall of 2021.
“A favorite memory that I have of GHS baseball is playing with some of my closest teammates since we were nine years old,” Perez said. “We all grew up playing baseball, basketball and football together in the Greenwich Cal Ripken Baseball League, Greenwich All-Stars, OGRCC Thunder Travel baseball, the GYFL finally, culminating the last four years at Greenwich High School.”
Nick Alonzi, a senior, will continue his academic career at Clemson University. He made the Greenwich High Honor Roll all four years.
Alonzi also played for the Greenwich Cannons American Legion program each summer.
He part of the Cards’ varsity program for two seasons.
“Participating in our annual Youth Day was one of my favorite memories of GHS baseball,” Alonzi said. “Another one of my favorite memories is having the opportunity to play with the same group of kid for the last 10 years.”
Making the National Honor Society at Greenwich, senior Owen Bass, will attend the University of Connecticut in the fall.
Bass will pursue an engineering degree. He was part of Greenwich’s Honors Engineering program.
Senior Matthew Jester will continue his academic career at the University of Pennsylvania.
Besides baseball, Jester was a member of the Cardinals’ ski team, which was one of the most successful squads in the state. He earned the ski team’s Scholar Athlete Award and served as one of the captains of the squad.
“I was looking forward to competing with all of my teammates,” Genaro said. “What’s happened is very unfortunate, but baseball has taught me many lessons and I couldn’t be more thankful.”