April 16, 2012

CUA welcomes alumni and special guest to celebrate milestone

WASHINGTON – On Saturday, April 14, CUA celebrated the 500th career victory of Head Coach Ross Natoli.  A number of alumni returned to campus that day and made their way to Talbot Field to join in the celebration.  Natoli earned his historic win on April 7 when the Cardinals defeated Stevenson 8-6.

Included in the group that returned to campus were members of the 1977 ECAC Tournament championship team, which was the first in school history to earn an NCAA Tournament bid, as well as members of the 2008, 2009 and 2011 Landmark Conference championship teams.

In addition, CUA Hall of Famer Mike Tryon '82, who hit .425 and set the school record for hits as a senior, also returned, as did fellow Hall of Famer Matt Kurkjian '78, who was a member of that 1977 ECAC championship squad.

Kurkjian's brother Tim, who is a baseball analyst and writer for ESPN, was also able to attend the festivities.  "I live in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and there was a small break in my schedule which gave me the opportunity to come down and visit family," Kurkjian explained.

"I don't get a chance to return to the area very often, but when my brother told me about Ross recently earning his 500th career win, I was more than happy to come over and show my support for CUA Baseball."

Kurkjian said he followed Matt as closely as he could when the elder brother suited up for the Cardinals.  "Obviously there was no such thing as the Internet or cell phones back then, so it did take some time to find out how the team did, but my dad went to every game and he would keep me updated."

He continued, "I tried to get to as many games as I could to see Matt play, traveling to away games and even to Florida for a few spring break trips.  It was a lot of fun."

Kurkjian, who is a University of Maryland alum, said his wardrobe has plenty of Terrapins gear, but also contains a good amount of Catholic University garb.  "After Maryland, Catholic University is my favorite school" he proudly admitted while sporting a CUA Baseball hooded sweatshirt.

Natoli has been coaching at CUA since 1985, and since that time has led the red and black to 504 wins, three conference championships and an appearance in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.  Natolis is just one of 33 Division III head baseball coaches in the country with at least 500 career wins.

Kurkjian was asked for his professional opinion of Natoli's milestone.  "Anytime a coach wins 500 games in any sport, it's a significant accomplishment.  Ross clearly puts the time into his job and today is a tribute to all of his hard work."

He concluded, "I've gotten to know Ross well over the years and you won't find a nicer, more dedicated and passionate coach or person than him.  When I was asked to be a part of this (celebration), it was a no-brainer to support Ross.  He's a good friend and one of the best batting practice throwers you will ever see."

CUA made the day a success all around as the Cardinals swept an important Landmark Conference doubleheader from Merchant Marine Academy.  CUA President John Garvey and Director of Athletics Mike Allen presented Natoli with a commemorative plaque and the game ball from his 500th win.

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