North Fork Ospreys catcher shines at All-Star game

Christian Fagnant certainly had a grand time Saturday afternoon.

The North Fork Ospreys catcher made sure of that with one swing of the bat, smacking a grand slam in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor.

The game ended in a 9-9 tie after 10 innings, but that hardly dimmed Fagnant’s enthusiasm. Just being there was a big deal.

“I was really excited to see my name on the list, to see that I got to represent my team, myself, my school at Amherst [College],” he said. “I’ve been working really hard. I felt good at the plate, making some adjustments, feeling more confident. It’s been awesome.”

So was the big blast.

With one out in the top of the third inning and his Blue team trailing the home Red side, 7-1, Fagnant came up with the bases loaded. The left-handed hitter worked the count to 3-2 on Shelter Island right-hander Jaylen Cruz before lofting a high drive over the right-field fence.

“I saw that we were down. If I hit a home run, we’re right back in it,” Fagnant said. “He had a pretty good change-up and threw it once. I fouled it off. I’d seen both his pitches. I knew he was probably coming back with a fastball.”

Which Fagnant smashed.

“I knew this park is where the ball flies to right field,” he said. “I had a pretty good feeling it was going out.”

Fagnant, who has two more years of eligibility left at Amherst, has enjoyed his summer on the North Fork. He is staying with his grandmother in Cutchogue, which is close to the Ospreys’ home field at Cochran Park in Peconic.

“It’s very nice to be near the field, not having to do crazy travel,” he said.

For years, the East Granby, Conn., native and his family have hopped on the ferry and visited his grandmother. Fagnant’s mother and sister watched him on Saturday, while his father and brother attended a baseball event in Arizona.

That homer was just one of many highlights in a memorable summer season as the 5-foot-10, 195-pound Fagnant is hitting .276 with four homers and 20 RBIs.

“It’s been a blast,” he said. “I’ve always heard good things about this league. I’ve bounced around a couple other [summer] leagues in previous years and had good experiences, but this has been awesome. It’s been some of the purest baseball that I’ve played in a while. Our park has beautiful sunsets every night.

“I’ve gone all over Long Island. It’s been really cool to just get to play for fun. No pressure. Coach Brett [Picaro] has been awesome. He lets us play, lets us be ourselves. All in all, a great experience. Sandy [Kruel, the HCBL president] has done a great job with this league.”

Coming out of high school in 2019, Fagnant was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 39th round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. He opted to attend college, instead.

Like every player in the league, Fagnant would love to someday play in the majors.

“That’s absolutely been my goal since I was little,” he said. “I was a late bloomer. I decided to go to college, hoping to get an opportunity to play pro ball in the near future.”

Fagnant has more urgent things on his mind these days, such as helping the last-place Ospreys (9-15-1) in the playoffs in the six-team league later this month.

“Hopefully, you get back to me at the end of the year after our playoffs push,” he told a reporter. “That’s been the goal. Hopefully, we’re ready to get hot at the right time.”

Fagnant was one of four Ospreys who participated in the All-Star Game. Right fielder Brady Karp went 1-for-4, was hit by a pitch and scored on Fagnant’s homer. First baseman Jackson Curtis was 0-for-4. Right-hander Joe Dooley struck out a batter in a scoreless fifth. Shortstop Ty Acker and left-hander Zach Fortuna were named to the squad but did not play.

The game started out as a pitcher’s duel with only one base runner in the opening inning, and that was on an error. But the Red team erupted for seven runs in the second, setting the game’s tone. Ty Gilligan of the Southampton Breakers, who belted a game-tying, two-run homer for the Blue team in the ninth, was named MVP.

“We were saying a lot of times All-Star games at any level are usually dominated by pitchers,” Fagnant said. “We saw a lot of great arms today but a lot of great hitters, too. To see other guys I know from other teams and meet guys that I played against, it’s been really cool. A lot of good players. The quality of the game spoke to that.”