Senior Spotlight: Calvarese never quit on dream of playing for Spring-Ford

It took Travis Calvarese longer than most to put on a high school baseball uniform.

The Spring-Ford senior was cut from the Rams’ baseball program in seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th grades, even watching his brother Justin make the team for the first time last year without him.

Travis earned a spot on the team this spring and finally had the opportunity to take the field representing the Rams last month, getting an at-bat and a few innings in the field during a scrimmage down in Florida.

Due to the cancellation of the spring sports seasons caused by coronavirus pandemic, that ended up being Travis’ only time suiting up for Spring-Ford.

Though his Rams career was shortened to a handful of practices and one scrimmage, he said it doesn’t take away from the rewarding journey it took to get there.

“It’s not even that moment,” Travis said of running onto the field. “It’s every other moment that led up to it. Every time I was with the team, it’s always a memory.”

Spring-Ford is a tough team to make as each class typically has a large group of kids with college-level talent. The 2020 class has nine individuals set to play college baseball next season, including Justin, who is headed to Misericordia.

Before last spring, both Calvarese brothers had been cut multiple times from the Rams’ baseball program. They continued to play at a high level with the Spring City Prep Legion program as freshmen and then for the Complete Game Sox as sophomores and juniors.

Travis and Justin both said watching older brother Grant, a second team Mercury All-Area selection his senior year, pitch for the Rams before walking-on at Saint Joseph’s kept them inspired to chase their goals.

“It’s not who we are to quit,” Justin Calvarese said. “Our parents raised us not to quit, to just keep going, keep playing.”

During their springs when they were not on the Spring-Ford baseball team, Justin and Travis used the time to work out with each other before summer ball started. They hit each other pop-flys and grounders, threw each other batting practice and hit the gym together.

That changed when Justin, a pitcher, made the team last season and Travis didn’t. Travis said the first thing he did when he found out he was got cut as a junior was head to the gym and prepare for one last go.

“I feel like being cut my junior year and Justin making it was like, ‘I don’t know if this is good,’” Travis said. “Because every other year we played together. It was something different. I didn’t know how to take it at first, and I just started working. Those three months where he would be practicing, this was my first time not working with him.”

Spring-Ford baseball player Justin Calvarese has committed to continue his academic and athletic careers at Misericordia University, where he will major in sports management. Seated from left are Dino Calvarese (father), Justin Calvarese, Debbie Calvarese (mother). Standing from left are Travis Calvarese (brother), head coach Rick Harrison, Chase Calvarese (brother).

With no partner to hit him grounders or throw BP, Travis spent a lot of time at the gym. He said he’s gotten a lot stronger in the past year.

“He just felt like he had a chip on his shoulder and he had something to prove,” Justin said. “He wanted to prove something that coach made a mistake cutting him last year and he could have made the team last year.”

The brothers played for the Complete Game Sox once again this summer and then with Spring-Ford’s fall team, where first-year Spring-Ford coach Rick Harrison got a look at Travis and most of the others in the program for the first time. Harrison said Travis played second base in the fall, but he moved him to the outfield because of his athletic ability.

“Whether it’s classwork or chorus or anything, I don’t think anyone likes being told they’re not good enough at anything,” Harrison said. “It’s hard to keep continually bouncing back. That just speaks a lot about his character.”

“He’s a great kid. He’s got a ton of determination,” Harrison added. “Like a lot of athletes, aside from enjoying the sport which he clearly does, guys just like being part of a team. He continued to play in the summer for various teams and he kept working at it.”

Travis felt like he’d taken a leap heading into his senior season, but it is still pretty uncommon for a senior to play with the high school program for the first time. The news became official when Harrison told him, Justin and the other seniors they’d made the team after try-outs.

“I was still nervous,” Travis said. “I never really knew until he told me. I still wanted to keep 110 percent with everything I did. I never wanted to quit until he told me I made it.”

”I recognized him in front of the whole team,” Harrison said. “And if we do any clinics or anything, they’re the type of kids I like to talk about to the younger kids that if you don’t get that opportunity you keep plugging away.”

Justin and Travis are both headed to Misericordia next fall. Justin plans to play baseball and study sports management, while Travis will study nursing.

The Calvarese brothers thought they’d finally have one full spring on the field together at Spring-Ford before playing with the Spring City Legion team this summer.

Their time on the field together wearing a Spring-Ford baseball uniform was limited to just a handful of scrimmages and one scrimmage after the PIAA cancelled the spring sports seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For Travis, it was still worth the wait.

“It will stick with me,” Travis said. “It will always be with me. I think it was memorable, something that won’t go away…It was a dream come true seeing a goal you always wanted to get at and seeing it finally there in front of you and you have it is just awesome.”

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