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From The Diamond to the Pitch


When talking to a rugby player about the sport that they just transitioned from, you expect to hear one of two answers: either football or soccer. But that is not the case for Ithaca College senior Jeff Gritsavage.

Gritsavage made a more unique transition from playing baseball to rugby. Not only is there a difference in what is worn and the way baseball players run. Baseball is a non-contact sport compared to rugby’s full contact with little or no protection.

Gritsavage breaks away from a defender. Photo courtesy of Annemarie Farrel

Though Gritsavage, who is a double major, came here to play baseball, that is not the only sport on his resume. And it’s certainly not the first contact sport. Gritsavage was the captain for not only his high school baseball team, but also the football team and indoor track teams.

Gritsavage, a multisport athlete, has been in the world of baseball since he was a child.

“I have had a wiffle ball bat in my hand since I was one,” he said.

Gritsavage said that there were several reasons why he decided to play rugby. The number of injuries baseball players are prone to was the main reason.

“I was little injury prone in baseball,” he said. “I had a good amount of friends in rugby… and the head coach was the professor in a lot of my classes.”

He also says that baseball began to feel like a job to him and became less enjoyable. He also said that whatever happens to him in rugby could be nowhere near the pain that he felt from his arm in baseball.

Gritsavage said the transition has been interesting, but he has loved the culture and team atmosphere. He said all of those skills put together have really helped him with transitioning over to rugby.

“Returning kicks, doing sprints, and catching balls from my past have all been helpful to me in my new sport of rugby.”

They have transferred so well that Gritsavage earned a starting spot in his first official game as a member of the rugby team.

Jeff passing
Gritsavage gets in a couple more passes before the end of practice.

Gritsavage explained how the position he has played in football correlates to his position on the rugby pitch.

“I love being a wing. I love being able to be the guy who gets to fly down the field on kicks and stuff like a gunner in football.”

He said that when he first came out for the sport, he did not expect to stay. Gritsavage said he has been honored to be a part of this team. He expects big things from the team this year.

“We are going to nationals easy and we will be in the national championship in the spring for sevens,” he said.

The sport has grown on the new player so much that he is even considering continuing to play it after he graduates in May 2018.

Though with all these future plans, Gritsavage does not forget where his athletic days all began, saying that he will still play baseball over summer in his free time.

Gritsavage supports a teammate after a breakaway. Photo Courtesy of Annemarie Farrel.
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