May 4, 2016

With Catcher Christie Exemplifying Resilience, PU Baseball Wins Gehrig Division, Will Host ILCS


CATCHING ON: Princeton University baseball player Andrew Christie takes a swing in action this spring. After getting just eight at-bats in his first three college seasons, senior catcher Christie emerged as a dependable performer for the Tigers this spring as they have won the Gehrig Division title, delivering some clutch hits and providing good work behind the plate. Last Saturday, Christie contributed an RBI double as Princeton defeated Cornell 7-2 in the nightcap to earn a split and the right to host the upcoming best-of-three Ivy League Championship Series. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In his book, Resilience, former Navy SEAL and Rhodes Scholar Eric Greitens provides some common sense advice for overcoming obstacles in life.

The work struck a chord with Princeton University baseball head coach Scott Bradley, who read it last summer on the heels of a tough 2015 campaign which saw his squad go 7-25 overall and 4-16 in Ivy League play as it landed in the cellar of the league’s Gehrig Division.

Bradley made Greitens’ book required reading for his players. “I thought it would be something great to share with the team,” said Bradley. “We made it our theme this year.”

The Tigers took that theme to heart this spring, producing an amazing reversal of fortune. Ending the regular season by winning three of four games against Cornell last weekend, Princeton improved to 22-18 overall and 13-7 Ivy, clinching the Gehrig title and home field advantage for the upcoming best-of-three Ivy League Championship Series.

“What I liked is that our pitching got back,” said Bradley, reflecting on the series with the Big Red, which saw Princeton win 4-3 in eight innings and 6-1 at Cornell on Friday to clinch the division and then split the next day at Clarke Field, falling 4-3 before prevailing 7-2.

“The way we pitched and the way we played defense this weekend was our mainstay for our team all year long. We lost that for a little bit and we got it back. We are continuing to progress offensively. We like where we are at; it has been a remarkable, remarkable turnaround in a year.”

In reflecting on the turnaround, Bradley credited his group of seniors, Billy Arendt, Andres Larramendi, Danny Hoy, Chris Bodurian, Danny Thomson, Luke Strieber, Cameron Mingo, and Andrew Christie, with setting the tone.

“It was unbelievable to go through what they have gone through and to come out this year re-energized, refocused and to lead this younger group,” asserted Bradley.

“It is one thing to lead when you have won before but to take these guys who haven’t won and to lead like they have. It has been amazing leadership from the seniors.”

Senior catcher Christie perhaps best exemplifies the resilience of the seniors, becoming a steady performer this spring after seeing just eight at-bats in his first three college seasons.

“I have used a bunch of quotes for my team this year one of them was right out of Herb Brooks (the coach of the 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team) and for Andrew Christie it is great,” said Bradley, noting that Christie, the son of Governor Chris Christie, got on the field this year due in part to injury.

“When Herb Brooks said great moments are born from great opportunities; he got a chance to play and he has made the most of it. He has had some big hits and he has done a great job handling the pitching staff.”

Last Saturday, Christie took advantage of an opportunity, slamming a fifth inning double to the left field fence in the bottom of the fifth inning of game 2 to put the Tigers ahead 1-0 and spark a three-run rally.

“I hit a slider on the inner half, he threw me two sliders that I bunted through earlier in the game to move Danny Baer over and I could not accomplish that,” said the 5’8, 210-pound Christie, who starred at the Delbarton School before coming to Princeton.

“He came with another one and I was ready to hit it. I changed the approach to just see the ball, hit the ball there with two strikes. It felt good when it came off the bat. It felt good that I kind of atoned for my first at-bat when I didn’t get the run in.”

With the program celebrating its annual Senior Day, Christie was thrilled to come through in his final regular season home game.

“It has been a pleasure sharing this field with the guys this year and to have it end on a win is fitting,” said Christie. “Hopefully we come back here next week and get two more.”

Piling up the wins this spring after last year’s nightmarish campaign has been sweet for Christie and his teammates.

“It means a lot,” said Christie. “Last year was tough on everyone. We have fought through a lot of adversity and finally have gotten step one of our journey done.”

While the seniors have taken the lead this season, Christie notes that the turnaround is a collective effort.

“Our class has been big but the whole team’s approach has changed,” asserted Christie. “We are a lot more focused in the weight room, a lot more focused in practice, and a lot more focused in games.”

In order to finally become a starter after three years as a little-used reserve, Christie has kept his focus over four years.

“It has been a product of a lot of hard work,” said Christie, who has batted .236 (17-for-72) with 1 homer and 12 RBIs in 30 games this spring.

“Since I started practicing with this team freshman year, I knew that if I worked at it and found my full potential, I could be a meaningful part of the team. Coach evaluates and sees the game. He knows baseball and if he thought I could contribute, he would put me out there. It has happened this year and it has been awesome.”

One of the best parts of getting on the field this year for Christie has been the chance to influence the Tiger pitching staff.

“I love getting back there and putting on the gear: I have been doing it since 7th grade now so it is kind of a habit,” said Christie.

“It has been fun being able to work with these pitchers. I think that is something we have really improved upon, the relationship between the catchers and the pitchers. Andres (Larramendi), Max (West) and Alex (Dickinson) and I have a good relationship with all of the pitchers. We are always talking to them and that has been huge. I have really appreciated that. Working with them, as you can tell from the statistics (a team ERA of 3.84), has been great.”

With Christie earning a regular spot in the Princeton lineup, his parents and younger siblings have become fixtures at Clarke Field this spring.

“This year, it kind of all came together where they were able to be out here a lot,” said Christie.

“It has been awesome, they have been real supportive. I can’t thank them enough obviously.”

Christie and his teammates are looking to give the home fans a lot to cheer about when they host the ILCS, which could take place either May 7-8 or May 14-15 depending on when the Rolfe Division winner is decided as Yale and Dartmouth are still alive in the race for that title.

“It is huge; we have gone 9-3 on this field this year so I like our chances,” said Christie.

Bradley, for his part, likes his team’s prospects. “We love Clarke Field and we have played very well here,” said Bradley.

“We have spent a lot of time working on this field and making it look the way it is and to be able to play a championship series here, we are ecstatic.”