Spend time in the company of Andrew Veiga and you’ll discover why this young man possesses such a keen sense of direction. The course he mapped out is so precise, with every last detail accounted for, that it’s easy to confuse him for a cartographer rather than a high school student-athlete whose forte is baseball.
Veiga has cast an eye toward the future, yet he’s just as mindful of the present. Both ends are properly secured, thanks to adhering to a step-by-step process that he felt would provide him with the best opportunity to succeed and thrive. Keeping his finger on the pulse regarding everything that materialized over a short period, Veiga unabashedly admits that these days, he’s perfectly content.
Elaborate preamble aside, it’s rare to see someone in this fast-paced world actually take the time to carefully consider all avenues before putting words or thoughts into action. Veiga did, and because he didn’t rush to judgment, the senior has a roster spot waiting for him at the University of Albany, a Division I school that resides in the America East Conference. Sliding on a Great Danes jersey will come on the heels of what will be an abbreviated stint with the Lincoln High ‘9’ this spring.
“It’s awesome,” smiled Veiga while sitting at a table inside Cumberland’s Upper Deck Baseball Academy late last week. “I basically have to pass my classes, have fun this senior year, and I’m all set.”
Considering we’re talking about someone with a stellar 3.7 GPA and has taken AP and honors classes, Veiga probably won’t lose any sleep over graduating on time. Recruited as a pitcher, the well-built 6-foot-3 lefthander also considered URI and Siena. He took an official visit to Albany in early December and committed to the program a week later.
Much of Veiga’s interaction with Albany was handled through Drew Pearce, who doubles as the program’s pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. Last year, Pearce came to Rhode Island specifically to see Veiga throw on a mound indoors. Apparently, those sessions — Veiga was never informed by Pearce what his fastball was clocked at, though he mentioned he registered 85 miles per hour on the radar gun last autumn — coupled with a glowing endorsement carried a lot of weight.
Spreading the gospel on Veiga’s behalf was Idris Liasu, the former Upper Deck Post 86 mentor and a one-time college assistant at Siena and URI. “He basically got me in with Albany,” notes the 12th grader. “Everything just felt right. (Pearce) is very inviting and seems like he knows a lot about the game, and I know I can definitely improve with him and the team.”
Not long after hitching his wagon to the Great Danes, Veiga was faced with another important decision. Enrolled at St. Raphael Academy, he started to lend credence to the idea about finishing high school at Lincoln. As fate would have it, Veiga went to Lincoln as a freshman before transferring to SRA during his sophomore year.
Returning to his roots would not come hassle free. Since he wasn’t changing his living address, Veiga would be forced to sit out one half of the Lions’ league games in compliance with the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s transfer policy. With baseball utilizing an 18-game league slate, Veiga would have to wait until Lincoln’s 10th game before officially toeing the rubber.
Prior to taking the plunge, Veiga sought counsel from Pearce. The recruit explained to the college coach his rationale for switching schools in the middle of his senior year. Once Pearce gave him his blessing, Veiga embarked on the next step.
“Basically just to save money. I’d rather put that money toward college tuition,” responded Veiga when asked about departing St. Raphael. “I talked to the Albany coach before anything even happened. He said it was fine with him. I definitely called him first just to see what he thought about it before telling anyone else.”
The first day of the second semester at Lincoln High served as Veiga’s official return to familiar hallways. “It was kind of weird, like, ‘Whoa, he’s back.’ After that, it was like nothing changed. Everyone’s very happy to have me back.”
Barring any rainouts, Lincoln’s 10th league game is May 3 against defending state champion Bishop Hendricken. Naturally, the date is already circled on Veiga’s calendar. In the interim, he will keep busy by throwing simulated games and serving as a pseudo pitching coach to teammates such as fellow lefty Matt Kinch.
Once his penance is complete, he hopes to serve as the equivalent to a midseason acquisition that’s brought aboard with bigger and grandiose plans in mind.
“(Lincoln second-year head coach Andy Hallam) is definitely going to make sure I get my work in. He’s not going to forget about me,” Veiga notes. “If we’re doing well in the first half of the season, hopefully I can make us even better and get us to McCoy (Stadium, site of the finals). That’s our goal.”
When he’s not on the mound, Veiga will patrol first base. At St. Raphael, he was a two-time Second Team All-Division selection, laurels based predominately on his hitting skills (he would routinely hit third in SRA’s lineup). As the Saints’ ace pitcher, the southpaw earned his stripes last May 17 when he tossed a complete game eight-hitter with nine strikeouts against Cumberland.
Now that time is somewhat standing still, Veiga can look at what the past few months have yielded and take comfort in knowing he was able to complete everything on his terms.
“It hasn’t completely sunk in that my season starts a little later. Other than that, I’m happy,” he said.
Taking the time to remember
Naturally, there was hesitation on Peter Berthelette’s part. A succession plan to follow Skee Carter as Burrillville High’s head baseball coach was never even a consideration, mainly because Berthelette imagined that when the day arrived that Carter felt comfortable in calling it a career, the long-time assistant would also orchestrate a similar exit.
“I never had aspirations to become a head coach,” said Berthelette. “I just enjoyed coaching with Skee, and as long as Skee continued on, I would continue as well.”
Carter’s sudden passing due to a heart attack he suffered on Jan. 2 changed the dynamic. After careful deliberation, Berthelette informed Burrillville athletic director John Abbate that he planned to apply for the top varsity position after spending the previous 18 seasons as Carter’s top dugout lieutenant. Berthelette’s appointment was confirmed at a mid-February school committee meeting.
“I want to make sure that I can give these kids a pretty good experience, and hopefully I can do that,” said Berthelette, regarding this passing of the torch as being another in a long list of fitting tributes to the late beloved Broncos coach. “I’m certainly hoping I can do justice to the kind of program that Skee always ran.”
To that end, Burrillville’s baseball program will pay homage to Carter’s legacy prior to next Tuesday’s Division II opener at Eccleston Field. In fitting fashion, Mount St. Charles will serve as that day’s opponent (Mounties coach Tom Seaver expressed his fondness for Carter in a touching and poignant letter that ran in this newspaper on Jan. 6).
Berthelette says that the pregame on-field ceremony will take place along one of the baselines and conclude with Carter’s son, Chris, and grandson, Aidan, throwing out the first pitch. The honoring will continue when the Broncos take their cuts in the bottom of the first inning.
“I’ve told (Abbate) that there’s no way I can step into Skee’s coaching box in the first inning of that game,” said Berthelette. “In sort of a quiet tribute to him, we’re going to leave the third base coaches’ box open. I don’t know how legal that is, but I’m not stepping in that box right away.”
In addition, Burrillville’s hats will feature Carter’s jersey number (55) on the side. Commemorative patches are in the process of being sewn on all the varsity uniforms, both home and away.