Developing Personal Relationships Drives Former Baseball Factory Player Michael Rigatti In Life
The love for the sport of baseball has always been strong for Baseball Factory alum, Michael Rigatti. Whether it was pretending in his backyard, participating in Little League to playing American Legion ball, the sport consumed him. By the time he arrived at West Morris Mendham High School in Mendham, NJ, his seriousness for baseball climbed new levels. Wishing to play against a higher level of competition, Rigatti sought out other avenues to fuel his fire.
“I wasn’t getting the instruction that I wanted, so we found out about Baseball Factory after attending a Hightstown, NJ camp in 1998 and received the instruction there,” Michael said. “My Dad played baseball growing up, and he taught me as much as he could, but it became apparent that I needed more instruction that he wasn’t able to provide and Baseball Factory took over from there with their philosophy in the later part of 1999, into 2000.”
Michael would learn early on how to handle traveling by himself – something that would come into play later in life – going from New Jersey to Maryland for camps during weekends as he continued his relationship with the Baseball Factory.
“Steve (Sclafani), Rob (Naddelman), Steve (Bernhardt) and other Factory coaches would come to New Jersey to give me some personal instruction,” Michael said. “I’d take the train down from New Jersey to Maryland, get picked up from BWI (Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport) and do an in-depth hitting clinic and tried to catch on with as many teams as I could for tournaments so that I could see higher level competition than what I was getting in-state.”
“Some of these guys stayed with us for a week, some for a month, working with Michael,” Michael’s father, Ron explains. “He worked his butt off with them and no one could say Michael is lazy because he has a drive that is rare in young kids. Michael did a lot but learned a lot also because of his life experiences. Baseball Factory taught him respect and they showed him respect which is really a nice thing.”
Michael continued to work hard, motivated by the peers around him, but it was the way he began to carry himself off the field after being around Baseball Factory staff that began to stick with him.
“I’ve always had a strong work ethic,” Michael said, adding, “I was so young and had a lot of work to do on the field to get where I wanted to go baseball wise, but it was the personal feel of the Factory and the personalized instruction, that, to me, was very important.”
The Factory’s commitment to building the complete player was evident back then, according to Ron, and was the key in molding his son.
“Back when Michael first started, the Baseball Factory was just figuring out their plan of encompassing the athletic part with the education, the nourishment, the physical attributes to playing baseball. Michael put in a lot of work towards it, but Baseball Factory I think is the one that steered him in the correct direction so he wouldn’t ruin himself.”
Ron went onto add, “It’s an awesome program and I think it’s not only for the superb athlete, its generally for a youngster that needs to show a little more maturity and take on some responsibility without Mommy holding his hand. Hanging around gentleman like Steve and Rob was the way to go.”
As the saying goes, “to outwork your competitors, you’ve got to work harder than everyone else.” That motto quickly became ingrained into Michael’s thought process every day.
“I quickly realized that if someone else is going to put in all this work on me, I should also put in that exact same work, if not more. For me, I always wanted to put more in. It was very meaningful for the Baseball Factory coaching staff to come up here and help me out. Their work ethic stimulated my work ethic and I’d hear stories of other players and what they were doing and that gave me extra motivation to work hard… because I didn’t want to be an embarrassment to anyone that was working hard for me.”
Michael estimates that between his junior and senior seasons, he took off four days total without touching a bat, ball or glove.
“Every other day I was playing baseball, whether it was going down in the basement and throwing a tennis ball against the fridge to work on my fielding and working on my transition of double plays, to video taping myself swinging a bat, I was always trying to stay sharp. I literally left my prom date to go swing a bat one time.”
After high school, Michael was able to continue his playing career at Frederick Community College, and it was the instruction of the Factory that he credits with helping him get to the next level.
“I really needed a lot of coaching and wasn’t going to get there myself or with the instructors or coaches in New Jersey. If I wasn’t willing to put that much effort into it, then I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to interview at colleges like Frederick for baseball. It was big.”
While playing at Frederick, Michael dealt with some adversity after the head coach that recruited him left. Ron remembers the successor not understanding the amount of work and sacrifice that Michael had put in with the Baseball Factory. Even still, Ron says that Michael never had to worry about how to handle himself in adverse situations.
“For 14 years living with me, I was kind of a strict parent, and he learned what he was to be responsible for and what’s out of line and off limits,” Ron said. “He always, and I mean always handled himself properly.”
One example in particular was a time Michael traveled to a tournament cross country and en route, missed his connection flight due to bad weather.
“The plane out of Newark International Airport was delayed for about an hour and a half, so he missed his connection in Atlanta and this was the first time he had flown without myself and Patty (Michael’s mom) being there. So on his own responsibility, got to the reservation desk and booked a different flight into California without us being there. He took that upon himself to know that’s what he had to do. We knew right there that we felt really comfortable about Michael taking these trips because we knew that he could handle himself.”
Michael’s journey into real life experiences began to take shape after college, as his career took him in various directions of the country as a medic in the Navy. He started in California as a lab technician and combat corpsman, then spent his last three years in Bethesda, Maryland on the Medical Evaluation and Treatment Unit, taking care of VIP patients.
Michael’s goals consisted of using what was learned during his time with Baseball Factory to give back to others, no matter the race, religion or background.
“Starting in college, it snowballed from there into the Navy that I got to meet even more people and feel more comfortable in a foreign situation,” Michael said. “I’d fly out to California and not know one other person on my team and have to form close relationships with those people. I think the exposure as a young kid, going from New Jersey to Maryland, really helped give me confidence to handle myself in those situations.”
In all of Michael’s roles throughout his time in the Navy, Ron says there was always one constant in whatever he did.
“As he went through the military, he was considered a leader because he could deal with all different kinds of people. He was the President of his Class. Another thing, he was the “squad leader”, another thing was “team leader.” Everything if you notice, says “leader”, and I credit everything he went through to the Baseball Factory; even though he didn’t have the ability that other kids did, they saw the kind of person Michael is, and other kids seemed to look to him for guidance even though he was usually the youngest on his team.”
Though Michael has been on his own for quite a while, it does not diminish the pride Ron feels for his son.
“I am very proud of Michael and have been for a long time. He has two older brothers who didn’t live with us, so Michael was basically the only child. As an only child, you tend to gravitate towards your Mom, but Michael had a lot of self confidence that he could deal with situations on his own. To me, you can’t put a price tag on what that did for him.”
The high-level instruction with the Factory not only helped him on the diamond, but also sparked the personal connections he fosters every single day.
“I think one of the things that I was able to learn outside of baseball was how to really interact with a lot of different people from a lot of different parts of the country,” Michael said. “It gives you confidence because you’re meeting new people and you’re putting yourself out there.”
Rigatti, 32, keeps busy these days, recently graduating from Drexel University with a degree in Physician Assistant Studies and a masters in Health Sciences. He’s now preparing for a board exam later this month and will be working in Delaware at Christiana Health Systems in Hospital Medicine as a Physician Assistant.
The experiences built up from the start with Baseball Factory have given Michael forward-thinking growth in his life now, far beyond the baseball diamond that can be shared to countless others.
“I’m a very big proponent of growth mind-set versus fixed mind-set,” Michael explains. “As people start to transition to that growth mind-set, what you’re looking to do is, instead of saying, “I’m not good at this”, you could say, “well, I’m not good at this, yet.” That kind of gives you hope that its not the end all, be all. Just because you’re not where you want to be right now, doesn’t mean you can’t get there. It can be very frustrating when you’re learning something new and just not getting it. But the perseverance that you’ll have in yourself after you accomplish your goal, whether it’s baseball, softball or volleyball, is something that no one can ever take away from you.”