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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Joe Mercurio will miss his teammates and the friends he made at the University of Illinois.
What he won’t miss is being miserable doing what he loves the most – playing baseball.
Mercurio will get a new start on the diamond in the fall when he attends the University of Maine.
“I’m very happy this happened to me,” said Mercurio, a highly regarded catcher from Brewster, N.Y.
“When I went up there on my visit, I said this should have been the place I went in the first place,” said the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder. “I’m really very excited.”
Black Bears coach Steve Trimper is prohibited by NCAA rules from commenting on Mercurio until classes begin in September.
Transferring will reunite him with two other New York acquaintances who play for the Bears.
“There’s a certain comfort level that I’ve felt with Kevin Jackson and Myckie Lugbauer being up there,” said Mercurio, who was in attendance Thursday for UMaine’s America East playoff game against Binghamton.
“I’ve played against Myckie since I was 9 years old and I’ve played with Kevin since we were like 13,” he said of their experiences on traveling all-star teams.
At Illinois, Mercurio appeared in 11 games this season, making three starts. He batted .444 (8-for-18) with three doubles and three RBIs.
He was behind catcher Lars Davis, a projected draft pick who Mercurio predicted will be the Big Ten Player of the Year.
Mercurio was a multi-sport standout at Kennedy Catholic High School, where he earned 11 varsity letters, four each in baseball and soccer and three in basketball. Last year, he played in the AFLAC All-American High School Baseball Classic, which is regarded as a platform for the top 40 players in the nation.
He is looking forward to playing for Trimper, who had recruited him previously. He compared Trimper to former UMaine standout Jack Leggett, the head coach at national power Clemson.
“When he talks about baseball, he gets excited and he starts talking fast,” said Mercurio, who attended baseball camp at Clemson. “It’s the same energy I got from coach Leggett. That’s one of the things that affected my decision.”
Mercurio, who plans to study advertising at UMaine, will play this summer for Glens Falls in the New York Collegiate Baseball League.