The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Home of the Brave

It started off as a normal afternoon. Charlie Bilezikjian had just arrived home from school and was starting to unwind when his parents told him that his lifelong dream had come true – he had been drafted by the Atlanta Braves.

But that was four years ago.

“It was a great honor and I was extremely excited,” he said. “But as the summer went on, I felt I wasn’t ready to be out on my own and be far away from home; I was only 17 at the time.

“With minor league baseball comes a lot of failure and I just didn’t think I was ready for that in my life yet.”

Failure has not been in the Staten Island native’s vocabulary. After choosing St. John’s, the 21-year old has broken into the top eight of every major offensive category, including the top five in four, while playing center field for SJU.

“It’s been a progressive thing,” Bilezikjian said. “Every year I’ve gotten better and better just because I’ve always played.”

In his senior season, Bilezikjian, a preseason All-Big East selection and last year’s team MVP, continues to put up solid numbers. He has started all 38 games and leads team in hitting at .381, home runs (11) and RBI (45). He has also scored 40 runs, has stolen 12 bases and has 37 walks, placing him in the top ten of the Big East in all categories. He has also had 12 multi-hit games and 14 multi-RBI games and has reached safely in 39 of 41 games.

Because of his production, Bilezikjian, along with teammate Jason Kane, is on the 2002 Watch List for the Smith Award, given to the best collegiate baseball player in the country. His play has also prompted Major League scouts to take notice.

But the hard-nose outfielder doesn’t pay much attention.

“I’ve gotten letters from a bunch of teams,” he said. “But the main thing I’m focused on this year is getting us back into the [Big East] Tournament.”

The team is the most important thing for Bilezikjian, and he is always willing to do what is best for its success.

Last season, when the pitching staff needed a boost, Bilezikjian, who pitched just 10 innings as a sophomore, stepped in and made 10 appearances, starting three games. Bilezikjian had a 3-3 record with one save, striking out 24 batters and walking 10 in 20 innings of work.

This season, after injuries to pitchers Marc Goldberg and Geno Orsonga, Head Coach Ed Blankmeyer turned to Bilezikjian to fill a hole in the rotation.

Bilezikjian has posted a 4.66 ERA with 40 strikeouts and a 3-5 record in 11 appearances. He pitched a complete game, allowing three hits and one earned run versus Coastal Carolina earlier in the season and has also allowed one run or less in three of his starts.

“It’s definitely something I like to do,” he said. “It’s just a lot of pressure to be hitting and pitching at the same time, so I understood when Coach took me out of the rotation. I was in total agreement.”

Bilezikjian credits much of his success to Blankmeyer, who has placed Bilezikjian in the third spot in the lineup since his sophomore year.

“From the time I came in, he has given me a chance to play,” he said. “He’s given me the freedom to play my game.”

After his last game in a Red Storm uniform, Bilezikjian hopes to be donning the uniform of a Major League team.

“I always thought if I wasn’t playing, I thought I’d make a good coach or even go into teaching.”

As his final days at St. John’s come to a close, the memories of a stellar career still emanate.

But personal bests are not what he’ll remember the most – he’ll remember his team.

“The whole Big East Tournament my freshman year was pretty exciting. We were a five-seed and nobody expected much out of us. We just came together. In my four years that’s definitely been the closest that the team has been together -on the same page, everybody getting along.”

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