Sports 07-13-2016

Catching On

Juliana Cecere takes her art and hitting talent to Tufts University

By Cary Shuman

You can certainly measure Juliana Cecere’s impact on the Revere High softball team with the .400 career batting average she achieved over the course of four varsity seasons. She also hit for power, consistently accounting for extra-base hits and home runs.

But what you can’t quantify is the number of pitches she kept out of the wild pitch column, the opposing baserunners who had no intention of trying to steal, or the confidence Revere pitchers had in her – knowing that no matter how hard or where you threw it, Juliana Cecere would catch it or block it.

Revere High softball coach Joe Ciccarello knew Cecere was the catcher of the future the first time she came to tryouts. He annointed Cecere the varsity catcher as a freshman and the 5-foot-5-inch star-to-be would keep watch there for 100 regular season and tournament games, including the magical 2014 season when Revere almost won a Division 1 state softball title, losing to eventual champion Bridgewater-Raynham in the semis.

Cecere is heading to a bigger stage this fall. She will attend prestigious, world-renowned Tufts University, where she will play softball and study art. She can credit a large portion of her excellence in each endeavor to her parents, Daniel Cecere and Cathy Rossi-Cecere. Her father coached her and inspired her to build her softball skills, while her mother, who attended Rhode Island School of Design – the top of the mountain of design schools – was the major influence in laying the foundation for Juliana’s affinity for art.

 “My dad always had me go to softball clinics,” recalled Juliana, who never played T-Ball or baseball. “He coached me. He would help out as a parent in the youth league and all of sudden he had a coaching job. He did it out of fun and he really helped me a lot. He’s my unofficial coach who’s always been encouraging me from behind the backstop. We spent many days at the softball field working on my game.”

As for her interest and excellence in art, that talent stems from her mother. “She was actually my art teacher from the start because she went to RISD and had positions in the arts before she went in to journalism and marketing. She would tell me when my art was good or not and she made things easier for me. My parents helped me figure out what I wanted to do in terms of college and my future career. I’m so grateful to them.”

As a youth, she attended a pitching and catching clinics at Harvard University but soon focused entirely on catching.

“I actually wanted to stop playing softball and do full-time soccer, but my dad suggested I keep playing both sports,” said Cecere. “I was watching a game at St. Mary’s field and Anthony [Palermo] didn’t have enough players and he pointed to me to put on a jersey and start playing.”

She became an All-Star in the St. Mary’s league and played on Paul Nowicki-coached travel teams that enjoyed much success. By sixth grade, she had also begun to exhibit her talents for coach Peter DiCarlo’s powerful Revere Middle School softball team.

Cecere exploded on the RHS scene as a freshman, beginning a streak of consecutive .400 seasons in the cleanup spot. During her sophomore and junior seasons, she and her Revere teams moved from Hill Park to the St. Mary’s field and kept on winning under coach Joe Ciccarello.

“Coach Ciccarello taught me a lot about softball,” credits Cecere. “He always wants to make you a better player. It’s not all about softball with him. He uses different sayings to inspire you and he wants the girls to be more of a team and a family than just playing softball.”

Ciccarello said Cecere’s high level of consistency, leadership, and dependability made her a multi-year All-Star and All-Northeastern Conference player.

“She averaged over .400 all four years and that’s an amazing stat,” said Ciccarello. “She’s been the best catcher in the conference. She hit home runs at home and on the road and led our team in RBIs. We put her in the cleanup spot because we wanted her up with players on base so she could clear the bases.”

As prolific as Cecere was at the plate, Ciccarello said the team will miss her defense even more.

“What we’re going to miss is her ability to keep pitches from getting past her – no one stole home on us or stole bases. The way she blocked the plate was just an art form and we’re never going to be able to replace. It’s just something she worked on. She went to special catching camps to improve her skills.

Revere High softball’s historic campaign came in 2014 with Sabrina Palermo on the mound and Juliana Cecere behind the plate. Revere won the conference title, the Division 1 North title, and advanced to the state semifinal.

“It was great being the softball catcher for Sabrina,” said Cecere. “I remember when I first caught her, she was overpowering but I got used to it. She knew how to fire the ball and spot the ball. Going on that amazing run in the State Tournament and getting a triple (versus Bridgewater-Raynham in the semifinals) was something I’ll never forget. I’m proud to say that I played on the Revere team that went the farthest ever in the tournament.”

Outside of Revere, Cecere enhanced her batting and hitting skills with one-on-one instructional sessions from Johanna (Jo) Clair, a former All-American catcher at Tufts. That was her first introduction to the Tufts softball program that is arguably the best in Division 3 program in the country.

When Cecere began looking at colleges, she considered schools that had an excellent art program as well as softball. One of her potential choices was Brown University, which has a dual degree program with RISD.

Cecere eventually chose Tufts University, noting that Revere High prepared her well for the elite university that attracts students from around the world (In fact, Juliana’s college roommate is from Pakistan). She will take her college art classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts that is run by Tufts.

“I think Revere High is a wonderful school and I’m glad that I went there,” said Cecere. “My art teachers at Revere High were June Krinsky-Rudder and Meghan Allen and they were absolutely the best. They helped me put my portfolio together and encouraged me to take outside classes my first two years at Lesley (University). I took all the art classes I could at Revere High: Foundations of Art, Sculpting, Ceramics, Drawing and Painting, and Photography.”

Juliana has a job in the Revere Parks and Recreation Department this summer and then it’s off to Tufts for the next step in what has been an awesome softball career.

“I’ve attended a few Tufts games and I’m very excited to join such a great program that has won national championships,” said Cecere. “I know it’s going to be competitive to be a starting player, but usually you hit, you play.”

Ciccarello said the Revere program has graduated one of its all-time performers.

“Juliana was a captain and she’s just a great kid who always had a smile on her face,” said Ciccarello. “She’s one of those kids who worked hard, loved the game. I never had to worry about her. Every teacher in the school will say the same thing: hard worker, always with a smile or a kind word, and great attitude. I wish her all the best at Tufts.”

RhS sports Roundup

Track & field camp for youths in grades 6-9

Revere High girls and boys track coaches Antonio Labruna and Sam Ros are conducting a track & field instructional camp for Revere students entering grades 6-9.

The dates of the camp are July 21 & 22 from 5:00-7:00PM at Harry Della Russo Stadium and July 23 from 10:00-12:00 at the stadium. The cost of the camp is $25 per student and registration forms can be picked up and dropped off at the Revere Youth and Recreation Center (150 Beach St).

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