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Catonsville High's Getzendanner honors dad after his death

Joey Getzendanner, the 2014 Catonsville Times Male Athlete of the Year, has played and watched football, basketball and baseball since he was young. Often, his mom, Patricia, and dad, Jay, were there with him, watching him develop into an outstanding athlete.

But on Feb. 15, during his senior year at Catonsville High, his father died.

With the end of basketball season and one final baseball season left, Joey was determined to finish the school year the way his dad would have wanted -- and that’s exactly what he did.

In his first game back on the court after his dad's death, Joey and a Western Tech player dove for a loose ball on the floor. Unfortunately, the player broke his ankle, but Getzendanner could hear his dad's voice.

“That’s what he would have wanted me to do,” Getzendanner said. “He was always tough and he taught me never to give up on a loose ball and if I didn’t dive on it, he would chew me out after the game.”

His dad, Jay, played football at Cardinal Gibbons High School and Rutgers University.

In 1985 at Rutgers, Jay earned the Loyal Knight Award, given to the player who distinguished himself by sacrificing personal goals for the team, and whose character and dedication have proved resilient in his pursuit of excellence.

That year, while playing defensive tackle, Jay broke his arm for the second time in three years in the second quarter of a game against Boston College. Preliminary X-rays were negative, so he returned and made 10 tackles and deflected a pass, earning him Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Jay’s football career ended after it was confirmed he had broken his arm again, but his toughness carried over to his sons, Joey, and Jake, a sophomore at Catonsville who also plays football, basketball and baseball.

“All growing up, my dad would make me and my brother go at it playing tackle football in the backyard,” Joey said.

Football, baseball and basketball became his favorite sports and that impressed his football and baseball coach, Rich Hambor.

“I really like the fact that he is one of the few people that plays the old-time three sports,” Hambor said. “He had it all and that’s a throwback to me, and that is really more and more rare every year.”

It’s even more rare to find a throwback in this era of sport specialization.

“I got it from my dad,” said Getzendanner, who did more than just play sports. “He said, ‘You can learn a lot from playing, but you can also learn a lot from watching.’”

Although the Comets' football team struggled during the 2013 season (4-6), Getzendanner was a model of consistency as the signal-caller.

“Stoic is a great word and a lot of guys that play that position are pretty much like him,” Hambor said. “They have it together. They are not going to get rattled. They are not jumping around losing their head when things go bad. If anybody had a question, they could ask him, and he was really calm about it.”

When the Comets needed to preserve a lead in the fourth quarter, he was the right one to run the offense.
“I don’t think I ever had anybody work the clock as well as he did,” Hambor said. “He knew how to manage that really well and that suits his personality perfectly.”

In the Comets’ second game of the season, Getzendanner earned his team’s confidence when he ran 25 yards for a touchdown in a 51-7 win over Dulaney.

“I just saw the hole and ran for it and everything worked out,” said Getzendanner of his longest run of the season.

“He’s not a running quarterback, but he’s an athlete,” Hambor said. “He really had a good feel for when it was time to tuck it in and go.”

Getzendanner's breakout game in the air came in a 39-22 triumph over Woodlawn when he threw four of his six touchdown passes, two each to Teddy Crayton and Musa Wichhart.

As a junior, Getzendanner was the backup quarterback and holder for a squad that went to the playoffs and lost at Sherwood in the first round.

His junior year in baseball was even more special because he was the starting shortstop when the Comets went to the Class 4A state championship game, where they lost to South River.

“That was hands-down the funnest team I’ve ever played on,” Getzendanner said. “No one thought we were going to be there.”

He moved to the cleanup spot this spring after batting lower in the lineup last season and didn’t get as many good pitches to hit, but he was second on the team in batting average (.368), RBIs (12) and runs (12) for the 8-10 Comets.

“You rarely see a first-pitch fastball,” he said.

Defensively, he was stellar at shortstop.

“He played a great defensive shortstop this year,” Hambor said. “Last year, he was very good and this year he was more fluid, more confident and he knew his arm strength was top-notch, and his bat really came alive this year as well.”

Hambor was impressed with how well Getzendanner played after the death of his father.

“Losing his dad is obviously a trauma, but he’s a young man really and I’m sure he had his private moments of sadness, but he carried himself with a lot of dignity and a lot of respect to his dad,” Hambor said.

As a captain in football and baseball, he carried himself as a quiet leader.

“His mom is like that, too,” Hambor said. “She is pretty low-key, a team mom, she’s been there for a year and always helping out and really just doing whatever we need her to do, and I think Joey has the best of both of his parents. He had the helping, giving, caring attitude of his mom and the athleticism and respect and intensity of his father.”

Getzendanner will attend James Madison University and is wavering on whether to try out for the baseball team.

“I’ve been playing every day after school for four years,” he said. “I don’t know what it’s like to not play a sport.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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