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College Sports

Navy catcher Christian Policelli named national winner of Senior CLASS Award for baseball

Christian Policelli became familiar with the Naval Academy while playing in summer baseball tournaments in Annapolis.

The Walkersville native eventually reached out to the Navy baseball coaching staff and asked if they would scout him at a travel tournament being held at Bishop Stadium. The Midshipmen were interested and Policelli was invited to take an unofficial visit to the academy.

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“I immediately fell in love with the Naval Academy and knew that was where I belonged and wanted to be,” Policelli said. “Growing up, I always tried my best to be a leader, whether in school or with my sports teams. I wanted to set an example for others to follow.”

Navy coach Paul Kostacopoulos quickly recognized the youngster from Frederick County had the personality, disposition and makeup necessary to succeed at a service academy.

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“We kind of knew we had something special in Christian dating back to when we were recruiting him. He was just a very grounded individual, even at 17 years old. You could see he was mature beyond his years,” Kostacopoulos said.

“Christian was the type of person who really valued all the things the Naval Academy was about. We knew from the beginning that he had the qualities to excel at the academy.”

That assessment proved tremendously accurate as Policelli blossomed into the consummate midshipmen — baseball team captain, standout student, company leader and community service volunteer.

Policelli’s all-around excellence was recognized in a big way earlier this week when he was named the 2022 Senior CLASS Award overall winner for NCAA Division I baseball. Chosen by vote of Division I coaches, national baseball media and fans, the award is presented annually to the sport’s most outstanding senior or graduate-level student-athlete.

An acronym for celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages using their platform to make a positive impact in their communities. To be eligible, nominees must have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: classroom, community, character and competition.

Policelli becomes the fourth student-athlete from Navy to capture the overall Senior CLASS Award for a particular sport. Policelli is the first player in program history and just the second Patriot League student-athlete to win the award in the baseball category.

“Christian has profoundly impacted our baseball program in so many meaningful ways and has been a true example of what a Naval Academy athlete is: caring, determined, hard working and selfless,” Kostacopoulos said. “I have no doubt Christian will bring those qualities to the fleet as an officer.”

Policelli enjoyed a decorated career, playing in 120 games with 111 starts. He finished with a career batting average of .311 and amassed 89 RBIs and 82 runs while posting strong slugging (.462) and on-base (.410) percentages.

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Policelli enjoyed a tremendous senior season, starting every game at either catcher or outfield and hitting .328 with 33 RBIs, 28 runs while leading the Mids in hits (57) and steals (11). He also posted a stellar .971 fielding percentage on the way to being named first team All-Patriot League for the second consecutive season.

However, it was a subpar season by typical Navy baseball standards with Policelli captaining a team that finished with a losing record (19-26) for the first time since 2014 and failed to make the Patriot League Tournament for the first time since 2010.

“I’d say the biggest thing I emphasized with the team was to just keep working, keep grinding,” Policelli said. “I was proud that we stuck together and feel confident the growth we showed this spring will pay off and set up the team for success next season.”

Policelli graduated last month with a degree in quantitative economics and was named to the Commandant’s List three times in four years. Kostacopoulos said academics “did not come easy” for Policelli and he earned all the good grades he got.

“Everything Christian achieved academically, athletically and militarily was due to a tremendous work ethic,” he said.

“I think the biggest challenge was learning how to manage the course load along with my military commitments and being a baseball player,” Policelli added. “I realized I needed to put in a lot more extra time, whether it was going to review sessions in the evenings after practice or meeting with teachers during lunch.”

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Policelli was also active volunteering in both the Annapolis and Walkersville communities, routinely serving as an instructor for camps and clinics. He served as a plebe summer squad leader and executive officer of his company in 2020.

“Honestly, that was the most rewarding summer training I got to experience. I was able to welcome plebes to the academy and introduce them to the military aspects,” Policelli said. “I think I did a solid job of preparing them to the best of my ability. Watching their growth the last couple years has been fulfilling.”

Kostacopoulos said Policelli was nearly a unanimous selection as Navy captain by vote of teammates. His support came from a wide cross-section of the club.

“Christian got votes across the board from players in every class. I think that’s because he doesn’t differentiate between seniors and sophomores, juniors and plebes. Everyone is just a teammate and a shipmate,” Kostacopoulos said.

“He just has great people skills and an awareness of how to relate to others. He had an ability to connect with everyone — older players, younger players, coaches, support staff.”

Policelli will serve on temporary assignment duty at the Naval Academy until September, when he reports to flight school in Pensacola. He was commissioned as a Navy pilot.

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“Seeing how the Naval Academy functions and how it develops leaders was a challenge I wanted to take on,” he said. “Ultimately, I found it to be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.”


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