By Jennifer Leavitt
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Holy Cross senior softball player Mandy Correale (Peabody, Mass.) demonstrates confidence and serious intensity while governing her position at third base for the Crusaders, a persona quite different from the one seen at the mentioning of her little brother, Matt. A warm smile spreads across her face as she tells us, “He is so cute! He can be a pain in the butt- he is a rat, but I love having him.”
For the few who didn't watch the Little League World Series last summer, Matt “The Rat” Correale was the star of the show. With ESPN cameras zooming in on every at bat and fly ball, you would think nerves must have had a chance at getting the best of the young Peabody West player. On the contrary, television brought out excellence in Matt; his animated personality and impressive athletic ability shown bright as he 'scurried' around the diamond (which is, by the way, how he earned the nickname “The Rat”). Standing just four feet, eight inches tall, the spit-fire centerfielder is a little guy with big game and you just can't help but become a fan.
“He doesn't realize how big it really is,” remarks Mandy. “They were part of the top 16 teams in the world,” Matt's biggest fan tells us enthusiastically. Mandy had gone to almost every one of Matt's games in South Williamsport, Pa., which those who watched would have known anyway. Consistent shots were displayed of Mandy and her family, decked out in Peabody garb, watching and cheering anxiously as Matt would make a play in the outfield, come in to pitch, or step up to the plate. “We were more nervous than he was. He's this little guy showing an intimidating face, I can't do that at 22,” Mandy says fondly of her brother.
Matt isn't the only star in the family though; a quick peek at the Correale family record will reveal that genes definitely play a role in athletic ability. Mandy and both her brothers, Mike and Matt, are well known in their hometown of Peabody for their talent in sports. “My dad jokes around and will say, 'just remember who the best hitter in the family is… you learned it all from me,'” continues Mandy. She says a common passion for sports does serve to connect her family. They practice together, attend sporting events together and support one another at games. Mandy struggles to describe how she feels about her family's commitment to attending as many of her Holy Cross softball games as possible. “The Rat” was regularly seen on the sidelines jumping at the sight of foul balls, scampering to collect them. “It's awesome to have my family at the games; there are no words to describe it. It's just so nice to have them there.”
Mandy, an Economics major with a pre-medicine focus, worked her way onto the team as a walk-on and, judging by her stats, has since served to be a major contributor for the Crusaders. “It was intimidating at first being surrounded by recruits,” recalls Mandy. “I had to prove that I deserved to be on the field.” Hard work and perseverance were not new to Mandy though. After a serious injury her junior year in high school, she worked her way back up to a starting position for the Peabody Tanners her senior year, leading them to the Division I North semifinals and finals. Mandy once again rose to the challenge of making the transition into collegiate level softball, and the Crusaders are lucky she had, adding strength to their infield defense and batting order. Also a hard worker in the classroom, Mandy has recently been named to the 2010 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District I second team. As her softball career comes to a close, she reflects on her summer watching Matt in the Little League World Series. “Watching him play has showed me to appreciate the time you do get to spend on the field. Now that I'm a senior it's the last time I'll be out there. He's taught me to enjoy it while it lasts.”
Matt, although already a local celebrity, can learn much from his sister as well. She hopes to impart on him the importance of hard work both on the field and in school. Matt has been watching closely as Mandy has been living proof of the importance of hard work. The youngster says he looks up to his big sister in more ways than one, as she serves as a role model for him in the sporting arena as well as in academics. With Mandy as motivation, we can be sure Matt is headed toward a bright future, and if we're lucky, maybe a return to turning on our television sets to see “The Rat” lighting up ESPN.