As a newly minted graduate of Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., Mike Riverso enrolled at Widener University four years ago eager to accumulate more athletic and academic accomplishments. Helping the institution’s baseball team to set school records and generating a 3.4 grade point average as a finance major, the 22-year-old can certainly consider his secondary education success matched and possibly even topped.
“I always push myself to do better, so I’m definitely happy how my time there worked out,” the resident of the 2200 block of South Juniper Street said of his Chester-based tenure as a diamond dweller and classroom conqueror. “I wouldn’t change a thing about my experiences.”
If opposing pitchers could have made alterations to his ledger, they would have retired the Lower Moyamensing inhabitant far more often, as he enjoyed a quartet of commendable campaigns, including a monstrous senior season that featured his winning the Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth Player of the Year honor and tournament MVP nod, the latter stemming in part from his infield single that captured the championship for the Pride. His swan song year yielded a .434 average, a conference-leading 43 RBI, 38 runs, 14 doubles, a .550 slugging percentage and a .988 fielding percentage at first base. While Riverso readily reflects on those drool-worthy numbers with joy, he sees them simply as products of persistence rather than fuel for arrogance.
“Just like in high school, I had great supporters,” he said. “I was fortunate to go to a school with a history of playing young players, so I worked hard but didn’t put myself under too much stress. This year was just amazing and a great way to go out.”
Achieving the most wins, 33, and league triumphs, 16, in school history, the Pride also made its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance, falling in the regional semifinals. Donning 13 as his jersey number, the sweet-swinging lefty proved unlucky for hurlers hoping to send his 6-foot-1 frame back to the bench disappointed. Quite confident he would continue to build on last year’s Honorable Mention All-Conference nod, he had not foreseen such a potent final year, which included his setting a school record in hits and tallying the nation’s 31st best average. The figures also figure to help Riverso to believe he can bash balls for a professional team.
“It will probably take a backseat for now,” he said of his beloved game as he considers his career options, with Merrill Lynch and PricewaterhouseCoopers emerging as suitors. “There could come a chance to sign a free-agent contract. No matter what comes along, I’ll see it as a cool opportunity.”
Riverso has experienced few departures from the diamond since he garnered his first tremendous opportunity as a Philadelphia Senator. Then a fifth-grader at Epiphany of Our Lord School, now Our Lady of Hope Regional Catholic School, 1248 Jackson St., he matured with other great talents at Sunoco Field, now PES Field, 3501 Moore St., before joining the Senators B team at Sabres Field, Seventh Street and Packer Avenue. Also honing interest in soccer through the Southeast Youth Athletic Association, Seventh and Bigler streets, he entered Neumann-Goretti looking for victories no matter the setting yet eventually parted with the world’s most popular game and basketball to concentrate on baseball, a decision that his accolades have validated as a venerable move.
“Oh, those were short careers,” he laughed of the other sports. “Baseball had to be the winner because I had the most investment in it.”
The young man’s freshman year featured frequent frustration, as the East Passyunk Crossing-based Saints managed only a 3-18 mark. Raw talent soon became refined skill, and by his junior year, Riverso and teammates Al Baur and Mark Donato, both Whitman products, became dominant forces in the Catholic League. Securing their school’s first league championship since 1960 in 2009, the athletes restored the program to supremacy, instigating a run that has brought three more titles to their alma mater.
“In a perfect world, we would have won it our senior year, too, but some things aren’t meant to be,” Riverso, a three-time All-Catholic, said. “Despite that, high school really prepared me for college because it gave me such a great work ethic and awareness of my abilities.”
Initially considering La Salle University, he opted for Widener as “a last-minute thing” and became a restless pursuer of team glory no matter where he batted or what position he played, including trips to the mound to deliver his southpaw mix of confounding pitches. Separating his clavicle as a sophomore, he experienced some limitations but compensated for them by navigating a switch from the outfield to first base.
“I just expected so much of myself,” Riverso said of his college kudos, noting that, along with his Philadelphia Senators and Neumann-Goretti stints, he credits 10 years as a camp attendee under John Marzano, a deceased South Philly native who caught for three major league clubs, as instrumental. “That was a great chapter in my life, so I’m excited about the future. It’s going to be a little odd not to be fully committed to baseball, but, yeah, the real world awaits. I’m a quick learner, though.”
Contact Managing Editor Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.