A.J. McGettigan’s goal for the 2021 baseball season was to make up for lost time.
Like everyone else, McGettigan didn’t get a chance to play baseball last year because of the pandemic. But the prior two years were filled with injuries so the Neumann-Goretti senior entered his final year without really swinging a bat at the varsity level.
In 2021, he swung for the fences — and delivered — as the cleanup hitter for a Saints team that went 15-7 and won the PIAA District 12 Class 3A championship.
“We came out strong,” McGettigan said. “Not a lot of teams expected us to be very good. They were all down on us and saw how different we were from everyone else. But we came out and showed everyone what we could do.”
McGettigan earned All-Philadelphia Catholic League First Team honors alongside teammate Kevin Opanel.
“It was a really big honor,” McGettigan said. “It really was. It was cool to be able to come out here and play with my teammates and win an award at the same time.”
McGettigan began playing baseball at age 4 and comes from a baseball family. His brother Ryan graduated from Neumann-Goretti in 2018 and won a pair of state championships before he received his diploma. It left A.J. wanting to follow in his baseball cleats.
“My dad played and I always watched my brother,” McGettigan said. “He was a big guy here for Neumann-Goretti so I loved watching him. I wanted to be like him.”
They were very similar. Both played first base and were left-handed power hitters. Both were clutch players.
“A.J. was amazing,” said Neumann-Goretti senior right fielder Devon Koger. “He made a huge jump on our team. But his personality, he fit right in with us and was a big producer for us. He did everything we could have asked for and more.”
McGettigan, Koger, Opanel and junior shortstop Jemeson Masino represented Neumann-Goretti in the 2021 Carpenter Cup baseball tournament on June 15, which was held at FDR Park in South Philly. Saints juniors Sal Laimo and Damian Suarez were also selected but were unable to play.
The Philadelphia Catholic League lost 6-0 to Lehigh Valley and was eliminated in the first round of the 16-team tournament. Though they got only one nine-inning game to make an impression, Saints players made the most of their opportunity in the showcase, which drew fans and college coaches from all over the area.
“It was really cool to get my name out there a little bit more because no one really knew me until this year,” McGettigan said. “I had to prove myself.”
McGettigan, a Collingswood, New Jersey resident, began his high school career at Gloucester Catholic and was unable to play baseball due to a knee injury. He transferred to Neumann-Goretti during sophomore year but missed that season with a labrum injury.
“He came in, pretty much as an outsider,” Koger said. “He became family immediately. Kudos to him for coming into our program and diving into it and being one of us.”
Unfortunately, junior year was nixed by COVID. It gave McGettigan an all-or-nothing attitude for his final year of high school baseball, with a unique perspective about overcoming injuries. It made him want to pursue a career in sports medicine in college, which he will begin at Rutgers University-Camden in the fall.
“I would like to help people who have been through the pain I’ve been through,” McGettigan said.