Bret Boretti had finished his pitch to Robb Paller and his parents, Walter and Sherri. Now, the Columbia baseball coach was making sure Paller was comfortable, telling him what he told all other recruits, that the decision was in his hands. He wasn’t going to pressure him into a decision, like other coaches have been known to do during recruiting visits, or set a drop dead date.
Before he could finish his sentence, however, Paller had news for him.
“This is the school for me.” Berkeley Carroll’s senior outfielder recalled saying. “I want to give a verbal.”
That was last weekend, when Paller, who also plays high level summer baseball with Youth Service, became the 10th player to commit to play Division I baseball from the tiny Park Slope, Brooklyn private school.
The sweet-swinging left-handed hitter had other options. Notre Dame wanted him to take an official visit. St. John’s, arguably the top baseball program in the Northeast, offered an attractive package. Davidson, Holy Cross and Johns Hopkins were also involved too.
Columbia, however, trumped those options with its Ivy League pedigree and emerging baseball program that won its first league crown since 1977 two years and reached the league’s final series last spring, falling to Dartmouth.
“How do you say no to Columbia?” joked Paller, a first team All-City selection by The Post who batted .425 with 18 stolen bases in 19 attempts, 18 RBIs, and 13 doubles last year. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet, but it’s real, it’s a dream come true. I feel like if I do well over the next four years somebody will sign me, but if not I will have a Columbia degree to fall back on.”
Paller committing to an Ivy League school was a proud moment not only for him, but his parents, Walter and Sherri, too. The two both work at Berkeley Carroll, Sherri as a kindergarten teacher and Walter as the school’s baseball coach, physical education teacher and Dean.
Paller attended Berkeley Carroll from the start, and, Walter said, handled his parents being there with aplomb every step up the way. He never used that as an athletic director. advantage or let it hinder his growth, as a student, athlete or even in a social setting.
“He has such a good package,” Walter said. “He’s not the best player and he’s not the best student out there, but he’s very good at both. He’s very solid and he’s gonna be in a place where he can develop.”
Walter later added: “I think he can contribute in some way immediately and how much he contributes of course depends on how quickly he adjusts. But when it comes to adjusting to different levels of pitching, it’s something he has done very well.”
Paller was basically born with a bat in his hands, attending his father’s games with Berkeley Carroll and Youth Service. He had options to play other sports, in high school, Paller said, but chose lifting weights and preparing for the upcoming season instead so he could pursue it as far as possible.
Now it has taken him to Columbia, a place many city kids can only imagine. The Lions program is built on national talent; last year’s roster was made up of players from 13 different states.
“There wasn’t a thing I didn’t like,” Paller said. “It seemed like a great environment to go to school in the city. I got to meet all four coaches, all of them seemed like really good, standup guys and really care about their players and the program.”
Paller is the latest product on his father’s esteemed baseball program to go to a Division I school and the second Ivy League player. This past spring, right-handed pitcher Adam Ottavino made the Major Leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals.
“It’s a great feeling and I love the Lion tradition,” Robb said. “It’s funny, I’m gonna be a Columbia Lion, keep the tradition of Lions baseball going.”