Grieving Garvey honors uncle with homer, hot bat

As she rounded the bases, Janelle Garvey thought about her uncle and her father’s words.

The St. Edmund Prep sophomore slugger had just hit a two-run homer over the fence against Bishop Kearney at Gil Hodges Little League. She wasn’t even supposed to be at the game on April 29 because she missed school after her uncle Ray died of cancer two days earlier. Garvey was afraid she would have to skip the game in order to be at the wake, but got permission from her parents and the school to play. Her father Alan told her to hit a home run for her uncle before she left for the field.

“[My uncle] literally took that ball and just took it over the fence,” Garvey said. “Just running around the bases was the happiest moment.”

Since then she hasn’t stopped doing what she did prior to that at-bat. Garvey points to the sky and then talks to Uncle Ray, who was 53 and was also her godfather. She was 3-for-4 against Kearney and hasn’t stopped hitting. The Eagles also haven’t stopped winning since.

“I have been thinking about him when I am at the plate,” Garvey said. “I just say something to him before I get to the plate and it’s like he gives me that strength to hit the ball. It’s really weird.”

Garvey homered twice against St. John’s Prep last Friday, was 3-for-3 and hit a monsterous solo blast and drove in two during the win over Fontbonne Hall, and she drove in two during a three-run sixth inning in a comeback victory over Kearney on April 28. St. Edmund has won five straight games after losing it first five. It sits in first place in the CHSAA Brooklyn division.

“When you come right down to it, she is a sophomore playing like a well-seasoned senior,” St. Edmund coach Rowena Motylewski said.

Her uncle was also an athlete and the epitome of strength. He played football at James Madison before becoming a police officer and sanitation worker. Ray Garvey also got into show business as a comedian and actor. He had small roles in eight Woody Allen movies, including “Curse of the Jade Scorpion” and was also in Adam Sandler’s recent comedy “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.” He made TV appearances on the Sopranos and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. He also launched and ran the Borgata comedy club in Atlantic City. Garvey though was diagnosed with a rare Stage 4 cancer of the lower bowel in 2008 and battled it for more than two years.

“He was the party man,” said Janelle Garvey, who plays third base. “He made every party fun.”

Softball has allowed Garvery to keep her mind off things. Senior pitcher Emma Ferrington lauded her dedication, having not missed a game since her uncle’s death. Motylewski believes she is using softball as a way to help her through the grieving process.

“She recognized that he needed to do this for herself,” the coach said.

The home run against Kearney certainly did plenty of good for both her and the team. When she returned to her excited teammates in the dugout she let a few of them in on what her dad told her prior to the game. It took them back a bit during such an exciting moment.

“I was just like, ‘Oh wow,’” Ferrington said. “That’s really nice. We were all like, ‘Yay she hit a home run.’ It’s not shocking. She always hits home runs. After she told me I was just like that’s a little more meaningful than hitting a regular home run.”

It is a hit, an afternoon and game that will forever stay with Garvey, just like her uncle.

“I wasn’t even having a good day as it was,” she said. “I wasn’t even supposed to go, but I was happy I went. It was a really big moment for me.”