Regis centerfielder overcomes size, diabetes to become a star

Publish date:

Come on shorty, you ain't got nothing.

Easy out. Easy out.

The opposing pitcher, a towering figure, stares down Negrin -- all 5-foot-6 of him. On the first pitch, Negrin swings and laces a grounder to the third baseman. Racing down the line, he beats out the throw and offers a mischievous smile to the fans, perhaps foreshadowing his attempt to steal second base on the very next pitch.

Last spring, the speedy Negrin swiped 27 bags in 30 games, while sporting a .452 batting average in the leadoff spot for Manhattan's Regis High. This season he's hitting .430 with 24 steals. The senior captain and center fielder from New Rochelle, N.Y., refuses to slow down -- spending his offseason as the starting point guard and co-captain for Regis' basketball team. And while many are amazed at just how passionately Negrin competes -- most don't know that for the last 12 years Negrin has been combating a disease that robs many children of the ability to lead normal lives, let alone excel in sports.

When Negrin was just 6 years old, he underwent a routine checkup and was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes. "The test results came back and my mother came into the room crying," he says. "I had to be rushed to the hospital."

As a child, Negrin did not initially understand how his life had changed, but after spending a week in the hospital, he realized that this sickness wasn't something that was just going to go away. When doctors failed to even mention the prospect of playing sports in their initial conversations with him and his family, Negrin began to fear the worst: "I figured that baseball and basketball were done with," he says.

In such heartbreaking times, Negrin's family and friends remained supportive and were dedicated to making Negrin's childhood as normal as possible. "We allowed Tony to face his disease straight on," says his mother, Gina. "When in a public place, if Tony had to take an insulin shot or prick his finger to check his blood sugar, it was done. We never allowed him to feel sorry for himself."

By teaching their son to accept his affliction, Negrin's parents instilled within him the confidence he needed to excel in all facets of life, including academics. During his senior year at Regis -- an all-scholarship, tuition-free Jesuit school -- Negrin balanced baseball, basketball and his academics while maintaining a 3.8 GPA.

And although Negrin seems to handle his condition with ease, living with diabetes is a daily struggle in more ways than one. "It's not just a finger prick," Negrin says. "I have to eat right and I have to sacrifice sometimes going out if my blood sugar is too high."

For a teenager, the little things -- like hanging out with friends -- become more complicated. Negrin learned from the very beginning that diabetes is not something that can be overlooked for any period of time. During games, one can spot Negrin hustling to the dugout in between innings to test his blood sugar.

Even so, Negrin is quick to point out that diabetes has not held him back athletically. "I look at it as a challenge," Negrin says. "I figure that for some reason I was given this challenge and I have to prove people wrong."

Another aspect of Negrin's game is the work ethic and responsibility that he has acquired from managing his condition. "He's got excellent leadership ability because he's also the most diligent guy in terms of working out, taking care of himself," says Regis baseball coach Dan Dougherty, "and he's able to build great relationships with his teammates."

This season, Dougherty and Negrin's teammates -- who are 13-1 and have clinched the CHSAA's Manhattan/Bronx Divison regular season title -- say that their captain's leadership has been invaluable. "Tony's the catalyst to our success, in every game," Dougherty says.

Whether Regis can take home a city title remains to be seen, but where Negrin will play next is not. He has accepted a full scholarship to play baseball at Division I LaSalle University. In college, Negrin not only hopes to excel on the field but also has aspirations to become a doctor. Says Negrin, "Ever since I got diabetes, medicine has been my thing and I have always wanted to be a doctor."