With a clear sky and a light breeze blowing over Owen T. Carroll Field, Seton Hall retired Craig Biggio’s No. 44 on Saturday before the Pirates’ faced Notre Dame in the series finale.
“It’s a great honor,” Biggio said. “If you are having your number retired anywhere, it is a huge honor. There are a lot of great memories here; I had some great times here. I learned a lot, and I’m very grateful of my experiences here at the school.”
In the pregame ceremony, Biggio sat between home plate and the pitcher’s mound with his wife and three children, including Notre Dame’s freshman outfielder Conor Biggio. Also on the field were Athletic Director Patrick Lyons, Chair of the Committee on Athletics Hank Delsandro, current head coach Rob Sheppard, former head coach Mike Sheppard and former Pirate and New York Yankee Rick Cerone.
Biggio was presented with a framed jersey while freshman Alex Falconi and sophomore Chris Seldon unveiled Biggio’s number on the right-centerfield wall. Biggio also threw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch.
“It came about before I even started officially at Seton Hall,” Lyons said. “It was between my press conference and my first start date. I came to a baseball game, and I looked into the outfield and noticed (Biggio’s) jersey wasn’t up there. To me, that just seemed like something we needed to do.”
In his three seasons at the Hall before being drafted in the first round (No. 22 overall) by the Houston Astros, Biggio held a .342 career batting average and holds the Pirates’ career mark with 18 triples. Biggio and ranks second with 194 runs scored.
Dispite all the individual accomplishments, Biggio credits a lot it to coach Mike Sheppard.
“When you are an 18-year-old kid and you go away to college, you think you know it all but you haven’t even scratched the surface,” Biggio said. “To be able to have a guy like (Sheppard) to be able to play for and have him watch over you during your 3 or 4 years was huge because you couldn’t step out of line. It was like you step out of line, you pay the price.”
Biggio’s best season came as a junior on arguably Seton Hall’s best team, in 1987. That team included co-national player of the year Marteese Robinson, Mo Vaughn and John Valentin. Biggio played all 55 games on a team that went 45-10, set the fourth highest runs scored in NCAA history with 11.4 runs per game, and won the Hall’s first Big East Championship, earning a spot in the NCAA Regionals.
“I just loved playing the game, and the game was fun; I enjoyed the game and winning,” Biggio said. “Winning is contagious, and my junior year, with Mo, Marteese, and Johnny Val and the guys that we had, it was a great run. It was disappointing that we lost in the regional but we kept trying to get there. Just being a part of that team and being a part of those relationships and having your ex-teammates back today, it brings everything back quickly.”
That season Biggio was named a First Team All-American according to Baseball America after hitting .407 and setting the Seton Hall single season record with 97 runs scored.
Biggio’s No. 44 became the fourth number retired by the baseball program along with Biggio’s former teammate Robinson’s No. 9, former coach Mike Sheppard’s No. 17 and Cerone’s No. 15.
Stephen Valenti can be reached at Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org.