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Tom Bestpitch has all the angles covered

Tom Bestpitch '00 is a hard man to pin down. During his time at Holy Cross, Bestpitch has been a starting wide receiver, a starting defensive back, and a punt returner. He's worn numbers 37, 8 and, finally, 7. Even Bestpitch himself has trouble with classification, settling for calling himself "mostly a defensive back." 

Vague? Yes. 

Appropriate? Actually, yes it is. 

Bestpitch began his football career at Holy Cross as a receiver before switching to defensive back the following year. And, despite earning individual honors at defensive back last year, he still has figured into the offensive plans in each of the last two years- thus, the use of the word "mostly." 

"For whatever reason, people back home still think I play receiver," he says. "I don't know why. Maybe it's more glamorous. But I tell them I'm mostly a defensive back." 

The dichotomy began for Bestpitch in high school. While the three-year captain at St. Francis High School, in Hamburg, N.Y., says his main role on the field was that of a wide receiver, he also had been selected as the Best Defensive Back in western New York. When he made his decision to come to Holy Cross, however, Bestpitch expected to be a wide receiver. That notion did not even last until lunch on his first day. 

"I came here as a receiver," he says. "I knew the things Coach Allen did offensively with the run and shoot, and I thought I'd be an inside receiver. But on the first day of practice, I was handed a purple jersey [worn by defensive players]." 

He need not have worried. In keeping with the elusive nature of his role on the football field, even that decision was quickly reversed. "I was back to offense by the afternoon practice," he recalls. 

It seemed like a wise move by the Crusader coaching staff. Bestpitch, who saw action in every game of his first season, started seven times. His 19 catches on the year were the fifth most on the team, as were his 147 receiving yards. Five times, he had two or more catches in a game, as he looked on his way to being an integral part of the Holy Cross offense for the next three years. 

"I liked playing receiver," he says. "I got to start seven games and was involved in the offense." 

But the battle for Bestpitch's services was not over. During spring practice after his first year, Coach Allen and his staff told the then-receiver that his services were needed on the defensive side of the ball. And despite his preference for offense, Bestpitch says he never questioned the move. 

"It's nice to be wanted by both sides," he says, "but as soon as I found out there was a need at cornerback, I said 'yeah of course I'll do it.'" 

And while he does wonder what kind of numbers he could have put up playing just receiver for four seasons, Bestpitch certainly has no regrets about the position change. He did, however, suggest another solution to Coach Allen-one which would allow him to follow in the footsteps of Gordie Lockbaum '88 and start on both sides of the ball. 

"Coach said that he knows I can do it, but the answer is no," Bestpitch remembers with a laugh. 

Focusing on the defensive side of the ball that spring, Bestpitch won the starting corner spot, and started 11 games in his second season. The transition was a smooth one as he posted 28 tackles on the year, including four or more in each of the last four games of the season. Along with the new position came his first jersey number change, as he turned in 37 for 8. 

"I was assigned number 37 in my first season," he says. "The coaches used to kid me about it. Coach Swepson said 37 is the number given to the worst receiver on the team." 

Bestpitch wanted number 4, his old high school number, but it was already worn by fellow defensive back David Downs '99, so he took number 8. "It seemed like a good number," he says. In answer to the question, "Why give up number 8 after a successful year?"  Bestpitch offers a unique explanation. 

"I changed it because [linebacker] Ben Berger told me that the number 8 makes me look fat, with all the rounded corners and everything. He advised me to get a more pointy number. So I took number 7. It's really pointy," he said with a laugh. 

As it turns out, Berger may have been on to something. The newly "pointy" Bestpitch enjoyed a breakout season last year. Not only did he lead a revitalized Crusader defense, but he led the Patriot League in pass breakups with 17 and earned both First Team All-Patriot League honors as well as honorable mention All-America recognition. 

"Those awards are nice," he says. "Team goals are the most important, but it's nice to see that people respect what you do, and that hard work pays off." 

Bestpitch is hoping that while last year was his year to receive individual accolades, this year will be the time for the team to be so recognized. 

"I have high expectations for the team this year," he says. "Last year we were so close. I think overall the team, in terms of attitude and talent, is totally different than it was four years ago. Now we just need to show it." 

As his time in a Crusader uniform winds down, Bestpitch says, "Even though I know it's my last shot, it's not sinking in. I've played football for about half of my life, and I don't think I'll really know it's over for a few years. One thing, though, in training camp this year, I could look around and say, 'Well at least I won't have to go through this again.'" 

Bestpitch said that as much as he and his teammates were encouraged by the great strides the team made last year-leading seven of the 11 games at the start of the fourth quarter-it was still disappointing to take a 2-9 record back home and have people not acknowledge the improvement.

"People out there see we were 2-9 last year and say, 'Oh, Holy Cross had another bad year,'" he says. "But they don't know how close we were. And for us to know it . We've got to show them and get the respect we deserve this season." 

Ironman in Training

Frank Garand '96 runs, bikes, and swims to benefit charity 

By Phyllis Hanlon 

Most people take advantage of the slower pace of summer by reducing their usual frenzied schedules so they can enjoy the warm, lazy days between Memorial and Labor Day. Frank Garand '96 is an exception. In July he began an intensive physical training program that will culminate with his participation in an ironman triathlon. Instead of engaging in leisurely activities, in the coming months he will train seriously and strenuously in preparation for this contest which takes place Nov. 6, 1999 in Panama City Beach, Fla. 

Garand's commitment began rather inauspiciously earlier in the year. He casually mentioned his interest in the event to a professor at Holy Cross. More friends and colleagues soon learned of his intentions. "I figured that it was a good way to motivate me initially," Garand said. "Once enough people knew, I would be forced to compete." 

Since Garand has only four months to prepare-the usual training period is at least two years-he started in July with a three-to-four-hour daily regimen of lifting weights, strength training, aerobic exercise and swimming. His workouts take place at the local Bally Total Fitness Center as well as on campus. On Saturdays he increases his workload with an extra hour of physical activity. To allow his muscles to rest and repair, Garand takes Sundays off. As November draws closer, though, he will increase these workouts to 10 hours per day. 

Garand is monitored closely by Dr. Bruce French, an orthopedic specialist at UMass Medical Center. Regular routine testing, which can take as long as four hours, keeps his physician apprised of his physical condition. Individuals who enter marathons, long bike races, and/or extended swim meets must be hardy enough to endure the stresses that accompany each activity. "If a runner can't complete a marathon, he or she can just stop running. In a triathlon, though, the competitor must be in top physical shape or risk heart failure," Garand said. Between his intense workouts and close medical supervision, he expects to be in prime form as November approaches. 

Over 1,600 entrants are slated to compete in the event which involves a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile marathon run. Garand explains that entrants swim first to reduce the risk of drowning. "By the time you finish the bike and the run segments, you are pretty tired. It would be easy to drown if you had to swim last." 

Initially Garand had intended to participate in the event for the "fun of it," but he changed direction dramatically when the sibling of a close friend died suddenly. His death, due to a severe allergic reaction, deeply affected Garand. This young man would have been a first-year student at Holy Cross in the fall. Garand's fleeting thoughts of raising money for charity through the triathlon now became a passion. 

Garand chose to represent three Massachusetts-based charities. He was impressed with the efforts of the medical team at Boston Children's Hospital to save his friend and selected that institution without hesitation. Since Garand's family has a history of breast cancer, he decided that some of the contributions should be given to the UMass Cancer Center for research.  The Massachusetts Audubon Society will also receive a portion of the funds. His hopes to collect $25,000 exceeded all expectations early in the campaign. By the time the event takes place, Garand anticipates that four times that amount will be pledged. 

So far Garand has solicited support from approximately 40 area businesses. The overwhelmingly positive response has amazed him. "Everyone has been great. No one has said no." In fact, individuals and companies that hear of the event have approached him to offer assistance, both financial and otherwise. A local hairdresser provides regular haircuts for Garand, while a Webster Square sandwich shop contributes food. A local bicycle shop services Garand's bike and gives suggestions for the biking portion of the competition. Several of the sponsors also offer customer discounts to those who mention the event. 

Garand is the Mellon Educational Technology Program coordinator at Holy Cross and co-teaches a class that demonstrates the "ins and outs of Web design." The class includes Web authoring and design principles. Using his technological expertise, he has created a Web site as a primary fund-raising tool for the triathlon. The site will feature all the businesses that have sponsored Garand, as well as additional information regarding the triathlon. Viewers will be informed of his fund-raising and training efforts as they occur.

His students have caught Garand's fever and have volunteered many hours to work on the site, often staying late into the night. "This is a great opportunity for them to get their names on the Web site. Many of these students are fourth-year and this experience could very well lead to jobs for them." Garand expects to achieve upwards of 10,000 hits per week once the site is fully functional. 

As soon as Garand has completed the Florida ironman competition, he plans to initiate a triathlon club at the College. "This club would be in on the ground floor when triathlons become an NCAA sport," he said. He senses an affinity for health and fitness at the school and has mentioned his thoughts to some of the students. Response has been tremendous. "Already 20 students are interested in joining," he said. "The students would not compete during the school year. They would concentrate on sprint distances instead," he explained. 

What began as a personal physical challenge for one man has grown into a community-wide philanthropic project. Garand's motivation has increased with each donation he has received. Personal accomplishment is no longer the main focus. Naturally he is anxious to fare well in the contest- "I will be happy if I can finish in less than 12 hours"-but he is more concerned with helping local charities continue research into areas that will eventually help all of mankind. 



Tom Bestpitch ’00
Tom Bestpitch '00

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