Boston College senior pitcher Kyle Prohovich has been well-schooled in baseball, and with life lessons, from his grandfather and father, Hall of Famers, respectively, at Holy Cross and Stonehill College.
His grandfather, Donald F. Prohovich, the former coach and athletic director at Waltham High, was an All-American infielder at Holy Cross and a starter on the Crusaders’ 1954 NIT basketball championship squad.
His father, Donald P. Prohovich, starred at Bridgewater-Raynham Regional and was a second baseman at Stonehill. An Academic All-American, he batted .416 his junior season and was the program’s only all-New England selection in 1980, his senior year.
“They’re both great teachers of what hard work can accomplish and a big reason I’m the player I am today,’’ said Prohovich, a sturdy 6-foot-4, 238-pound righthander from Weston who prepped at Roxbury Latin.
BC coach Mike Gambino calls on Prohovich in relief in the most pivotal moment of the game.
“Just spend two minutes with Kyle and you realize how special he is because of his confidence, leadership, and how much he cares for his teammates and our program,’’ said Gambino of the Eagles’ cocaptain, who in a team-high 14 appearances covering 16.1 innings has held opposing hitters to a .214 average with 16 strikeouts and a 3.86 earned run average.
Last Tuesday, he preserved an 8-5 BC win over visiting UConn by pitching a scoreless ninth inning to pick up his second save of the season.
“Kyle has that big frame and a real good angle on his fastball, which goes downhill and is tough to hit. He also has a really good cutter and changeup - that’s three above-average college pitches,’’ added Gambino.
“His grandfather and father come to a lot of our games and it’s awesome to see all of them together. I can see how Kyle inherited their traits. It didn’t happen by accident.’’
As a sign of his respect for Prohovich, Gambino presented him with uniform No. 8 this season in honor of the late Eagles captain Peter “Sonny’’ Nictakis, who died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma 12 years ago.
“You can’t do anything statistically to earn it,’’ said the second-year coach, a former All-Big East infielder for the Eagles. “It’s all about the qualities and character of the individual.’’
Prohovich exhibited that character by bouncing back from a shoulder injury and a 2009 redshirt season to emerge as BC’s go-to pitcher out of the bullpen last season.
Making 24 appearances, he posted three wins and a 3.46 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 39 innings after pitching coach Scott Friedholm encouraged him to throw more over the top.
“After that,’’ said Prohovich, “everything started to click.
“It was a good feeling because of the adversity I had earlier in my college career,’’ he said. “I’m more than proud to be a captain and to wear Sonny’s number. That is such a high honor, and I think being chosen stems from how I was brought up by my grandfather and father.’’
The elder Prohovich, also a member of the athletic hall of fame at Ware High, teamed up with Tommy Heinsohn on the court at Holy Cross. (Kyle always enjoyed the banter between his grandfather and Heinsohn at Celtics games over the years.)
Don Prohovich handcuffed Duquesne star Sihugo Green in the 1954 NIT final, but there was more glory to come on the baseball diamond. After playing in two NCAA baseball tournaments at Holy Cross, he signed with the Chicago White Sox.
“I figured I’d make the team because my competition at short was a skinny little guy whose feet didn’t reach the ground when he sat on the bench,’’ said Prohovich, who coached freshman baseball and varsity basketball for 10 seasons at Waltham High and retired in 1993 after 20 more years as athletic director. He had resided in Bridgewater since the early ‘70s.
“Well, it was Luis Aparicio, who’s now in the Hall of Fame, and I was sent down,’’ said Prohovich.
“But I have no regrets and it’s been fun to share with my son and with Kyle and Ryan the importance of confidence, enthusiasm, and love for the game.’’ He played six years in the high minor leagues and later managed the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod League.
These days, he faithfully follows another grandson, Ryan Murray, a sophomore pitcher at Thayer Academy in Braintree.
Kyle said he’s always answering the question, “Are you related to. . .?’’ in reference to his grandfather, whose greatest high school basketball coaching win was Waltham’s upset in the old Tech Tournament over defending champion Durfee at the Garden.
Kyle’s dad, who has a dental practice in Easton, said he has tried to be the same mentor to his son as his father was to him.
“He would pitch to me when I was in Little League and Babe Ruth and he was such a big influence,’’ said Prohovich, whose teammates at Bridgewater-Raynham included Rich Dube, the pitching coach of the Philadelphia Phillies. Billy Jo Robidoux, who played in the majors with the Brewers and Red Sox, is a cousin.
“The way Kyle battled back from his shoulder injury is a testament to him,’’ said his father. “But we are most proud of him because he’s a good and caring young man.’’