SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ — In Union Catholic’s latest installment of Feature Friday, the spotlight shined on Union Catholic senior CJ Tomalavage.
Tomalavage, who lives in Edison, is a Student Ambassador, an Honor Roll student, and a very good bowler and baseball player at Union Catholic.
You do such a great job representing UC as a Student Ambassador? What is the best thing about being an Ambassador?
Being able to represent UC when I was chosen to go to other schools with Mr. Luciano to speak to eighth graders about how wonderful it is to attend Union Catholic.
You are such a well-rounded student at UC. Can you list everything you are involved in at UC besides baseball, bowling, and being a Student Ambassador?
I am a participant in the livestream program, a chairman of the Environmental Club and Investing Club, and I also played in the Chess Club a little.
Can you list all the awards/honors you have received at UC? Honor Roll, academic awards etc.
First Honors on the Honor Roll, and a Turn 2 Sports Scholarship recipient.
Can you explain how the balance between academics, sports and extracurricular activities has helped you become a better student, and how important it is to be involved in different things?
The balance between sports and academics are a necessity in high school. Luckily, I have had great role models with my teachers and coaches through the years that have taught me about time management. That is the key to being able to juggle school academics, sports practices and other activities.
Being a bowler and baseball player is a very unique combination. How and when did you get started playing those two sports?
I started playing baseball at the age of five on the town recreation team. I started bowling at UC when I was a freshman.
What got you interested in each sport?
I’ve loved baseball ever since I stepped in the box as a little leaguer. What first got me interested in bowling was when I bowled a 300 game on the Wii. I was excited when I got to UC as a freshman and found out that they had a bowling team, so I tried out and loved it.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a baseball season last spring because of Covid. How challenging was that and how tough was it mentally to deal with?
Not having a baseball season last spring was very disappointing. We had just completed tryouts and the excitement of getting back on the field when everything came to a sudden stop. I never thought when it first happened that the whole season would be canceled. I could only hope that I would get some play during the summer on my travel baseball team.
What type of things did you do to stay sharp for baseball during the spring/summer?
Although delayed, fortunately the Governor lifted the ban on sports and I was able to play with my travel baseball team this summer. While we did not do any out of state showcase tournaments because of restrictions, we were able to play every weekend.
What do you consider your greatest strength as a bowler? What makes you as good as you are?
What makes me as good as I am is my ability to control the speed of the ball, and also my precision, and not cracking under pressure. Those are the main aspects of my game. Also, my ability to focus despite all distractions at the lanes. It is as if I have tunnel vision.
What do you consider your greatest strength as a baseball player?
I feel my greatest strength as a baseball player is being a leader. Since I am the catcher on the team, most times I am called upon to make the calls. I have to give signs to the pitcher on what type of pitch to throw, and direct the players in the field as to what’s happening. What makes me as good as I am is being a team player.
What do you love the most about being a two-sport athlete, and playing/bowing at such a high level for Union Catholic?
What I love most is remaining active and competitive throughout the year, and most of all representing my school teams.
What’s your career high game and career high series in bowling?
My career high game is 269 and high series is 708.
When would you say you had your first huge breakthrough moments when you realized you could be a very good bowler and a baseball player?
My first breakthrough moment for baseball that I can remember was when my travel baseball team went to Cooperstown. I played the best I had ever played. Out of 57 teams, my team came in fourth place. For bowling, it was when I was a freshman, and I was asked by the coach to participate in the Union County Tournament.
What are some of your biggest personal and team goals for the upcoming bowling season?
My team goals would be that we make it to the Union County Tournament and put Union Catholic in the papers. My biggest personal goal would be to get a 300 (perfect) game or 800 series.
What are some of your biggest personal and team goals for the baseball season?
My biggest personal goal for baseball is to make the All-County and All Conference Teams. My team goal is to win Counties and go far into the State Tournament.
What do you love the most about being a student at Union Catholic?
The thing I love most about being a student at Union Catholic is the sense of feeling like you are part of a family.
Why and how did you decide that UC was the place for you to be? What was it about UC that made you want to be a student here?
I decided to go to Union Catholic after the first Open House I attended. I was impressed during the Open House with how much UC had to offer their students, and how friendly and welcoming everyone was.
What kind of advice would you give to younger students who are considering attending UC? Why should they come to UC, and what will UC give them that they won’t be able to find at other schools?
The advice that I would give them is to consider UC because the school has so much to offer. There is something for everyone, academically, sports, and clubs. They should come to UC because they will be part of a Community. The thing that UC can give them that no other school will is the feeling of belonging and being part of one family, and Principal Sister Percylee is like everyone’s mother.
What specifically can you point to as the things that you’ve benefited from the most from your experience as a student at UC?
The exposure from the school, the teachers, and counselors have given me endless opportunities to get my name out so that colleges will begin to see me both academically and athletically.
How about the future, CJ? Have you finalized your college plans? Do you plan to play baseball and/or bowl in college?
Yes, I am actually committed to play baseball at Morris County College.
What would you like to major in, and what type of career would you like to pursue?
I am going to be majoring in engineering. My dream is to become a civil engineer.
What is something about yourself that most people don’t know? Maybe a hidden talent or hobby?
I am a very passionate chef and make some high quality dishes. Another not as useful talent that I have picked up is juggling. I can even juggle basketballs
Favorite thing to do in your spare time?
Go to the gym to work out or go fishing with my father.
Favorite class and teacher at UC?
Biology with Mr. Gresco
Favorite UC Baseball Moment?
When I hit my first varsity baseball home run at Union High School, and it went over the outfield fence and through the goalpost on the football field.
Favorite UC Bowling Moment?
Bowling my career high game of 269 and helping my team narrowly defeating our opponent.
Favorite UC Moment (non-sports)?
Working with Student Ambassadors at events, and making strong bonds with friends.
Favorite UC Event? The 750 Club fundraiser because I love working it and enjoy handing out the prizes to the winners.
Favorite UC Core Value and why? Community because everyone works together as one to ultimately achieve the same goal.
Life Motto? “Don’t get bitter, get better”
One word to describe your UC experience? Memorable
Share one tip for members of the Class of 2024?
Live and enjoy everyday like it is your last, because you can never go back and go to high school again.
Union Catholic (1600 Martine Ave., Scotch Plains) prepares a diverse student body to fulfill their college and career goals by cultivating the students’ achievement of academic standards of excellence within a value-centered environment, strong in its commitment to our core values (respect, responsibility, honesty, compassion, and community), and to the establishment of a community of faith and love in the Catholic tradition. For more information, call (908) 889-1600 or visit www.unioncatholic.org.