Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

New York’s Bravest

First in a four-part series about athletes overcoming adversity

For Georgetown baseball infielder Joseph Graziano III (COL ’07), family ties come first in life.

Graziano’s father Joseph Graziano, Jr., was a New York City firefighter when his fire company got the call on Sept. 11, 2001, to rescue victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.

Graziano’s father was carrying a paraplegic man towards the exit of Tower One when his fire company was told to evacuate the building. He just made it outside when Tower One collapsed, killing many of his colleagues and causing serious injury to himself.

Graziano, who was a high school senior at the time, recalled the aftermath of that tragic day.

“All nine guys in his firehouse died. I went to funerals for three straight weeks,” he said.

Graziano personally knew each of his father’s colleagues. Living in New York, he had played baseball with them, getting game pointers and forming friendships with men whom he can never forget.

“I grew up watching the guys at the firehouse play baseball, so it is where I learned how to play the game. I idolized those guys,” Graziano said. “I considered the men of my dad’s firehouse not people that my dad worked with but my uncles. They were family.”

In the chaotic hours after the attacks, entire families were separated and Graziano desperately waited to learn whether his father had been hurt. He did not learn of his father’s condition until early the next morning. Both his father and the rescued paraplegic man survived, but Graziano’s father sustained severe neck and back injuries. He lost 60 percent of his former physical capacity and could no longer serve as a firefighter with the New York Fire Department.

But although NYFD Engine Co. 22/Ladder Co. 13 lost nine of its own that morning, Graziano has never been more grateful for his father’s seemingly miraculous survival.

“[I am] the luckiest guy in the world,” he said. “My dad’s alive. . I’m blessed beyond belief.”

Wanting to concentrate on baseball and to distance himself from the events of Sept. 11, Graziano attended Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina as a freshman. But once he started training, life took another unforeseen turn.

Graziano dislocated his right shoulder early in the season but continued playing. But in the last game of the season he tore his rotator cuff and cartilage in his shoulder, requiring a year and a half of rehabilitation and surgery.

His impaired physical condition and his close relationship with his father convinced Graziano to come to Georgetown so he could be closer to his family.

“After my freshman year, I needed to transfer,” he said. “I wanted to be closer to my dad, who doesn’t miss a single game.”

In his first game at Georgetown, Graziano injured his left shoulder and missed the entire fall season. After an off-season of more rehabilitation and training, Graziano was finally able to play as a Hoya for the spring of 2004.

Graziano’s father has attended every regular season baseball game at Georgetown, a testament to his love of the game – and love of his son.

Despite suffering injuries in back-to-back seasons, Graziano remains optimistic. He says that nothing is more precious than having his father. And he remembers the terror of 9/11 and knows how lucky he and his family truly are.

“I did not consider [these injuries] as personal adversity. I have setbacks, but I feel I have so much more to accomplish . with Sept. 11, I’m extremely blessed,” Graziano said. “Mentally it’s been hard, but I never once considered myself as overcoming anything.”

Graziano reflected on his future, hoping to play baseball after college and looking forward to the years ahead.

“[I’ve learned] to never give up on yourself. All the hard work is worth it in the end,” he said. “It’s important to stay mentally motivated, mentally concentrated . especially when things get rough.”

As for his outlook on the upcoming baseball season, Graziano is confident in his team’s performance as a rising contender in the Big East.

“There’s so much more I want to achieve as a team. We’ve been in the bottom in the Big East, but last year we made great strides,” he said. “I feel like the team is improving. I will do anything possible to help our team win games, whatever it takes to do that.”

And his father should be there to help him, as he has done after almost every baseball game Graziano has played since he was four.

“My dad’s always going through a laundry list of things I did wrong [in a game], always teaching me what I did wrong. Now I look so forward to talking to him after the games. I feel like I’m so fortunate that I still have my dad to watch and learn from every day.”

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