Having a child on the verge of achieving his big-league baseball dreams has to be an absolute thrill for parents. For Rich and Lianne Palacios of Park Slope, that thrill has been doubled.
Both of the couple’s sons — Josh and Richie — are playing professional baseball. Josh plays in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, while Richie is working his way through the Cleveland Indians minor league system. These Brooklyn boys played competitive youth baseball in the renowned Parade Grounds League, yet it was their time playing Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball at St. Thomas Aquinas, Flatlands, that truly prepared them for a pro sports career.
Josh, 25, attended grammar school at Our Lady of Angels, Bay Ridge, before moving on to the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology, Bay Ridge. Richie, 23, enrolled in the Xaverian Genesis program, Bay Ridge, and moved on to Berkeley Carroll School, Park Slope.
“They were both from a young age very dedicated and very serious about sports,” said their CYO basketball coach Guy DeFonzo, also the parish athletic representative at St. Thomas Aquinas. “They made sure they were always on time, and they listened to instructions. They were always focused on whatever we were doing.”
Baseball talent runs in the Palacios family. The brothers’ uncle, Rey, spent parts of three seasons as a catcher and infielder for the Kansas City Royals. As a junior, Josh guided his high school team to the Public Schools Athletic League ‘A’ championship in 2013. That same year, he was named NYC High School Player of the Year by the Daily News and the MVP of the Mayor’s Cup Game.
The following year, the Cincinnati Reds selected Josh in the 31st round of the MLB draft, but he instead chose to attend college. Josh played two years at San Jacinto Junior College, Houston, and then one season at Auburn University, Alabama. He was then chosen in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Blue Jays. He was added to the team’s 40-man roster late last year and compiled a batting average close to .400 in Spring Training.
Richie played three years at Towson University, Maryland. The Indians took him in the third round of the 2018 MLB draft. That year, he hit an impressive .361 in 45 games across three minor league levels. He even played in a few Spring Training games in March.
Josh and Richie’s father, Rich, looks to his sons’ time at St. Thomas Aquinas as truly formative years that helped the boys develop the discipline to have success at the next level.
“Guy was an amazing coach and an amazing individual,” said Rich, who grew up in Visitation parish, Red Hook. “Guy brought that competitiveness to their basketball game, which they were able to use in baseball as well. He brought structure and punctuality – requirements that were very helpful in building the character needed to get to a professional level.”
In taking a step back, Rich realizes that having both his sons playing professional baseball is a gift from God.
“To have two kids able to play at the level they’re playing, it’s just incredibly humbling,” Rich said. “I truly believe they’re going to reach their destiny.
“God gives us all a purpose, and He gives us all gifts and talents. It’s up to us to develop them. In developing them is where He creates opportunities.”
Though not divisional rivals, the Blue Jays and Indians do both play in the American League, meaning they face off against each other a minimum of six times during the regular season each year. Rich has been asked who he would root for if his sons’ teams played one another.
“I’ll root for both teams,” he said. “The blessing is that both of them are in the Major Leagues playing against each other. The bigger blessing is that neither one of them are pitchers, so they won’t be facing each other physically where I’d really be restricted for who I’m rooting for!”
The Palacios brothers’ Major League showdown may still be a few seasons away. Yet if that happens, the entire St. Thomas Aquinas sports community will be rallying around these two former CYO standouts.
“It would be pandemonium!” Rich said. “It would be a testament to the grace of God to see such an event play out where they would be facing each other at the Major League level.”
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.