Crucian making a difference in NFL


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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Just like every young athlete in the Virgin Islands, Peter John-Baptiste dreamed of making it to the big leagues and becoming a professional athlete.

But it was during a youth game that the St. Croix native opened his eyes to other options out there in the professional sports world.

“I remember playing Little League baseball one year and there was an announcer calling the games and he had a big Crucian accent,” John-Baptiste said two weeks ago. “You know, he was calling balls and strikes and keeping the fans entertained. That’s when it hit me — that made me think that there’s much more to sports that just playing sports.”

John-Baptiste, 36, has personified that vision since leaving St. Croix for college.

He is now the director of public and media relations for the NFL’s New York Giants and has worked with the organization since graduating from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1997.

“I don’t even look at this like a job,” John-Baptiste said from inside his office at the New Meadowlands Stadium practice facility. “Sports is a lifestyle for me. I enjoy coming to work every day because I love sports and I love what I do.”

Even if he couldn’t play for a professional football or basketball team, John-Baptiste made up his mind at a fairly young age that he still wanted to be around professional sports.

He always had the passion. That was a given. It wasn’t until he attended a college fair during his junior year at Good Hope School that he could put a name on it.

“That’s when I found out about sports management,” said John-Baptiste, who played against NBA superstar and St. Croix native Tim Duncan for three years while in high school. “So I applied to all these schools that had sports management programs and I found out UMass had one of the top programs in the country. My mother is from Massachusetts so that kind of worked out well.”

John-Baptiste didn’t get in-state tuition at UMass but he did receive a first-rate education that just magnified his vision.

During his senior year in college, John-Baptiste earned an internship with the Boston Celtics. After graduating in 1997, the job market was very tight so instead of full-time employment, he opted for another internship — this time with the Giants.

Fast forward 13 years and he’s still there.

“This place is an unbelievable place to work,” said John-Baptiste, who has held his current position since 2003. “From the ownership, all the way down.”

John-Baptiste personally handles the day-to-day operations of the team while assisting various media outlets in their coverage of the Giants. Some of his many duties include editing press releases, arranging interviews, overseeing press conferences and updating the team’s meticulous information guide.

He travels with the team to every game, has a presence during most practices and even accompanied the team during its Super Bowl run in 2007 when the Giants upset the heavily favored New England Patriots, 17-14.

“Clearly, the proudest moment in my career,” John-Baptiste said.

John-Baptiste met his wife, Mashawn, while in high school on St. Croix and they have two sons, Miles, 6, and Mason, 5. His mother, Frances, still lives on St. Croix along with his younger sister, Michelle Williams, who is married and also has a family. John-Baptiste’s older sister, Dominique Henemann, is married and lives in Boca Raton, Fla.

“One of the reasons why I have been successful in this market is because of where I came from,” said John-Baptiste, who tries to get back to St. Croix at least once a year but a grueling NFL schedule keeps him busy during the holidays.

“Everyone here says I’m an island man and I have a laid-back attitude. But being in this competitive media market and being with this team can be tough. There may be outside distractions or a locker room in disarray, but it’s up to me to keep everything on an even keel.”

One of the team’s college scouts has a sister who lives on St. Croix. Last year, when he was looking into Linval Joseph, a Crucian at East Carolina University, he knew who to call.

“He called me first because he knew I would be excited,” John-Baptiste said.

The Giants went on to select Joseph in the second round of the NFL Draft in April. The defensive tackle has a large St. Croix tattoo across his upper back and was happy to see a fellow islander within the organization.

“I didn’t know that until about a month ago,” Joseph said last week. “It’s crazy. It’s also good to have family everywhere you go.”

A quick adjustment both Crucians had to make very fast was to the strict time schedule Giants coach Tom Coughlin is known for. If a player or coach is not at a meeting 10 minutes before it is scheduled to start, they are considered late.

“Yeah, it’s just a little different than island time,” John-Baptiste said, jokily.

John-Baptiste and Joseph said they are both looking forward to coming back to their home island and making a difference in the near future. But for now, it’s all about taking care of business on and off the professional sports field.

“I always tell kids that I used my mind to make it to the NFL,” John-Baptiste said. “If you grew up playing sports and you want sports to be a part of your life, there’s a way to do that and make money doing it without being a professional athlete.”

— Contact sports reporter Aaron Gray at 774-8772 ext. 352 or e-mail agray@dailynews.vi.

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