MILLBURN, NJ - Millburn’s own rising Junior and Varsity baseball catcher, Peter Serruto has verbally declared for Rutgers University, guaranteeing him a full academic scholarship and a spot on the baseball team.
Serruto was swimming in uncharted waters for most recruits. Since he was recruited so early in his high school career, the NCAA rule that prohibits coaches from reaching out to lowerclassmen came into effect. As a result, Serruto was recruiting himself in a way, by reaching out to coaches, and taking initiative to determine his future as an athlete after high school.
Serruto quickly developed relationships with Rutgers head coach Joe Litterio, catching coach Tim Reilly, and pitching coach Casey Gaynor.
Serruto was also guided in his decision with the help of Milo Freeman. Freeman, a rising Junior for the Rutgers baseball squad, is a Millburn native and former Miller. Freeman and Serruto toured the campus together while Freeman convinced Serruto of the excellence of the university and the team.
Of course, Serruto did not catapult himself to the D1 stage alone. Serruto was influenced mentally and physically by Millburn baseball coaches Chris and Dave Drechsel, and Brian Chapman. Rutgers assistant coach Lou Clemente also influenced his decision.
Serruto was also drawn to New Jersey.
“I have lived here my whole life. I want to represent my state. It is close enough so that my parents can come and see every game and see me play” said Serruto.
Rutgers recently joined the BIG Conference in 2014, one of five power conferences in the NCAA. Power Conferences tend to have strong academics and the most competitive athletics in the country. Serruto saw Rutgers as a rare and golden opportunity to compete at such a high level.
“It is a game changer. The competition is incredible. You are playing teams like Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Indiana who was in the College World Series in 2013…. It is going to be a great experience catching and hitting BIG pitchers. They have a lot more velocity to their fastball, and a lot more break to their breaking balls. Better competition motivates me to work harder.”
Despite the perks to Rutgers which factored into Serruto’s decision, the Scarlet Knight athletic department has been under fire with recent NCAA violations and scandals. Former Rutgers head basketball coach, Mike Rice was fired in 2013 for physically and emotionally abusing his players. As a result of his lenient discipline towards Rice, Tim Pernetti (then Rutgers’ Athletic Director) was forced to resign. In 2015, Rutgers’ football coach, Kyle Flood was suspended for asking a teacher to change a player’s grade as well.
Luckily for Serruto, the baseball team was unaffected by these blemishes on the athletic department and the university.
Serruto sees Rutgers as a university on the rise both academically and athletically. Rutgers’ new Athletic Director Patrick Hobbs has begun to rebuild the sports program by carrying out the construction of a new baseball and softball practice facility.
The good news for the Millburn Football Millers is that they will be able to keep Serruto on the roster. Serruto, Millburn’s Quarterback was forced to drop wrestling before the start of his sophomore season. However, Rutgers encourages Serruto to continue his football career because it allows him to stay competitive during the fall, use other muscles that are not exercised as much in baseball, and most of all lead a team.
“Wrestling is different. It involves cutting weight and gaining weight. Plus, it is right before baseball. They (Rutgers) are excited by the fact that I play another sport. They also like the fact that I play Quarterback.”
Serruto with his declaration to play college baseball is living out his lifelong dream.
“Growing up as a kid, it's been my goal to be a college baseball player. It is just an unbelievable
feeling. I am so grateful for all of the people surrounding me and all the people supporting me. My family, my friends, my coaches, have all put me in the right direction.”