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by Andrew Garda

garda@montclairlocal.news

For senior Mahki Booker, it’s going to be hard to leave the Montclair High School Mounties baseball team. Not because he isn’t excited to get to Post University to play collegiate baseball — the next step toward fulfilling his goal to play at the professional level.

It’s because he feels a little like he’s leaving his family behind.

When Booker talks about the Mounties, he refers to his teammates as his brothers and mentions how they are there for one another both on and off the field.

So it’s a little bittersweet to move on.

Well, maybe more than bittersweet.

“It sucks [to leave]. Because you’ll miss Montclair baseball, it’s your last time in high school. So it’s kind of heartbreaking but you gotta get through it. You fight for your brothers, your brothers fight for you. And the coaching in Montclair is great. I’m going miss it, honestly.”

Mountie coach Ron Gavazzi says he’s proud of the way Booker has pitched this season. It hasn’t always been easy, but he’s peaked at the right time and never stopped working hard. The result is a game like the recent 6-1 win over Livingston in the Greater Newark Tournament, when Booker dominated the Lancers, allowing just one run on five hits.

Booker says he couldn’t have done it without the support of his team and the momentum they have comes from supporting each other.

“Everyone is happy. This team is bonding, coming together and coming together good.”

Booker gave a us a few minutes after the victory over Livingston last week:

When did baseball click for you?

Throughout high school, just practicing, getting better. Working with other coaches. It was clicking — I wanted to get to the next level and really try to get to the big leagues.

What are your summer plans?

I’m going to work and try to get stronger, faster — everything that college wants I’m going to try and give them.

What’s your favorite subject?

I like math.

Do you have any favorite TV shows?

Not really. It’s all baseball.

Who is your favorite baseball team?

Yankees.

Who is your favorite player?

Derek Jeter. He’s my role model, yeah.

What four other people would you invite to dinner?

Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Jose Reyes and Aroldis Chapman.

Who inspires you?

My mom, because she’s always pushed me to get better. Do more. Just keep on working.

What is your greatest sports moment (so far)?

When I was down in Florida for club baseball and was pitching in front of a lot of scouts and so many people were there. I threw a two-hitter, so that was the biggest game.

Do you have a pre-pitching ritual?

Once I get on the bus, I start listening to [military] music. Because we’re going to fight as a team, as brothers. I just try to zone in and try to prepare myself to go to war and for the team.

Is there a difference in preparing for pitching versus preparing just to field?

“It’s a little different with pitching. Not everything is on you, but everyone is watching the pitching. So it’s like you have to be in the right state of mind to get through everything, and fight through the adversity.”

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