Baseball to Bedside: Nurse Pursues Calling After Catching
Playing professional baseball was a lifelong dream. Working in the medical field is his life’s calling. Today his resume boasts both.
No, this isn’t Field of Dreams. We’re not talking about Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, the outfielder and doctor from the early 1900s. This is the story of Tony Maccani, a Cincinnati native and former pro ballplayer who is now a nurse at Cincinnati Children’s.
Tony played professional baseball as a catcher in the New York Mets organization over four seasons. When injury forced him into early retirement in May 2010 at the age of 25, Tony’s second career in medicine was waiting for him. He credits his parents for preparing him with a plan for success.
Like many American boys, Tony dreamed of playing baseball in the Big Leagues. He also realized he wanted to take care of patients at an early age.
He discovered his passion for helping people when he spent time in a hospital during a family member’s stay in the intensive care unit. Tony witnessed how the doctors and nurses worked together, and how their care for his loved one positively impacted his entire family. Tony was instantly hooked on nursing.
During his teenage years, Tony excelled on and off the field as a student-athlete at Moeller High School. He loved baseball and enjoyed math and science, so he worked hard to be able to pursue both in college.
Tony graduated high school in 2003 and signed to play baseball at the University of Akron, where he was admitted to the College of Nursing as a freshman. After a year he transferred to Furman University for baseball reasons and studied health and exercise science. Because Furman didn’t offer nursing, Tony’s plan was to get his bachelor’s degree then go back to school for his BSN.
Plans changed when Tony got the call of a lifetime. The Mets signed him as an undrafted free agent. Nursing school could wait, he thought. His hard work paid off and his dream came true.
Tony and Moonlight Graham (or “Doc” as he was known) lived the dream of playing professional baseball more than 100 years apart, but their careers had a couple things in common: both played for New York teams and both have one peculiarly singular pro baseball experience.
Moonlight played one inning of one MLB game but was left waiting on deck just before his turn at bat.
Injuries kept Tony from digging in to an MLB batter’s box, but he did once pitch in one inning of a minor league game. He struck out one batter. The rest, Tony would tell you, is history.
After his playing days ended, Tony picked back up where he left off with school. He earned his nursing degree from Mount St. Joseph University and found his niche at Cincinnati Children’s after a clinical rotation here. He loves pediatrics because of the collaboration of care. He enjoys being a Specialty Resource Unit nurse because his job takes him to different areas of the medical center every day depending on each floor’s needs.
Tony traded in his baseball uniform for scrubs, a stethoscope, a different type of mask and rubber gloves.
As for the skills, he says many of them are transferrable: communication, teamwork, and an ability to take control when situations get tense. The physical skills don’t carry over much, he admits, but he does credit his days behind the plate for instilling mental toughness – one of the most important qualities a nurse can have.
When he’s not working, Tony stays involved with the game he loves by serving as an assistant varsity baseball coach at his high school alma mater. When his players discuss their dreams of playing pro baseball, Tony never tells them, “No, you can’t,” because he knows that sometimes with talent and a lot of hard work, things can and do come together. But he also tries to be realistic. Tony encourages his players to put a plan in place for their life after sports, and to be passionate about that plan in addition to baseball.
Tony also tries to teach his players that they don’t have to conform to social norms or the pressures of stigma. It’s something he feels is especially important for young men to realize if they want to truly follow their dreams. Because it’s OK, he tells the guys, if those dreams happen to include nursing or baseball – or both.
Editor’s Note: If you have questions or would like more information about careers in pediatric nursing at Cincinnati Children’s, visit www.cincinnatichildrens.org/careers/ped-nursing/contact/.