When choosing the Spartan Standouts, the first place to usually look is at the top of a stat sheet. It’s so easy to choose the person who scored nine goals in a game, or the one who saved every shot to earn the shutout. The real standouts of Castleton athletics often get overlooked because they come up with the big plays that don’t show up on stat sheets or in game stories.Michael Baldino, also known on campus as Spikey Mike, is a perfect example of a true Spartan Standout. Baldino has been playing for the Castleton rugby team since his sophomore year at the college. Through hard work, dedication and commitment to his teammates, he was named one of this year’s team captains. Baldino said his main focus was to prepare his teammates for the jump they were taking into a division three schedule.
During pre-season, the Castleton rugby team was helping the Rutland men’s team prepare for its season opener. Baldino was running down the field when one of the Rutland players, John, shoelace tackled him from behind. The tackle was clean; Baldino’s fall to the ground was anything but. A teammate heard a pop when Spikey Mike made contact with the field. John’s tackle was an attempt to avoid injuring Baldino, but it did just the opposite.
There were no hard feelings on Spikey’s end, though, as he and John texted each other later that night. John texted Baldino, “I’m sorry. If you need help wiping your nose give me a call. We’ll meet for lunch or something.”
The text made Baldino smile because it was rugby humor. It also helped him focus his energy on helping the team continue to prepare for its schedule ahead. Although he is no longer running and hitting, Spikey Mike has taken an advisory role to his teammates. He spends time during practice correcting players on their miscues and explaining certain facets of the game to others. This newfound role has the coach able to keep practice moving while Baldino works with the little things.
Baldino was apart of two consecutive undefeated seasons, and refuses to lose that warrior mentality. He said he can still help this team whether he’s on the field or in a sling.
“As soon as I stepped out of the hospital I’ve started to recover. Once I’m better, I’m getting back out on that field, no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it,” he said. “I hit the ground. I did this to myself, and no one else did this to me. I won’t have any fear coming back, I just need to protect myself from.myself.