When Joe Enea, a member of the Manhasset High School Class of 2015, told his mother Renee Enea that he wanted to be a pro-athlete when he grew up, she told her then eight-year-old son that she did not think it was possible.
“I said, ‘no you’re not Joe,’” Renee recalled. “It’s not real. It’s a big world, out there.”
But low and behold, Enea is currently playing professional baseball with the Prague Eagles, also known as the Praha Eagles, in the Czech Republic. Enea also has a try-out for a basketball team called CSK Praha in August.
“Honestly, it’s been really amazing,” Enea said. “I really love traveling and obviously I love playing baseball; so it’s the best of both worlds situation for me. I get to live for free, get a little bit of money and get to travel the world.”
Enea has been playing baseball since he was about four-years-old, joining the Long Island Astros travel team in seventh grade and later the Manhasset High School Varsity boy’s baseball team. He was the captain during his junior and senior year.
“Athletics are important in the Manhasset community and being in a town like that made me want to be a better athlete and work harder,” Enea said. “Being a young kid in Manhasset and learning about sports, team work, respect for the game, respect for other people; it really shaped who I am today, being an athlete.”
But his bid to be a dual-athlete by trying out for the Manhasset Secondary School boy’s basketball team in his first try proved to be unsuccessful.
“[It affected him] badly,” Renee said. “He played with St. Mary’s…and out of all the kids that made the team for middle school, Joe was the only person that did not.”
Enea would continue playing basketball with St. Mary’s “A-Team” as the only child who did not make the cut “with a smile on his face,” Renee said.
“I said to him, ‘you know, Joe, you can’t just think you’re going to make a team, it doesn’t work like that. You have to work harder and be better and be stronger,’” Renee said. “And that’s what he did. He practiced.”
Renee recalls Enea’s coach in eighth grade telling him that he’s never seen someone work so hard. And for that, Enea made the cut.
“He was a late developer who has continued to improve,” Enea’s former basketball coach George Bruns said. “He was a one man wrecking crew. He helped us so much and he improved even from his junior to senior year in basketball and I’ve heard he’s even much, much better now.”
Enea said his family, including his 21-year-old brother Jake, has been very supportive throughout his athletic career. “I couldn’t have a better support system.”
From basketball hoops to baseball bats, it was a successful athletic journey throughout his high school career.
“He is one that absolutely flourished as he got older,” Enea’s former baseball and basketball coach Mark Giarduno said. “He was not always the biggest, fastest and strongest kid when he was younger, but he really learned how to do fundamentals of every position on the field; whether it be baseball or basketball, at a young age. And then as he grew into himself, he became one of the biggest, fastest and strongest kids. When that happened, he flourished into the best athlete in the school.”
In 11th grade, fellow parents began telling Renee that he could likely play ball in college.
“I didn’t believe it because we live in a small town,” Renee said. “That’s when I decided to put him out there and see if this was for real that he could really play in college.”
Before they knew it, the Enea family was deciding between two colleges; Kenyon College in Ohio or McGill University in Canada. Enea went with McGill, winning Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association championship with his team there.
After bouncing around different schools and teams throughout the United States, and graduating from Maryland’s Towson University in 2019, Enea ended up in Prague. He’s been living there for almost a month.
As far as keeping up with his family, Enea stays in touch every day, sending photos to his family of the field he will be playing on before games.
“If you can tell, I’m a big dreamer,” Enea said. “I still have more to give the game, whether it’s baseball or basketball. So, hopefully I can keep playing. I’m also planning to go to law school [at Hofstra University,] if basketball doesn’t work out and play European baseball while I’m still in law school during the summers.”
With a law degree, Enea would like to become a sports manager.
It’s stories of alums like Enea’s that continue to inspire current Manhasset School District athletes, both Bruns and Giarduno agreed. And his story is also one that makes his family very proud, Renee said.