Billerica High’s Robby Gambale: Every team he’s played on has made the tournament.SUN/BOB WHITAKERSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting
Billerica High's Robby Gambale: Every team he's played on has made the tournament. SUN/BOB WHITAKER

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

TEWKSBURY -- By the time he was 10 years old, Billerica senior Robby Gambale was -- to borrow a phrase from anchorman Ron Burgundy -- "kind of a big deal."

In the summer of the 2006, Gambale was the national champion in his age division (9-10) in the Pepsi Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run contest. He won the title during MLB All-Star Game festivities at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. That was after he won his regional championship at Fenway Park.

One year earlier, at age nine, Gambale reached the nationals in the Elks Hoop Shoot basketball free-throw contest in Springfield at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Gambale took all of that early athletic success in stride. While many kids would have flaunted those accomplishments, he didn't. For Gambale, it was all just fuel to keep getting better on the diamond.

"Going to the All-Star Game and seeing all the people there -- I got to meet Derek Jeter and (Billerica's own) Tom Glavine -- made me really love the game and get a new sense of joy and motivation to play at a high level," said Gambale, after he doubled twice during a 6-2 win at Tewksbury on Thursday. "I just love the game of baseball, I watch it all of the time. My parents yell at me because I always keep MLB Network on."

The speedy and dynamic Gambale now bats leadoff, plays shortstop and pitches for Billerica High. A Jeter-Glavine hybrid, if you will.


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He has already committed to play baseball next year at Division 2 Assumption College.

Also a Sun second-team All-Star in basketball, Gambale has developed into one of the most important players on one of the top baseball teams in the area. He batted third last year and hit .343 for the Indians, who advanced all the way to the Division 1 state semifinals. Not since Glavine donned a Billerica uniform 30 years ago had the program enjoyed a season like that.

Billerica's seventh-year head coach Joe Higgins also works as the town's Recreation Director. On his travels, it's very common for Higgins to see Gambale at a baseball field working on his game with his father, Bob.

"Robby works so hard at not just baseball, but basketball too," said Higgins, whose team is 2-1 entering Saturday's game against Malden Catholic. "He's a gym rat, continuously trying to get better, to the point that maybe he's going too hard. He is a very coachable kid and the hardest-working kid I've ever coached. Just a great overall player and person."

Here's another way to describe Gambale: big-time winner. Every varsity team that he has played on at Billerica has qualified for the state tournament.

"He's a total team player," said Bob Gambale. "He just wants to do anything to help the team."

Gambale has two older sisters, Mary (25) and Melissa (23). Mary is a former WTA-ranked tennis player who once qualified for the U.S. Open. She is now a tennis teaching pro in Weston.

As a youngster, Gambale would go to the tennis court with his father and sister. Bob and Mary would volley back and forth and when Mary smashed one down the line, as she often did, Robby would catch it in his baseball glove.

He capitalizes on any opportunity to practice.

"Any chance I get," said Gambale.

Last year, Gambale played the entire season at second base and made no errors in 40 chances. He also threw three scoreless innings of relief to earn the save in the North final against St. John's Prep.

"He has speed, that's why he's leading off. He has a good eye and works the count," said Higgins. "Besides being a vacuum cleaner and a good pitcher with good control, he hits. He is just an all-around baseball player, period. He could be a No. 3 hitter in any lineup. We want him to get as many at-bats as he can, so we lead him off."

The season is early, but Billerica is more than capable of making another deep state tourney run. Senior Chris Murphy is committed to Maine, junior Kyle Murphy is committed to Northeastern and senior third baseman Eric Eknaian is a talent that should play at the next level. 

With Gambale setting the table, the potent roster has big plans.

"We're hoping to first win the Merrimack Valley Conference," said Gambale. "Hopefully we can get back to where we were last year, and take it a step further."

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