Courtesy of Brian Haymen, of the Journal News (Appeared in July 6th, 2008 edition)

When Peter Gilardo was growing up, Yankees baseball was always the must-see TV show at home. The day they clinched the AL East in 1996, Gilardo was a happy 10-year-old face in the Yankee Stadium crowd.

And what could have been better than Aaron Boone sending up the homer in Game 7 to beat the Red Sox in 2003?

The Gilardo family's place in Cornwall is wall-to-wall Yankees country. So here was Peter last year, with four seasons behind him as the strong-armed catcher for Dominican College, waiting for his name to be called on the second and final day of the 50-round draft. And it finally happened in the 45th round.

And of all the teams to take a die-hard Yankees fan, wouldn't you know it had to be Boston?

"At first when I told my dad, he was like, 'What?' " Gilardo said. "He was kind of surprised."

But while Gilardo was admittedly a little disappointed with how long it took, he got what he wanted, his ticket into some team's system. So ultimately the Sox were just fine with him and his dad, Paul.

"The Red Sox have a great organization," Peter said. "They really know how to develop players. So we were both pretty happy about it.

"If you're a Yankee fan, you can't like Boston. But now I'm a Red Sox fan."

Now the organization has to figure out where the future lies for his right arm - behind the plate or on the mound.

These days, the 22-year-old Cornwall High alum is in his second season with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla.

"They've been toying with the idea that I might also pitch," Gilardo said. "I haven't pitched yet, but I've been catching and I'm kind of in the back end of the bullpen if they need me. I'm kind of up for anything."

There have been questions about whether the 6-foot, 207-pound righty batter will hit enough in the pros. He batted .316 with four homers and 20 RBI in 35 games as a senior at his Division II school, then .255 with a homer and three RBI in 20 games with his GCL team last summer, although he was at .393 over his final nine games.

Gilardo was at .300 - 3 for 10 - over his five games through Thursday for the short-season rookie-ball team. He says the issue of pitching or catching could be resolved after the season.

"It depends right now if my swing keeps coming around - it's gotten a lot better - and I continue to hit," Gilardo said. "They like how I am defensively behind the plate."

After becoming an all-Section 9 pick his junior and senior years at Cornwall, he landed with Rick Giannetti at Dominican. The Chargers' coach has produced more than two dozen pros over his 19 seasons in charge.

"He was a Division I catcher," Giannetti said. "Unfortunately with grades and he didn't swing the bat that well for the next level, we got him. We were very happy to get him."

And he didn't disappoint them. Gilardo served as a captain for his last three years, gained second-team All-Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference recognition all four and helped Dominican win two CACC titles - taking tournament MVP as a sophomore - and reach one NCAA regional.

"He stepped onto our campus Day One of his freshman year and he played, and no one said a word," Giannetti said. "You just knew he was going to be special defensively.

"For four years, we never worked on pickoff moves with the pitchers because once the opposing team saw us take infield/outfield and saw him throw - his reputation just preceded him. ... He threw people out from his knees."

How about trying that at Fenway Park someday?

"I would love nothing more than just to be a Major League Baseball player and have that be my lifestyle and do that for a living," Gilardo said, "because there's nothing better than playing baseball and you're playing the game for a living."

Even for the Red Sox.