By Benito Vila
The Sag Harbor Whalers, last year’s runner-up in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, will make their 2009 home debut in Mashashimuet Park this Sunday at 2 p.m. hosting the Riverhead Tomcats. A second game follows at 5 p.m.
The Whalers came together for practice Tuesday in Southampton, many players meeting each other for the first time after traveling in from colleges all over the country. The team opens play today at Hite Field in Westampton, taking on the Aviators at 5 p.m.
The Whalers are scheduled to play 42 games between now and the end of July, with doubleheaders in the park each of the next eight Sundays. Those interested in tracking their schedule can go to acbl-online.com.
Meet the Team
The 2009 Whalers will be managed by Jason Lefkowitz, an assistant baseball coach at Brown University and a graduate of Loyola Marymount University. A starting infielder and a psychology major as an undergrad, Lefkowitz earned student-athlete academic honors in each year he was at LMU. He is currently working towards his master’s degree and just completed his third season with the Brown program.
Duke assistant coach Jonathan Anderson joins Lefkowitz in the Whaler dugout. Anderson is a former Blue Devil outfielder and pitcher, who has been in charge of the Duke Baseball Academy for two years and oversees the academic development of the program’s student-athletes.
Notable Whaler players include right-handed pitcher Ian Dickson of Lafayette College (PA), an All-Long Island pitcher from Northport who consistently hits 88-92 on radar gun. Also on the roster is shortstop Tony Bernazard of Jacksonville University (FL), a son of the former major leaguer who is currently vice president of player development for the New York Mets. Former Pierson Whaler and current Farmingdale State scholar-athlete Mike Labrozzi will be vying for playing time on his “home” field.
The other Whaler players are from collegiate programs at Rhode Island, Rutgers, Hofstra, Harvard, Seton Hall, Stanford, Fairfield, Elon and Davidson. Their league rivals in Mattituck, Westhampton, Riverhead, Southampton and Old Westbury will have players from UNLV, UNC Wilmington, UConn, Notre Dame, Princeton, Iona, C.W. Post and North Dakota State among others.
There is no admission fee to Whaler games but donations may be requested to help cover team and league expenses.
The ACBL is opening its forty-third season this summer, collegiate players making up the rosters of 12 teams. Six of those teams are based in and around northern New Jersey and western Pennsylvania and make up the Wolff Division and the other six teams are on Long Island and make up the Kaiser Division.
The east end component of the league was brought to life last year by Montauk resident Rusty Leaver and a host of local volunteers, who saw their Whalers earn the 2008 Kaiser Division crown. Leaver hopes to expand the Long Island contingent so that it evolves locally along the lines of the Cape Cod Summer League, which has brought together top amateur baseball talent and professional scouts since 1885.
The ACBL has showcased many major leaguer in its time, recent 250-game winner Jaime Moyer (Philadelphia Phillies) being one name many recognize of late. Craig Biggio, John Flaherty, John Valentin, Pat Kelly, Keith Osik, Matt Morris, Pete Harnisch, Walt Weiss, Terry Mulholland, Frank Viola and Kevin Cash are names that Yankee, Met and Red Sox fans alike are sure to remember.