By Gavin Menu
The Sag Harbor Whalers of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League (HCBL) put together their best regular season to date in 2013, winning the regular-season title before falling to Center Moriches in the semifinal round of the postseason.
Center Moriches, which went on to lose the title series to the North Fork Ospreys, has been disbanded for the coming season, replaced by the Montauk Mustangs, which now make the Whalers the second most eastern team in the league.
Another change for the Whalers will be the arrival of manager Dan Benedetti, a coach at St. John’s University, who replaces last year’s skipper, Brendan Monaghan, a former St. John’s coach who last year moved on to take a position at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
Rob Delaney, a former big league pitcher with the Minnesota Twins, will also join the Whalers’ staff and serve as pitching coach.
“At St. John’s, Benedetti plays teams like Sacred Heart, Georgetown and Xavier, all of which are sending players to the Whalers this season,” said Tom Gleeson, who, along with Sandi Kruel, is the club’s co-general manager. “The baseball world is small.”
The HCBL season will begin with opening day on June 1, with players from across the country placed on teams in Montauk, the North Fork, Riverhead, Sag Harbor, Shelter Island, Southampton and Westhampton. All told, the league will field approximately 175 players, some coming from as far away as California, Idaho and Arizona.
Sag Harbor’s own Brandon Kruel (CW Post) returns to his hometown Whalers for a fourth summer, while Deilyn Guzman (Molloy), a graduate of East Hampton High School, will play for Montauk. All told, the HCBL will feature more than 25 players from Long Island.
For the Whalers, starting catcher, Dan Rizzie will return this summer after a standout season at Xavier, where he earned first-team All-Conference honors. James Clemente (Georgia State), an infielder and outfielder, also returns along with Scott Hagen (Mercy), who was the Whalers’ starting centerfielder a year ago.
“We’ve also got a fairly strong group of pitchers,” Gleeson said. “Some freshmen who have gotten a lot of time this year.”
Gleeson pointed to Jason Foley (Sacred Heart), Mitchell Kuebbing (Longwood University) and Kyle Keatts (Tennessee Tech), in particular, as well as Chris Hall, a catcher and pitcher from Elon University.
On Tuesday, Gleeson said the Whalers, and the league in general, were still in need of housing for some players, who arrive later this month and stay until the first week of August. They play baseball five or six days a week and are encouraged to work part-time jobs and participate in the community. One of the duties includes running free baseball clinics for children every Sunday, starting June 1, from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
“We still need a couple more spots, and we’re going to need help in the month of July,” said Gleeson, who can be reached at 516-361-0998 for more information.
Every player in the HCBL is a member in good-standing with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Host families are required to supply a player with a room, bed, laundry and meals. They are not required to provide transportation.
“Hamptons Collegiate Baseball strongly believes the relationships that are forged between players and their host families will be memorable and will last a lifetime,” reads a press release on the league’s website, hamptonsbaseball.org. “There really is no other way to get this close to the team and the game.”