Tag Archive | "Hampton Whalers"

Loss Ends Magic Season

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The magic had to end sometime.
As the announcer for the Kutztown Rockies proclaimed the team back to back to back champions of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, the Hampton Whalers, who lost the game, 8-2, strolled into the outfield of Briedegam Field for a post-game huddle.
When the huddle broke, not a single Whaler was hanging his head and neither was their coach, manager Julio Vega.
“I told to them to keep their heads up,” said the manager. “It was no fluke that we were there.”
The Whalers finished the summer season on a tear that landed in the league championship. They won the Kaiser Divison in a two game sweep over the New York Metro Cadets in dramatic fashion, and though they didn’t emerge victorious last Saturday night, they had an incredible season.
The game got off to a good start for Whalers. The jumped out in the top of the first inning with three straight hits, including and RBI-double by catcher Chris Walker. Third baseman Mark Houck came through with a beautiful sacrifice bunt to score Alan Parks and put the team ahead, 2-0. That however would be the last run of the night for the Whalers.
Right-hander Andrew Guarassi started on the mound for the Whalers and pitched five innings and gave up four runs on ten hits. The Whalers’ defense seemed a little tense and committed four early errors that ultimately gave the home team the lead. Vega said the score should have still been 2-0 in their favor going into the sixth.
“We gave up four runs that shouldn’t even have been runs,” he said. “ It was the first game all year where our defense let us down. It could have been nerves or just bad decisions on ground balls, and that costs you.”
The Rockies’ defense on the other hand was solid. Every time a Whaler managed to put a ball in play, the Rockies’ infield gobbled it up and made the throws.
Pat Holloway came in in the sixth inning for the Whalers and held the Rockies at bay. But in the eighth inning Matt Smith came in and gave up four more runs, giving the Rockies an 8-2 advantage going into the last inning and ultimately giving them their third straight championship.
Vega didn’t try and sugar-coat the loss.
“We didn’t play very well, it was one of those games where you have to come out and play really good to win,” he said. “You can’t come out and make mistakes. We got the lead and then just kind of sat back and waited for bad things to happen, and they did.”
A victory would have been sweet, but Vega said just the opportunity was a gift. For a first year team to make it all the way to the championship game, Vega said was definitely something to smile about. The most important thing however in his eyes, was that the players never gave up, not once, during the entire season, even after starting out 0-6.
“I was proud of these guys,” said Vega. “They battled back from nowhere. It was a great experience for them great experience for me. It’s really all about the players and making them better.”
As for next year, Vega said he would love to come back and coach, but he knows it’s not up to him. Hampton Whalers president Rusty Leaver has plan for three other teams and Vega hopes to be involved with one of them. If not, he said this summer in Sag Harbor would certainly be something he’d always remember.
“Everywhere you play you want to play to win and you want to play to win a championship,” he said. “But having it out here, in the community of Sag Harbor, it was amazing.”

And the Crowd Goes Wild

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He’s not going to make SportsCenter, but Hampton Whalers’ short stop David Leon, a freshman from Youngstown State, did make Sag Harbor sports history on Tuesday at Mashashimuet Park.
Public announcer Kevin Major screamed, “The Whalers Win! The Whalers win!” as the team mobbed Leon after his RBI with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the N.Y. Metro Cadets, 2-1.
And Tim Therrian, a junior from the University of Southern Maine, will not receive any endorsement deals, but the young pitcher did earn the respect of his teammates after back-to-back pressure packed performances on the mound.
When Leon’s base hit landed in the outfield grass, just over the second baseman’s head, winning the Whalers both their division and a chance to play in the ACBL Championship Game on Saturday, it capped an improbable run. It also landed the team a spot in the hearts of the fans that have embraced them for the past two and half months.
Leon said as soon as he made contact with the fastball, he knew the game was over.
“I knew it was going to drop by the way the defense was playing,” he said after the game.
Leon said though the Whalers started 0-6, they kept believing in each other. And they kept believing in their coach, manager Julio Vega, as well.
“We feed of him every game,” said Leon.
When Vega saw the Cadets’ right fielder give up on Leon’s ball, he became a spectator himself.
“I was just jumping up and down,” he said. “It was great just watching the guys’ reaction.”
Vega has been telling his players all summer to let the other team make the plays. Pitching and defense has never been an issue, but the bats have been at times hot and at other times not. Such was the case in the two game series against the Cadets, which began Monday night at St. John’s University when the offense accounted for an impressive ten runs. The Whalers beat the Cadets, 10-5.
But yesterday, it was all the Whalers could do to muster a hit here and there.  The visitors took a one run lead early in the game and it looked as if the series might stretch to three games as Cadets’ pitcher Gabriel Duran from Dowling College was making quick work of the home team, at one point retiring nine Whalers in a row.
Gardner Leaver started for the Whalers and after giving up the one run in the top of the first, kept the Cadets in check for the next six innings.
“I told myself that’s the last run they’re getting,” said Leaver afterwards. “I knew my team could take it from there.”
The Whalers defense proved Leaver’s words true; there would be no more runs for the Cadets. In the seventh inning, a tired Leaver was pulled and the crowd stood and applauded. Therrian came in with two outs and threw a single pitch that was popped up to end the inning. Therrian retired three straight the next inning and then in the ninth set the stage for his offense.
The night before, at St. John’s, Therrian recorded the type of save that pitchers dream of. In the bottom of the ninth inning, he was called in to relieve Dan Rieser who retired three straight in the eighth inning but got into trouble in the ninth. Therrian stepped on the mound with the bases loaded, the winning run on deck and no outs.
“I was working the first batter pretty hard,” said Therrian. “The count was two and two and I threw a slider to strike him out.”
He struck out the next batter as well and got the third to pop up.
“It was a tough position to be in, but that just got me pumped up,” he said.
After Therrian took care of business in the ninth on Tuesday, it was left up to the Whalers’ bats. Duran hit catcher Chris Walker to start off the inning. Kyle Crean laid down a sac bunt to move Walker to second. Third baseman Mark Houck belted a line drive to the Cadet’s shortstop that let Walker move to third, while he hustled to get the base hit. Tom Coulombe hit a slow moving ball to the shortstop who, after stepping on second for the force out, made a bad throw to first allowing Coulombe to get to second base and scoring pinch runner John Flanagan to tie the game. With Coloumbe on second, Leon stepped up to the plate and the rest is history.
Vega described it as the best game of the summer and one of the best he’s ever been a part of. He’s been coaching in summer leagues for the last eight years but he’s never made it to the championship game.
“You always wonder how it’s going to feel,” he said. “I’m just proud of the guys. They worked their butts off.”
The team’s motto all season has been “hard nine” said Vega, which means play hard from the first inning to the last. On Tuesday, he said that’s exactly what they did.
“If Houck didn’t run hard to the base to try to make it to the bag, the double play is made and the game is over,” he said.

Vega also said it was extra special to be in Sag Harbor. He said it was great to see the fans that supported the team all season, all standing and jumping up when Leon’s ball landed in play. The Whalers went 12-1 at Mashashimuet and Vega said, “it makes you wonder what would’ve happened if we played all of our games there.”
“The community has been awesome,” he said. “They’ve been great, they adopted us as their own. The baseball gods definitely love us in Sag Harbor.”

Top photo: The Whalers mob Tom Coulombe after he scored the winning run on Tuesday.

Bottom photo: The Whalers stood up the entire game cheering on their teammates.

Bayles photos

Seinfeld and the Whalers

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Whalers Head to Division Playoffs

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The Hampton Whalers beat the Peekskill Robins yesterday, 3-0, in a one-game playoff and will face the N. Y. Metro Cadets in a best of three series starting Monday at 7 p.m. at St. Johns University. In their inaugural season with the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, the Whalers have a chance to win their division and play for the league championship.

The win capped a late season turnaround for the Whalers, who spent most of the summer in the cellar of the Kaiser Division. After starting 0-6 and struggling throughout June, the Whalers went on to go 13-7 in July and win seven of their last eight, climbing into a tie with the Robins for second place in the division.
New York Tech sophomore Andrew Guarrasi pitched eight and a third innings for the Whalers on Sunday, giving up two hits and striking out eight batters. Mike Connors from Southern Connecticut State came in for the save.

“We had a long week off and it was great to see the guys come back and play at the level they did,” said Whalers’ manager Julio Vega. “Obviously they came out ready to go.”

The Whalers quickly got on board in the first inning when Kyle Crean, a freshman from Albany, knocked in University of Charlotte junior Alan Parks with a single. Freshman from the University of Rhode Island Tom Coulombe did the same to score Fordham freshman Chris Walker. The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the fifth when Walker hit a RBI-single to score Southern Connecticut State junior Karl Derbacher.

Guarassi kept the Robins in check, pitching five hitless innings. In the top of the ninth, after giving up his second hit of the game and hitting a batter, Vega decided to go to the bullpen.

Connors made quick work, getting one batter to fly out and striking out another to end the inning and the game. Vega described Connors as “lights out” since he was added to the team less than a month ago.

“The great thing about [Connors] is he competes. Every time he goes out there he wants to be perfect,” said Vega. “Just having that type of guy competing at the end of the game is great.”

The day got underway as Whalers’ President Rusty Leaver paraded local celebrity and baseball fanatic Jerry Seinfeld out on to the field to meet the players and throw out the game’s first pitch. Leaver presented Seinfeld, a “grand slam” contributor and one of the founders of the team, with a personalized jersey, a team photo and a baseball signed by the entire squad. The right-handed comedian side-armed the first pitch to catcher Chris Walker as photographers and film crews postured to capture the moment.

Vega said the atmosphere Seinfeld created was “amazing” and said he was happy for his players. “Jerry coming out was great,” he said. “[The players] deserve this. They deserved a day like yesterday.”

As for the upcoming series against the Cadets, Vega is optimistic. The Whalers got the best of the Cadets in regular season play, going 5-3. Vega said Phil Kline, the freshman from Youngstown State who pitched a perfect game against the Cadets two weeks ago in Sag Harbor, will get the start Monday night.

The Whalers return to Mashashimuet on Tuesday to face the Cadets in the second game of the division championship series. Game time is 5 p.m.

Top photo: Jerry Seinfeld meets the Whalers. (photo by Mike Heller)

Bottom right photo: Mike Connors came in and forced one batter to fly out and struck out another to get the save on Sunday against the Peekskill Robins. (photo by John Bayles)

A Conversation With Kevin Major


The Voice of the Whalers shares his reflections on the season and his love of the game and kids.

How did you become the voice of the Whalers?

Well, there are two of us. I do the games here in Sag Harbor. I was at work one morning and I got a call from Sandi Kruel. I believe it was Sean Crowley who suggested they talk to me or to Richie Decker. And Richie couldn’t do it. It’s just the voice. We both have that deep voice that makes for good announcing.

Have you ever done anything like this before?

Never. Did I ever want to be the guy from the Yankees?  – Of course. Bob Shepherd is a mainstay at Yankees games. I think everybody in the announcing business has tried to imitate him at one point or another. ‘Good afternoon and welcome to Yankee Stadium for today’s game featuring the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees.’ He’s a historical figure in New York,

So you’re a big Yankees fan?

I went to my first Yankee game when I was five years old. That’s a good story. I was five years old and in first grade. I was an early starter.  My father took me out of school to take me to a Yankee game. I was a big Yankee fan even at five years old. I was a Mickey Mantle fan.
The voices on the radio were Mel Allen and Red Barber. Mel Allen was my favorite because he loved Mickey Mantle, but as I look back, Red Barber was probably the better announcer. He knew more about the game.

What’s you personal experience with the sport?
I played as a young boy. We didn’t have little leagues. Where I lived we had Catholic Youth Organizations.  I played for my Catholic school.  As far as regular baseball, that was the extent I played. In high school I played basketball and football. But baseball has always been my love. Even today I still play softball.

What do you think about the Whalers making it into the playoffs?

They’ve come a long way. You’ve watched them meld over the summer. I think about [manager] Julio [Vega]  and the job he has done. In one year they have a team that’s going to the playoffs. It says a lot about the kids and the direction they’re receiving. Everyone knows the first year of doing anything is difficult.

What are some of your most memorable moments of the season?

The first time I saw them play, Alan Parks stole home and threw a guy out from right field. It was a line drive, right on the button. When you see that as a baseball fan, you know you’ve got something special. That’s what really got me going as a fan. That’s what grabbed me. I saw this was legitimate baseball in my mind.
Then there was the Phil Kline perfect game, and when I introduced Dan Reiser as a hometown boy. I’ll never forget that.

Was that the first perfect game you had even seen?
Absolutely, in person that was the first time. I had seen one or two on television, but even then I don’t think I saw the entire games.
At one point, I think we were around the sixth inning and Andrew looked me and said, ‘Do you know what is going on?’ and I said,  ‘Of course.’ But you know, we couldn’t say anything. That’s not something you can talk about when it’s happening.
The last play of the game was a comebacker, right to Phil. When he made the out, I remember saying for the first time in Hampton Whaler history a pitcher had thrown a perfect game. Then I found out not only was it the first time for the Whalers, but it was the first time in at ACBL history and that’s 42 years. That’s pretty impressive

Did you know about Rusty’s plans for the Whalers before you were asked to be the announcer?

I knew of the Whalers because I was invited by Tom Gleason to the first committee meeting. I had met Tom and his wife at a business function for real estate. I’m a real estate agent. We got to talking, and I’m on the Little League board and he was telling me about the clinics. He said part of the plan was to put on these clinics, and asked if that was something I’d be interested in and I said of course.
My total focus was what it could do for the kids. That was my reason for being there.

What has it meant to the kids?
It shows them that as they mature, their skills can get much, much better. I wanted to point out that these young boys are using their kids in part for education.  To let them focus on these guys as someone they can look up to  – I know my son Bo talks to Mark Houck like he’s his older brother.

Is Mark his favorite player?
Well, Bo likes everybody. He was thrilled with Phil’s perfect game.  He got a baseball signed by him and he keeps it in his room downstairs. He really understood what was happening. He is very proud to be associated with the Whalers. They’re his team.

Whalers Push for the Playoffs


Whalers’ first baseman Evan Laude’s bat is on fire. And the timing couldn’t be better as the team is making a push for the post season.
“He’s coming up big,” said Whalers’ manager Julio Vega on Wednesday.
In the second game of Saturday’s double-header against the New Jersey Pilots, Laude stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning with score tied. The Whalers started the inning down 3-2 and Mark Houck led off with a walk. Nick DeProspo got on base when he attempted to move Houck to second with a sacrifice bunt, but the Pilots’ catcher made a bad throw to first base and Houck managed to get to third while DeProspo made it to second. Kyle Crean came in to pinch-hit for Stephen McQuail and belted an RBI-single to tie the game and the stage was set for Laude. He came through with a hard hit ball to the Pilots’ shortstop and DeProspo hustled home for the winning run.
In the first game, Phil Klein once again turned in yet another stellar pitching performance, going the distance and recording a shutout. Klein has allowed only two hits and two earned runs in 14 innings.
The final score was 1-0 and just like the second game, it all came down to the last inning. After a pitchers’ duel, Andrew Wernicki walked to the batters box with two outs and Houck on third base. Wernicki blasted a line drive over the right fielder’s head to score Houck.
The Whalers traveled to Hofstra on Tuesday night to face the Long Island Mustangs and came away with a 9-3 victory, again thanks in part to the bat of Laude. Heading into the fifth inning the Whalers trailed, 3-2. With two outs and 3-2 count, Laude belted a two -RBI triple to give the Whalers a one run advantage.
Then in the fifth inning Laude again came up big with the bases loaded and hit a three-RBI double. Crean then belted a two-RBI double to give the Whalers five runs in the inning. They won the game 9-3.
“We’re playing now the best we’ve played all summer,” said Vega. “We’re going to see if we can make a run at this thing. With the pitching and defense where it is, we have a chance. If our offense stays productive like it has been, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”
The Whalers host the Peekskill Robins in to double-headers to end the regular season this weekend. On Friday the play at Southampton High School and on Saturday they return to Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor. Game time for both twin bills is 2:30 p.m.
Vega said they’re taking it one game at a time, but if they can win three of the last four they should be a lock for the playoffs. If they sweep the Robins, there’s chance they could earn home field advantage.

Photo: Whalers’ catcher Nick DeProspo defends home plate in their 4-3 win over the New Jersey Pilots on Sunday. Photo by John Bayles

A Perfect Day At Mashashimuet

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The Hampton Whalers just play better in Sag Harbor said manager Julio Vega.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “It could be the support they get from the fans.”
Last Sunday, however, the Whalers played their best. And in the first game of a doubleheader against the Metro N.Y. Cadets, the Whalers right-hander from Youngstown State, Phil Klein not only threw his best game, he threw a perfect game. The sophomore faced 21 batters, threw 71 pitches and became the first pitcher in then history of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League to rack up a perfect game.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Vega. “It was the first time I had been a part of a perfect game. I’ve been involved with a no-hitter, but never a perfect game.”
Vega has been challenging his offense to swing the bats better and on Sunday they did just that and provided Klein with a bit of a cushion, so the 6’7” freshman could focus on sitting batters down one after another.
In the first inning the Whalers scored one run on a RBI by Chris Walker. Then in the third inning they tacked on three more. And in the fourth, the bats refused to cool down and the Whalers added four more to take an 8-0 lead. That would be the final score.
Meanwhile Klein was taking care of business. He had six strikeouts on the day and had to battle back after getting behind in the count with three balls, not just once but three times.
And like any no-hitter or perfect game, the defense has to have the pitcher’s back. Vega said the other Whalers were definitely aware of what was going on, probably more so than Klein.
“They made the plays for Phil when they had to,” said Vega. “But after we were up by eight in the sixth, it was nice to just sit back and watch him pound the strike zone.”
In the second game, the fans at Mashashimuet Park were treated to an old fashion comeback. Heading into the bottom of the third, the Whalers trailed 5-1. Evan Laude from the University of Rhode Island came through with a 2RBI-double to bring it to within two. Then in the fifth, Laude belted a RBI-single with a two outs to even the score at five each.
The Cadets added two more runs in the top of the sixth, but in the bottom of the inning the Whalers bats’ caught fire. Catcher Chris Walker knocked in two runs with a double to give the Whalers a 7-5 lead. After that, it was just a matter of putting a bat on the ball. Multiple errors by the Cadets allowed three unearned Whalers runs.
“I had been telling them, just put the ball in play and let the other team make the plays,” said Vega. “Kids get nervous and you have to make them make the plays.”
The final score of the second game was 10-7.
The Whalers return to the park this Sunday for another double-header against the Jersey Pilots at 2 p.m.
Top Photo: Teammates congratulate Phil Klein after his perfect game last Sunday. – Michael Heller photo.