Tag Archive | "Hamptons Collegiate Baseball"

Whalers Need to Win Out for Berth

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web Whalers-Breakers Baseball 09_1112

By Benito Vila

With eight games to go on their schedule, the post-season is a dim dream for this summer’s Sag Harbor Whalers. The defending Kaiser Division champions were 12-19 going into last night’s game against the Westhampton Aviators in local Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League action. The Aviators, at 20-11, are the division’s current co-leaders, sharing the top spot with the 21-12 Riverhead Tomcats.

The Whalers were among the league leaders July 10 before a seven-game stretch saw the team lose their manager, pitching coach, two top catchers, three starting pitchers, a reliever and the starting shortstop. Not faring well on the field and playing a bit like this summer’s New York Mets, the team dropped each of those seven contests, going from a playoff contender to also-ran in a week.

Splitting a pair of doubleheaders last weekend put the Whalers back in the win column, but like the Mets, the injuries have been too much to overcome. Gone are the guys that led the team to a strong start, putting pressure on the remaining players to do more, a disastrous scenario at any level.

In the midst of dealing with the injuries, the team learned pitching coach Jonathan Anderson had been recruited by the Dartmouth College baseball program and that manager Jason Lefkowitz was needed to fulfill a coaching commitment at Brown University.

Stepping in to right the Whaler ship have been Scott June and Jim Buckley, coaches from All-Pro Sports Academy in Bellport, the east end’s closest baseball training facility. Both June and Buckley played college ball, with Buckley moving on through the Red Sox’ minor league program as a catcher between 2002 and 2006, finishing his career at AAA Pawtucket.

Buckley knows the ACBL summer league program first-hand, having played in the 1999 season while he was attending Siena College. After the games in Mashashimuet Park last Sunday, Buckley said, “Summer-ball is supposed to be fun for these guys and the last week’s been hard on them. What Scott and I hope to do in these last few games is throw some knowledge at them; we’re not here to make major adjustments. We want them to pick up on the little things they can do to keep on improving and to understand how to make use of some of the things they see on the field from game to game.”

Buckley saw the Whalers’ win last Sunday’s first game, 3-1, on what he described as “key two-out hits” and drop the nightcap, 7-3, in “killing innings by leaving guys at third with less than two outs.”

The Whalers are scheduled to be back in the park tomorrow, hosting Riverhead in a 5 p.m. start. On Sunday, the team has its last home doubleheader of the season, the Long Island Mustangs (5-25) coming in for games at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

The Whaler’s only hope for the post-season is to win those three home games and then sweep the Tuesday 2 p.m.-5 p.m. doubleheader against the Mustangs at Stony Brook Southampton. The boys would also have to continue to win out against the North Fork Ospreys in Mattituck Wednesday and against the Aviators in Westhampton next Thursday.


Scout Day


The Whaler’s record of late has not deterred fans from turning out to see the team, a loyal group of about forty regulars and another curious twenty-five or so coming each Sunday for the doubleheaders. And though the Kaiser Division title games and the ACBL’s championship finals against the New Jersey-based Wolff Division winner are not likely to be played in the park, it does appear the collegiate program is set to return next summer.

Local Kaiser Division organizer Rusty Leaver said last Sunday, “We’re in this for the long haul. We took an unusual business step in adding five teams at once this season but it’s working. The fan-base has come along in each of our towns and we’re attracting baseball talent, on and off the field, that’s making it even more interesting for everyone involved.”

Some of that talent includes major league scouts that are tracking Kaiser players. This past Monday scouts from the Red Sox, Devil Rays, Mets, Tigers and Phillies’ organizations held a showcase “Scout Day” at the Stony Brook Southampton field.

Players were asked to throw, run and hit, learning in the doing some of the rules of thumb the major league clubs are currently using in looking for talent. Those include: running the 60-yard dash in 7.1 seconds or under, with 6.8 seconds being “something we like”; throwing head-high lasers from right field to home and third that one-hop sharply on-target on at least seven out of ten tries; catchers going “pop-to-pop”, from home to second, in two seconds or less.

The scouts were also overheard speaking of ideal body types—looking for slim builds over six-foot two for first base and thinking of infielders under five-foot eleven as second baseman only. Generalities aside, a dozen or more Kaiser Division players, including a few Whalers, are already being “followed”, with dedication, effort and “nothing stupid on Facebook” also being factors in attracting further attention.

Kaiser is King in Collegiate Baseball League

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web Whalers-Aviators 7-12-09_8552

By Benito Vila

The Kaiser Division of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League–comprised of teams in Sag Harbor, Southampton, Westhampton, Mattituck (North Fork), Riverhead and Old Westbury (Long Island)–overwhelmed their Wolff Division counterparts 11-0 at St.John’s University on Monday. That win gives the Kaiser playoff winner home-field advantage in the best-of-three championship series to be played the first week of August.

The Wolff teams, playing along the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, were able to knock just four hits off of seven Kaiser division pitchers in the nine-inning game. Meanwhile, the Kaiser bats were hot, scorching 15 hits. Sag Harbor Whalers’ Ed Squeri (Dowling, two hits, two runs) and Brandon Boykin (Rutgers, two hits, three RBIs) led the way, Boykin blasting the game’s only home run.

The Whalers, at 10-15, have run aground of late, a 1-6 week sending them from among the league leaders towards the lower realm of the standings. As of yesterday afternoon, Westhampton, at 17-10, leads the league with Southampton (15-10) and Riverhead (16-11) a game behind and North Fork (15-11) just a half-game back of those two.

Today the Whalers take on the Ospreys in Mattituck and tomorrow they meet the Mustangs at New York Tech; both games start at 5 p.m. This Sunday, the boys are back in Mashashimuet Park for a doubleheader against the Southampton Breakers. First game is at 2 p.m. and the second at 5 p.m.


Scouts Come Out


John Venturella, coach of the Breakers, was excited by the Kaiser Division win, noting on Tuesday, “That’ll bring more scouts out this way and get more of our players noticed. The way we won so convincingly says a lot about our pre-season scouting and the people that have put this program together out here.”

Philadelphia Philly scout Dan Gallagher has been watching this summer’s games from the outset. His grandson, Chris Walker (Fordham), plays catcher for the Westhampton Aviators, and he has been one of the league’s top collegiate recruiters.

Sitting behind home plate in Mashashimuet Park on Sunday, Gallagher, who coached at Fordham University for 22 years, said, “This league out here has the potential to be one of the top four collegiate leagues in the country. It has great facilities and has attracted a big following in just two years.”

In talking about the success of similar leagues in Cape Cod, Alaska, Virginia, Minnesota and California, Gallagher suggested, “It’s good for these boys to get away and meet people and learn how to adjust to the things that come their way. At school, they can get too comfortable and when they stay home, they don’t take the game as seriously.”


Look for “Follows”


In explaining what scouts are looking for, Gallagher explained, “What we have here are mostly freshmen and sophomores; they’re too young for the [major league] clubs until their junior year so what scouts look to do is put in ‘follows’ to other local scouts so that the clubs can keep up with how they’re doing.” That system of “follows” leads candidates to the pro ranks via drafts and tryout camps.

Gallagher and his baseball brethren will be out on Monday afternoon for a “scout day” at Southampton High School, select players from the Kaiser Division teams doing what they can to show they have what it takes to earn a “follow”.


Turnaround Week


Whaler coach Jason Lefkowitz attributes the Whalers’ losses of late to breakdowns in the field, the other teams “getting more chances than they deserve. You can’t do that at any level. It puts pressure that doesn’t need to be there on the pitchers and the defense behind them. Players start to try and do too much and things just have a way of falling apart.”

Looking for a way out of the losing habits, Lefkowitz added, “A few one-two-three innings and a few base hits and it’s easy to get past this. We still have a lot of baseball to play in the next three weeks and getting into one of the top four spots [for the playoffs] is still within our reach. And everyone on our club is focused on that.”

Collegiate Whalers at 4-4

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By Benito Vila


The Sag Harbor Whalers of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League played five games this week, going 2-3 and giving the squad a 4-4 start on their 40-game schedule.

The three losses came in contests with the high-flying league-leaders, the Westhampton Aviators (4-2) and the North Fork Ospreys (6-3). The Whalers split their doubleheader with the Aviators in Mashashimuet Park last Sunday, seeing game one get away 2-0 on a bases loaded double in extra innings and playing “small ball” to prevail 2-1 in game two, a bunt and a fielder’s choice scoring the go-ahead run.

The team is back in the park again this Sunday for a doubleheader against the Long Island Mustangs, who are off to a 1-4 start. Game one Sunday is set for 2 p.m. and game two 5 p.m.; both games scheduled to go seven innings.

Looking at how his team has performed of late, Whaler skipper Jason Lefkowitz sees “a strong offense that has run into some good pitching. We’re not putting together good at-bats consistently right now. We’re getting a good one here and then one there. Consistency will come with playing and with playing together. The guys are putting in the work and, for a lot of them, it’s just a matter of getting their timing down. I know we’re going to start getting better results. And that’s great, because so far our pitching has been strong and we’ve been in all our games.”

Going into last night’s game against the Mustangs at New York Tech, former Pierson Whaler Mike Labrozzi (Farmingdale State) led the team in batting at .500 (12 for 24), with Ed Squeri (Dowling), at .308, being the only other Whaler over .300. Bonacker-alum Gardner Leaver (Rhode Island) leads the club in innings pitched (11.1) and has yet to surrender a run.

Steve King (Farmingdale) leads the pitchers with two wins and Brian Russell (Davidson) tops the staff with eight strikeouts in eight innings. Brandon Boykin (Rutgers) is third in hitting at .292. The team has turned ten double plays on defense in the eight games while the offense has only hit into four.

This week the Whalers are at Riverhead Tuesday, at Westhampton Friday and then back in the park next Sunday for two against Southampton. The weekday away games start at 5 p.m.

Old Whalers Play On

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By Benito Vila


Once the game has a hold on you, it’s hard to let go. That was evident Sunday when 14 alumni and “friends of Pierson baseball” gathered for the 10th annual Robert Vishno, Jr. Hardball Classic, a scholarship fundraiser hosted by Pierson coach Sean Crowley.

The turnout necessitated some creative team-making but everyone involved was willing to fill in when needed to make the fielding team whole and no one minded the extra at-bats. The game came down to the afternoon’s final at-bat, Mike Semkus stroking a single to right to bring in the winning run on his 22nd birthday.

Paul Dorego ripped a pair of balls into the right center field alley that both incredibly enough found leather, one bringing in a run. Rob Cleary, Paul Federico, Gregg Schiavoni, Evan Harse, Sean Crowley and Semkus all saw time on the mound with Jim Kinnier, Harse and Federico donning the gear behind the plate. Jared Schiavoni had two hits, was hit once and played an able shortstop for the second-place team.


Labrozzi 5-for-8


Missing from this weekend’s festivities was 2005 Pierson graduate and former Whaler baseball standout Mike Labrozzi, who was participating in the NCAA Division III World Series Championship in Wisconsin with his college team, the Skyline Conference champion Farmingdale State Rams.

The Rams ran into trouble on the field in their opener Friday, surrendering a six-run eighth to Shenandoah University (VA) in a 12-2 loss that saw the Rams make three errors. Labrozzi started and played a clean game at first base, going two-for-four at the plate with two singles.

The double-elimination format sent Labrozzi and his teammates home on Saturday, two unearned runs giving Chapman College (CA) a 4-2 victory. Putting in yet another errorless game at first, Labrozzi was three-for-four at the plate, stealing a base, scoring once, doubling and singling twice and recording an assist in the field.


Sag Harbor Whalers 2009 debut


Labrozzi meets a new set of teammates this week as other collegiate players come into town to play in the second-year Hampton Collegiate Baseball League, the eastern-most division of the 43-year old Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League. Teams in Mattituck, Westhampton, Riverhead, Southampton, Old Westbury and Sag Harbor make up the Hampton League (which is also known as the Kaiser Division of the ACBL).

The Whalers are scheduled to make their debut in Southampton next Thursday at 5 p.m., taking the field against the Breakers on the Southampton High School field. After a Friday game against the Aviators in Westhampton, the Whalers host the Riverhead Tomcats in Mashashimuet Park on Sunday, June 7 for a doubleheader. The first game is at 2 p.m. and the second at 5 p.m. There is no admission fee but donations may be requested to help cover team and league expenses.

The Whaler players are from collegiate programs at Rhode Island, Rutgers, Hofstra, Harvard, Seton Hall, Stanford, Fairfield and Lafayette. Their league rivals will have players from UNLV, UNC Wilmington, UConn, Notre Dame, Princeton, Iona, Elon, C.W. Post and North Dakota State. All the teams will be using wood bats. The players will be putting up a temporary fence in the outfield when they play in the park.

The league is still looking for a few rooms to house players for the summer. If interested in helping, call Tom Gleeson at 516-361-0998.


The Economic Challenge to Play Ball

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It’s a struggle to operate any business in this economic climate. But starting an entire baseball league presents its own set of challenges.

Last year, Rusty Leaver, proprietor of Deep Hollow Ranch in Montauk and father of a promising ball player in his own right, along with a handful of other local businessmen and women watched a dream materialize, creating a collegiate-level baseball team to compete in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League. The team, based in Sag Harbor and called the Whalers in homage to the community’s history, performed beyond anyone’s expectation, undoing a season-starting, five-game losing streak and winning their division. They stumbled in the league championship, but that was hardly going to get in the way of fulfilling another dream — starting a league of their own on the East End.

Fueled by last year’s success, Leaver and others are this year launching Hamptons Collegiate Baseball, a league with five local franchises — the Sag Harbor Whalers  Southampton Breakers, Riverhead Tomcats, Westhampton Aviators and North Fork Ospreys. The Long Island Mustangs, who pay further up the Island, will round out the league. It is modeled on a similar summer league on Cape Cod, which regularly attracts scouts from professional ball clubs, and has been the training grounds for hundreds of young men who have made their way to the majors.

But the effort of putting one team together is a lot different than putting together five.

Last year, the budget to field the Whalers was about $60,000, said Leaver in an interview this week. This year, cash out of hand will probably be closer to $250,000 — with a budget of about $45,0000 – $50,000 per team. Each town or community is fundamentally its own franchise, and responsible for organizing a volunteer administration.

“This year we set a target for each community to raise about $22,000, for the ball parks, for operating overhead,” said Leaver. The balance is raised by the league, he said, and acknowledged the sum can be a challenge for some towns.

“My mission, my job, is to try to raise money in a global way for the whole league,” he said, “to try to keep the costs down for the local community.”

Tom Gleeson, one of the local organizers for The Whalers has been pounding the pavement laying the groundwork for the team here this summer. Gleeson’s main charge is finding housing for the team’s 25 players, most of who are coming from far outside the area.

Like volunteers throughout the league, Gleeson does it because he wants to help the community — and loves baseball.

“As a former college basketball coach and father of a son who played baseball, I’m happy to see the team here; it’s good, free entertainment,” said Gleeson. “And it’s great to see the free clinics the local kids get.”

Gleeson is still looking for a few rooms for the players, by the way, and can be reached at 516-361-0998.

But people like Gleeson, who said local organizers are putting together a benefit party for the Whalers aboard one of the Shelter Island ferries — donated by ferry owner Cliff Clark — are what enable the league to exist financially. It seems to be the formula for getting the local teams together: find money where you can and rely on people who want some good old fashioned hardball to help with the rest.

The league also relies on receiving in-kind contributions, from businesses who can help with landscaping and construction, for example. In Southampton the league is refurbishing a neglected diamond on the campus of Stony Brook Southampton which will be the Breakers home field.

“We’re trying to be bullish on our expectations,” said Lever adding they want their facilities to be professional quality.

With the help of four different contractors who are working at cost  — and the donation of building material by Riverhead Building Supply — they are rehabbing the college field and building new dugouts.

“The work would easily have cost $150,000 to complete,” estimated Leaver. Actual cash out of hand, however, will be more like $60,000.

“We’re basically able to cut the cost in half,” he said.

Then there, of course, a couple of “names” from the private sector who have gotten involved, including comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and publisher Mort Zuckerman, who have added cash and cachet to the league. And the public sector has also been generous. On the North Fork State Assemblyman Marc Allesi has arranged for a grant for the league, and Suffolk County was helpful last year getting the Whalers started.

The league being local has also helped shave some of the expenses off last year’s budget.

“Travel alone last year was about $15,000,” said Leaver. “With the Jitney picking up most of the local travel costs, we can take that off the budget for this year.”

It still amounts to a lot of shoe leather for those who are doing the organizing to bring good baseball to the communities.

“Is it a big challenge,” asked Leaver. “Yes. We’ve been working at this 14 to 16 hours a day.”