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No NY College Baseball Cinderellas This Year But Two Newbies To Vie for PSAL Baseball Title At Yankee Stadium (updated)

In my last post, I saluted three NY area college baseball teams, Army, Fordham, and Stony Brook, that made the Division I regional playoffs leading to the College World Series starting on June 15 in Omaha.

 

There will be no NY-area Cinderella this year as all three teams were eliminated quickly in the double-elimination tourney. Yet players from each team were drafted in last week's annual MLB amateur free agent draft.

 

**Fordham RHP Kyle Martin was drafted in the 15th round by the Orioles.

**SUNY-Stony Brook CF Michael Wilson was picked in the 16th round by the Brewers.

** His SB teammate SS Nick Grande was chosen by the AZ Diamondbacks in the 19th round.

**Army's catcher Jacob Hurtubise was picked by Seattle Mariners in the 39th and next-to-last round. 

 

More below on other area players picked in the draft.  But first here's a heads-up on what should be a memorable matchup this coming Wed night June 12th at 7p at Yankee Stadium.  

 

The high school baseball championship of the PSAL (Public Schools Athletic League) will feature two newcomers to the title game, the Beacon Blue Demons versus the Gregorio Luperon Generals.  Both Manhattan schools earned the right to the title game by beating the previous two city champions, Grand Street coached by Mel Martinez and James Monroe led by Mike Turo.

 

Beacon won two out of three at Grand Street's home field in Brooklyn. Originally the school was called Eastern District HS (alma mater of late MLB RHP Saul Rogovin, later an English teacher at the school.  

 

Grand Street Campus is the alma mater of Yankee relief picher Dellin Betances (who unfortunately has suffered a setback in his battle with a sore shoulder). Beacon beat the 2016 PSAL champion behind two complete game performances by junior Adam Bogosian and senior Max Moss.

 

Tom Covotsos, the only baseball coach Beacon has had since the school was created in midtown Manhattan in the early 1990s, credits pitching and defense and knowing how to bunt and defend against the bunt as the keys to Beacon's rise to the title game.    

 

Under coach Rico Pena, Gregorio Luperon HS (named for a Dominican Republic general of the 19th century) deprived the Bronx's James Monroe HS of a three-peat.  Pena has a sense of baseball history because he brought members of his team a few years ago to the dedication of Willie Mays Plaza at 8th Ave and 155th Street above the New York Giants' legendary Polo Grounds. 

 

Before the Beacon-Luperon 7p game, there will be a 4pm matchup between Brooklyn's Lafayette HS and Manhattan's Inwood Campus, winners of semi-finals for schools with smaller enrollments than Beacon, Luperon, Grand Street, and Monroe..

 

It is free admission for both games. If you like good competition with WOODEN BATS, check out the action this coming Wednesday June 12th.

 

Now some more notes on the MLB draft with news of area players selected.

 

**The Yankees made SS Anthony Volpe their number one pick out of Delbarton School in Morristownl NJ. 

His teammate RHP Jack Leiter, son of former Yankee-Met LHP Al Leiter, was chosen in the 20th round by the Yanks but he is likely to attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

 

[Speaking of Vanderbilt, they qualified yet again for the College World Series by eliminating Duke. Freshman RHP Kumar Rocker threw a no-hitter with 19 strikeouts to even the regional series and Vanderbilt routed Duke in the rubber match. 

 

And as of Monday morning June 10, only two spots remain in the 8-team CWS field.  Auburn and North Carolina will decide one spot, and Mississippi at Arkansas the other one later on Monday. 

 

Already in are Florida State, coach Mike Martin in his 40th and last year trying to win his first CWS title; Louisville; Michigan, Branch Rickey's law school alma mater that knocked off top national seed UCLA, Jackie Robinson's alma mater; Mississippi State; Texas Tech; and Vanderbilt.] 

 

More on the MLB draft selectees:

 **Columbia's LHP Josh Simpson was picked by the Miami Marlins in the 32nd round and is likely to forgo a fifth year of eligiblity at Duke to try his hand in the pros.

 

**The first Ivy Leaguer picked was Simon Whiteman, Yale SS, drafted in the 9th round by the Giants.  In the same week he found out that he was named an academic all-America. 

 
**Gavin Hollowell, a RHP from St. John's and New Jersey, was the first of several Red Storm players picked - in the sixth round by the Colorado Rockies.

 

**Ricky DeVito, RHP from Seton Hall, was the first Pirate to be drafted, in the 8th round by the Braves. 

 

**Gustavo Sosa, Tottenville HS catcher, was drafted in 19th round by the Blue Jays.  

I believe he was the first and perhaps the only PSAL player  drafted. 

 

But remember you can play pro ball even if you are not drafted.  Adam Jones, a top draft choice with Seattle who came to stardom with Orioles and is now with Diamondbacks, once put it beautifully:  "You are only a number one draft pick for one day."  

 

After that it is all about work ethic and the ability to bounce back from inevitable defeats in the often cruel grind of the pro game.  

 

That's all for now.  Always remember:  Take it easy but take it.

 


 

 

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NL Wild Card Drama + One Oriole Fan's Farewell to Buck Showalter

The end of the regular baseball season is always a bittersweet time. There are playoffs ahead but October baseball is national not local (except for radio if your team is in the hunt.). I already miss the daily flow of games from all over the country and the amassing of steady incremental statistics.

The National League Wild Card game was historic in that two divisions ended in dead heats. That meant two one-game playoffs this past Monday Oct 1 to determine the division winner and automatic entry into the playoffs.

The Dodgers won at home over the Colorado Rockies and the Milwaukee Brewers won at Chicago to assure their places in the tournament. That meant the Wild Card game would pit Colorado at the Cubs’ Wrigley Field on Tuesday night Oct 2.

In a 2-1 13-inning thriller, the Rockies eliminated the Cubs. (I’m a New Yorker and have never called them the Cubbies and never will.) It was a wonderful ending for those of us who like to see the unheralded player - almost the last man on the 25-man roster - become the unlikely hero.

Around the bewitching bell of midnight CDT, it was third-string catcher Tony Wolters who drove in the winning run with a single up the middle. It was a tough experience for Chicago to lose two post-season games in a row at home but I think they’ll be back in future post-seasons.

A fully healthy Kris Bryant should help a lot. Maybe they’ll be able to get some wins and innings from the very expensive free agent bust Yu Darvish. Most of all, the team cohesion will have to return.

When the Cubs were in command of the division for most of the second half of the season, team leader Anthony Rizzo was quoted as saying that the team was made up of number one draft choices who don’t act like them. That grinding quality needs to return.

The American League Wild Card game the following night - Bobby Thomson Day October 3 - provided no such excitement. A now-healthy Aaron Judge slugged a two-run homer in the first inning and the Yankees were rarely threatened on their way to a 7-2 romp over the Oakland A’s.

Predictably, Billy Beane, the widely-hailed genius of the A’s, said that a playoff never tests the true value of a team, and usually effective manager Bob Melvin agreed. But like the Twins last year the A’s did not seem ready to play in such a high-pressured situation. A low payroll is no excuse for uninspired play though the Yankees are certainly formidable and peaking at the right time.

I grew up watching too many Yankees-Dodgers World Series in the 1940s and 1950s but we may be heading in that direction again. We’ll find out more in the next couple of weeks as the Yankees-Red Sox and Houston-Cleveland meet in the ALDS and the Dodgers-Atlanta Braves and Colorado-Milwaukee go head-to-head in the NLDS.

I'd like to see a rematch of the 1948 and 1995 with the Indians and Braves - Ryan Braun's arrogant unrepentant PED-abusing past makes it impossible for me to root hard for the Brewers though I have Wisconsin roots from the 1960s.

I'd like to see Indians win in seven though they too have a poster boy for PED abuse, Melky Cabrera. (Maybe he won't make the post-season roster.) But I know very well you can't always get what you want.

Meanwhile the baseball managerial firing season is in full flower. Cubs honcho Theo Epstein has assured the world that Joe Maddon will return in 2019 but not with an extension to the contract so he could well be considered a lame duck. Not likely given his innovative approach to life and managing.

Some people were surprised that Paul Molitor was fired in Minnesota but not me. I could see a look of near-resignation on his face in the latter stages of the season. In a very weak AL Central, the Twins finished second at 78-84 but only because they won a lot of relatively meaningless games at the end of the year.

The decision to not renew Buck Showalter’s contract in Baltimore was no surprise to anybody. A 47-115 season doesn’t look good on anyone’s resume.

It may mean the end of his managerial career though at 62 he still looks good on the surface. He certainly should be saluted for his many great achievements at turning around moribund teams - starting out with the New York Yankees in 1992 who had just come through their worst non-championship period after the 1981 World Series.

Buck left the Yankees after they lost a thrilling ALCS to the Seattle Mariners in 1995. He then became the first manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, starting with the team and setting the tone of the organization two years before they played their first game in 1998.

Just as in New York though, where Joe Torre took over essentially Buck’s team plus Derek Jeter and won the 1996 World Series, the Diamondbacks only went all the way in 2001 after Buck yielded the reins to former catcher (and now announcer) Bob Brenly. The addition of aces Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling didn’t hurt.

After managing the Texas Rangers for a few years earlier this century, he came to the Orioles late in the 2010 season. He turned the team around quickly and by 2012 the Orioles were back in the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

They won the AL East in 2014 and I’ll never forget the last great euphoric moment at Camden Yards. After beating the Tigers two in a row - a bases-clearing double by Delmon Young the deciding hit - a joyous Orioles fan carried a sign into the happy milling crowd: KATE UPTON IS HOT, VERLANDER IS NOT. (Justin of course now has the last laugh appearing again in the playoffs for the second year in a row.)

Buck’s last playoff game with the Orioles can be marked in 20-20 hindsight as the beginning of the end - when he chose not to use ace closer Zach Britton in the Wild Card game at Toronto in 2016. In fairness to Buck, every other bullpen choice in that game had worked like a charm.

But to channel George Costanza to George Steinbrenner in a classic Seinfeld episode, “How could you trade Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps?” I asked in wonderment sitting at the bar at Foley’s that night: “How could you choose Ubaldo Jimenez over Zach Britton in a double-play situation in a tied game on the road?!”

Buck’s last two seasons were not good in Baltimore and 2018 defied belief in its horror. He is moving back to Texas, this native of the Florida Panhandle who went and played at Mississippi State but owes a lot of his inspiration to meeting his father’s friend Bear Bryant at Alabama.

From his earliest moments in Baltimore - when he finished 34-23 in 2010 winning more games than the team had won before he arrived - he made all of us Oriole addicts proud and created lasting memories.

It is almost fitting though equally sad that Adam Jones has probably also played his last game in Baltimore. This effervescent modern player and the old school manager formed a unique bond during the Orioles’s good years.

Jones’s free spirit but obvious desire to win allowed Buck to loosen up some of his old-school rules. So on hot days Buck allowed the Orioles to take batting practice in shorts. It was Jones who insisted that Buck take a bow out of the dugout when he won his 1000th game as a manager.

It’s sad that this year from hell lowered Showalter’s lifetime record to under .500 with the Orioles. The road up will be a hard one and the Orioles are also looking for a new general manager with the decision to not rehire Dan Duquette.

Ownership remains in flux with the Angelos sons in charge now with patriarch Peter ailing. It can’t be worse than 47-115, can it?

So let me close with a big thank you to Nathaniel “Buck” Showalter for the pride and joy he brought to the Orioles and their fans for many years.

That’s all for now - always remember: take it easy but take it!
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