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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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New York City Pays Homage To Willie Mays & More on Dear Departed Baseball Scouts

Friday September 29 was the 63rd anniversary of Willie Mays’ great catch off Vic Wertz in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. Along with a timely Dusty Rhodes home run over the Polo Grounds short right field fence, Mays’ defensive gem sparked the New York Giants to a sweep over the favored Cleveland Indians.

To commemorate this anniversary, New York City's Mayor Bill DeBlasio proclaimed Sept 29 Willie Mays Day. In a noontime ceremony, the sign Willie Mays Drive was unveiled at the northeast corner of 155th Street and the Harlem River Driveway.

Down below stood the Polo Grounds where I saw my first baseball game at the age of 6 in the summer of 1948. Now a school and housing project occupy the space.

One of the prime movers in this celebration was City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez who represents the 10th city council district that includes the Polo Grounds on Harlem’s Sugar Hill. Normally the City of New York does not permit streets to be named for living people but Rodriguez lobbied successfully to make an exception in the case of Mays.

Councilman Rodriguez is a native of the Dominican Republic who came to NYC as a eighteen-year old. He thrust himself into community affairs as a student at City College and has been a longtime advocate for making his constituents aware of the rich athletic history of his neighborhood.

Another honored invitee was fellow Dominican Rico Pena, the coach of the Luperon High School baseball team that in its brief history has already become a contender for the city championship. Pena brought several of his players to the ceremony.

Mays is now 86 — Willie Mays is 86 years old! - and makes his primary home just south of San Francisco (though he has long kept an apartment in the western Bronx neighborhood of Riverdale). He didn’t make the trip for this honor but his adopted son Michael Mays was on hand. So was Mario Alioto, the executive VP of Business Operations for the SF Giants.

“I don’t make history, I just catch fly balls,” Mays once said. He was being modest because he was the epitome of the five-tool player who could run, throw, field, hit for average, and hit with power. In one of his pithiest phrases, Branch Rickey once said of Mays, “The secret to his success is the frivolity in his bloodstream.”

At a reception after the ceremony at the Rio III gallery on the SE corner of St. Nicholas Avenue and 155th Street, a portrait was unveiled of Mays playing stickball
with neighborhood Harlem kids.

The lower floors of this handsome new building on 898 St. Nicholas Ave. house The Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Arts and Storytelling. This new facility was designed by famed architect David Adjaye who created the acclaimed African-American cultural museum in DC and just was selected to build the new Studio Museum in Harlem.

The Sugar Hill Children's Museum should be a must-visit for parents who want to educate their children about the rich cultural history of their neighborhood and urban and rural life in general.

Before I conclude this first October blog, I want to say a few more words about the achievements of three great baseball people who passed on in recent weeks.

Gene Michael, 79, may have been the classic "good field, no hit" player. But he learned from his failures to become a top-notch player evaluator who somehow survived the George Steinbrenner firing machine to be a key part of the Yankees resurgence in the 1990s.

Gene Bennett, 91, spent his whole career with the Cincinnati Reds. Growing up in Branch Rickey country of Scioto County in southern Ohio, Bennett was advised by Rickey to take a job as scout instead of minor league manager.

"You can get fired if one season you are given a bad team," Rickey sagely advised. A good scout, though, can perform a service to the team if he finds prospects year after year. "TALENT SETS THE STAGE, CHARACTER SETS THE CEILING," was one of Bennett's most memorable adages.

Last but not least, Mel Didier, 91, left a remarkable legacy in baseball. He was the only man to work on the ground floor of three expansion franchises - the Montreal Expos, the Seattle Mariners, and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Didier signed future Hall of Famers Gary Carter and Andre Dawson for Montreal. He tried valiantly to sign Kirk Gibson for Seattle but team owners weren't supportive and Gibson insisted on finishing his athletic career at Michigan State.

Ten years later when working for the LA Dodgers, Didier was instrumental in getting Gibson to sign with LA as a free agent. It was his scouting report on Dennis Eckersley's penchant for throwing sliders on 3-2 counts that Gibson remembered when he hit his walkoff homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series that propelled LA's sweep of the Oakland A's.

Didier wrote often on baseball and its techniques. His memoir with sportswriter T.R. Sullivan, PODNUH LET ME TELL YOU A STORY is one of the best of its kind.

That's all for now. Next time we'll have a better sense of how October baseball is shaping up. I still sentimentally like Cleveland to win the World Series, perhaps over Washington (but another injury to hurler Max Scherzer puts that outcome in doubt.)

In the meantime always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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