ADELPHI PANTHERS Head Baseball Coach Dom Scala has long been one of our favorites here, especially with regard to the ONE-ON-ONE BASEBALL CAMPS he’s been offering for more than 10 years at this point. A former major leaguer, Scala’s all about community, and one of the things that has pushed him even higher up on the pedestal of regard, as far as we’re concerned, is this new book he’s just published, entitled of course, “ONE-ON-ONE BASEBALL.” Within these pages, Scala shares some extremely useful tips on fundamentals, drills, exercises, etc. that are so practical you’ll want to run right out onto a field immediately and try to put them to work. As a fledgling coach myself, I have to say, it’s like having a mentor to show you the ropes as you flip page by page. Moreso though, I think anyone who picks it up will immediately appreciate Scala’s candor in terms of his own career, a humility which obviously is one of the things that comes to play when he is tending to the sensitive feelings and slower learning curves of our community’s young people. (FYI, Scala’s got a book-signing coming up at one of our favorite places in Brooklyn, CARMINE’S PIZZERIA on Graham Avenue, the evening of June 11th.)
If you’re one to call Yankee Stadium “The House That Ruth Built” and the clubhouse at the Forest Hills Little League “The House That Abe Built” (Abe Miller, that is), then surely you’re likely to refer to THE CAGE on Metropolitan Avenue as “The House That Was Built For Jesse,” Jesse being high school senior Jesse Friedman, whose parents Ross Friedman and Judy Chase built the indoor batting facility for their son and others, simply because there was nothing of the kind around that could even come close to providing the consistent regimen that the budding ballplayer was looking for. Well, now the hard-throwing righthander has decided to give back a little, an instinct you definitely don’t see in most folks his age, and will be providing personal baseball instruction for kids this summer at, where else? – THE CAGE! “My whole life, from a very young age, I’ve been going to camps, all these places,” says Friedman, “so to be able to give some of that back, it’s pretty special.” Not only that, but the experience only helps to hone Friedman’s own baseball acumen as he heads off to Queens College in the fall, after a summer stint with the MidVille Dodgers. “If I’m working with a kid, if I’m correcting his pitching mechanics let’s say, later on I’m telling myself to pay attention to that same thing, so it really does help keep me in check with my fundamentals.” Having just hurled the first no-hitter of his career a couple of weeks ago, you would think Friedman was maybe beyond fundamentals at this point, but that’s what’s even more impressive about the guy, he keeps striving to get better. An impressive journey that, as an instructor, he actually gets to share with those as eager to soak it all in as he once was. “I relate to these kids a lot,” he points out. “I mean, it was only six years ago that I was going through Little League myself.”
Look, there’s so much to love about citiFIELD, right? The SHAKE SHACK, the PEPSI PORCH, the MODELL’S CLUBHOUSE, the JACKIE ROBINSON ROTUNDA, and so on, and so on. But one of the things that keeps striking us on our past couple of visits is how friendly all the staff are, how well-informed they all are. I mean, after all, this is a baseball stadium we’re talking about, right? The demonstrable difference between the gruffness that permeated SHEA before (and don’t get me started on that “other” ballpark) and the new bonhomie that characterizes citiFIELD has got to be credited in part to the stewardship of Craig Marino, the ballpark’s Vice-President of Guest Experience, a newly created position. Marino cut his teeth in the organization with the BROOKLYN CYCLONES and with the exemplary charity organization NAT’S KIDS, whereupon he first earned the Wilpons’ considerable trust. But shepherding citiFIELD successfully into the next generation – well that’s quite a feather in Marino’s cap too, and truth be told, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
Is this guy not a lesson in earning your keep? Okay, so maybe Ramon Castro’s not a big fan, but when the game is on the line, would you really want the bat in anyone else’s hands other than Mr. Clutch? Not only that, but he’s handled a pitching staff he barely knows absolutely masterfully. And as tight as this National League East is shaping up to be right now, consider where the Metropolitans might be were there not an Omir Santos.
The WCCS GIANTS
Gotta tip my cap to a couple of 11-12 year olds who showed tremendous grit this past week (these would be the Williamsburg Collegiate Giants), and who demonstrated one of the beauteous things about baseball, that there’s no clock, and as the great Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Down 7-6 heading into the sixth and final inning, another brilliant shutout inning by Anthony Brito kept it close and gave the Giants one last shot at bat. After one out, scrappy “Captain for the Day” Rainell Hernandez gets a walk, and immediately becomes an alert base-runner, steals second, then third - then dramatically (like Jackie Robinson!) steals home to tie the game 7-7! But the Giants aren’t done yet. Because then after another out (two now), second baseman Bryan Almonte comes up and just completely whacks the ball towards the scoreboard in left-field for a double. Then he steals second while the next batter, Ervin “Big Papi” Pena, is up, so Almonte is on third, just one base away! And like in the major leagues maybe, or in the movies even, Ervin Pena then hits a single that squeezes through the infield, and no one can get to it in time to keep Almonte from scoring. Game over, final score 8-7! You can still hear the cheering…