Baseball: ‘Snacks’ has been a treat out of bullpen for Ospreys

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07/25/2012 10:00 PM |

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Since adopting a side-armed delivery, North Fork reliever Mike Czenszak has added velocity and more movement to his pitches.

Every now and then, someone will approach Mike Czenszak, one of the pitchers in the North Fork Ospreys bullpen, with a question like, “So, what do you got?” To be clear, the question doesn’t refer to Czenszak’s pitching sharpness or his repertoire of pitches. No, the hungry questioner is more concerned with what sort of snacks Czenszak has to offer.

And thus the nickname, “Snacks.”

Czenszak earned that moniker during his first season with the Ospreys three years ago when he got into the habit of bringing snacks to games for his colleagues in the bullpen to munch on. “I always brought out a whole bunch of snacks, Cheese-Its, packets of things,” he said. “They always looked forward to me having something, Skittles, Starbursts. It was just a joke that caught on because I always left the house with something in my hand.”

The nickname has stuck, as has Czenszak, the only player in his third year with the Ospreys and their only remaining player from the squad that won the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League championship in 2010.

“Snacks” has been a treat for the Ospreys. Through Tuesday’s games, the reliever held a 3-0 record with a 4.21 earned run average and a team-leading four saves. He issued five walks against 29 strikeouts.

The North Fork is truly a home away from home for Czenszak, who grew up in Downingtown, Penn. His family has owned a beach house in Mattituck going back to the late 1960s, and Czenszak continues to spend his summers there with his parents, Terri and Robert.

That is one reason why Czenszak has chosen to remain with the Ospreys rather than take an opportunity this summer to play for the New Bedford (Mass.) Bay Sox in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. Another reason is his affinity for this area.

“It’s awesome out here,” he said. “I just wanted to enjoy something that I’m used to out here with the water and fishing. There’s so much to do out here that’s a lot of fun.”

Czenszak’s appreciation for his surroundings also had something to do with his college selection. Florida Southern was the only southern school among the 17 colleges that Czenszak applied to. The campus is regarded as one of the most attractive in the country.

A non-scholarship player for the NCAA Division II team, Czenszak is coming off his best season for Florida Southern. The right-hander adopted a side-armed delivery this past spring, and it paid immediate dividends with a junior season that saw him go 1-1, with a 3.10 earned run average in 20 1/3 innings as a middle reliever. He said he added a few miles per hour to his fastball, which has been clocked at 88 miles per hour. Czenszak, whose right arm is double jointed, has also seen added movement on his pitches, which includes a slider, a circle changeup and a two-seam fastball.

“It’s actually worked out much better than over the top for me,” he said of the side-armed approach.

North Fork coach Bill Ianniciello has noticed the difficulty Czenszak presents to batters. “He’s tough on righties and lefties,” Ianniciello said. “He’s got movement both ways.”

The Ospreys have used Czenszak in various roles, including once as a starter.

“He’s basically done whatever I’ve asked him to do, and he’s done it well,” Ianniciello said. “You feel good with him having the ball when the game is on the line.”

Like many players in the league, Czenszak has aspirations to play professionally after college. “I hope to continue living the dream,” he said. He already has a major-league connection in his family. His cousin, Jason Grilli, pitches for the Pittsburgh Pirates. An uncle, Steve Grilli, played for the Detroit Tigers in the 1970s and was a major league scout for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Czenszak has already pitched against major league batters. Florida Southern usually plays the Tigers and the Baltimore Orioles in spring-training games. Czenszak has pitched against players like Victor Martinez and Magglio Ordòñez. “You get to cherish those memories for a lifetime,” he said.

Three-year veterans are rare in the ACBL. Rarer yet are players like Czenszak, who has played for three Ospreys coaches in as many years: Shawn Epidendio, Brian Hansen and Ianniciello.

Czenszak remembers what it felt like to be an ACBL champion and he wants to experience that again.

“I hope we can bring home that trophy again back to the Osprey nation,” he said. “It was the greatest feeling winning that thing, and to do that again would be an honor.”

Meanwhile, Czenszak continues to deal pitches — and snacks.

“I think the most popular has been Cheese-Its,” Czenszak said. “That’s been a steady go. They’re so addictive for some reason. They’re a crowd-pleaser.”

So is the Ospreys reliever.

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