Now on their own, Porters point to school pride

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mark Pagano, a junior who plays shortstop and pitcher, was a study in concentration as he fielded a ground ball during Tuesday's practice.

It wasn’t as if Greenport High School baseball players with the ability didn’t have the option of playing varsity baseball. The only thing was, it meant that they had to make a daily bus trip to Southold High School to play for the combined Southold/Greenport Clippers.

Until last year, that is how it had been since around 1990, when the two schools decided to consolidate their baseball program. Now, some 21 years later, varsity baseball is back in Greenport. The Porters have a varsity team to call their own once again, and if anyone wonders if it makes a difference to the players, just listen to them.

“It’s nice to be able to play for your own school,” senior second baseman/pitcher Anthony Nichols said. “We’re our own team here.”

Mark Pagano, a junior shortstop/pitcher, said: “We’re all happy about it. We love it.” He added, “When we win a game, it’s like Greenport winning.”

They will play on Greenport dirt and grass, wearing purple and gold Greenport uniforms, in front of Greenport fans.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Anthony Nichols, a senior second baseman and pitcher, said it's nice to play for his own school.

Call it Greenport pride, school pride, whatever. The Porters undoubtedly feel it.

That includes Shaun Hansen, the senior first baseman/pitcher who played for the Southold First Settlers last season before moving to the neighboring school district.

“It’s hard to decribe, but it’s a whole different feeling,” Hansen said. “It definitely has to do with pride and all that. It feels good, though.”

While Southold fielded its own varsity team last season, the Porters put out a junior varsity team that went 8-12 under Coach Mike Reed, who has moved up to be the varsity coach.

“It’s a hometown feeling,” said Reed, who played for the Porters before graduating in 1980.

What makes this team interesting is that although it is new, the players aren’t raw. If nothing else, Hansen gives the Porters instant credibility. Hansen was an all-county player last season with a batting average that was over .450. He also smacked nine home runs.

(Hansen, by the way, isn’t the only Hansen in the program. His father, Brian, is the assistant coach, and his older brother, Matt, is the junior varsity coach.)

Reed considers Hansen to be the best player in Suffolk County League VIII. “Having Shaun, that helps,” he said.

So does pitching, and the Porters appear to have plenty of it. “Pitching wins,” said Reed.

The team has seven pitchers, including three starters — Hansen, Pagano and Bryant Rivis.

The coach’s son, who is also named Mike Reed, will also be catching pitches thrown by Nichols, Sean Charters, Matt Dibble and Brian Lehmann, a knuckleballer.

“We have a lot of pitching and high expectations,” Pagano said. “If we have a good pitching staff, I think we’re going to be hard to beat.”

The sense of excitement was palpable when the Porters started preseason practice this week. Perhaps that’s because the Porters believe they can be competitive.

Nichols said defense will be critical to the team’s fortunes. “As long as we don’t make too many errors, we have the hitting and pitching,” he said. “The team’s put in a lot of work, so I think we should be ready.”

Coach Reed, who oversaw a fund-raising drive to raise money for equipment, also sounds like he’s ready for the action to begin. The Porters will play their first game on March 28, a non-league contest at Center Moriches.

“They’re excited,” Coach Reed said of his players. “The best thing about it is it’s our own team.”

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