Baseball: Familiar face takes over at McGann-Mercy

Mercy varsity baseball coach Skip Gehring goes over instructions with his team during practice Tuesday. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

It’s not the soreness that’s been a problem so much for Mercy’s new baseball coach. It’s the blisters.

Such is the price to pay for the constant barrage of fly balls hit into the outfield during practice.

“In the first week of practice I probably hit 800 fly balls to the outfielders,” said Skip Gehring, who replaces Ed Meier as the varsity coach this season. 

It’s part of a focus on returning to the fundamentals of the game during the preseason portion of the season. That’s meant a lot of defensive work for Mercy’s 34 players who will make up the varsity and junior varsity teams.

“We’re going back to the fundamentals, breaking them down and rebuilding them,” Gehring said. “From the baseball to the swing to the throwing, to the fielding. We’re kind of taking a couple steps back to the basic skills, perfecting those before we move on.”

While Gehring took over the position on short notice after Meier resigned for personal reasons earlier this year, he said he was already familiar with many of the players on the team. Gehring, who played baseball at Chaminade and Villanova, worked as a varsity assistant coach on the varsity basketball team under Mike Clauberg for four years.

He also operates Fundamental Sports Training, a facility in Westbury where Mercy players have trained in the offseason.

Gehring said he inherited a dedicated group of athletes, which is exemplified by their extra training sessions in the morning. Gehring said many of the players, about 20 some days, arrive to the school early, at about 6:45 a.m., to practice hitting off the tee.

“I’ve been proud of them,” Gehring said. “They’re getting an hour of hitting in off the tee in the morning before classes.”

Gehring said he was impressed with the turnout of players that showed up for the first practice March 3. One of the early challenges for the coaches is evaluating the players and determining where each player fits best.

“We had a lot of additional kids that tried out this year that necessarily weren’t involved with baseball before,” he said. “It was a really nice turnout.”

Some players may have the skill for varsity, but not necessarily be ready physically, Gehring said.

Charles Zilnicki, who played at St. Joseph’s College, is coaching the junior varsity. Mark McBurnie is another coach on the staff this season.

Mercy opens the season March 21 with a non-league game at home against Pierson.

Correction: Charles Zilnicki’s name was misspelled in an earlier version.

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