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Baseball: Changes abound as HCBL enters new season

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05/29/2019 6:00 AM |

As Tom Hanks said in the movie “A League of Their Own,” there’s no crying in baseball.

Or is there?

When the Riverhead Tomcats, who had been the only Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League team not to win a league championship, were finally crowned last summer, tears came to general manager Patti White’s eyes. “I cried,” she said.

Now White hopes the upcoming season will end in more tears of joy for herself. In the seven-team league’s 12-year history, it has never had a repeat champion. The Tomcats (24-13-3 last season) hope to do something about that.

“We were the last club to win it,” White said. “We’re going to be the first club to repeat.”

Depending on how one looks at it, that would be in keeping with the league’s new theme: change.

Change is everywhere.

The HCBL has a new president. Henry Bramwell has retired from that post. Sandi Kruel was unanimously voted in as the league’s fourth president.

Four clubs have new GMs, including the North Fork Ospreys, who have Steve DeCaro and Gene Rochler sharing those duties.

The Southampton Breakers, with Rob Cafiero, are the only team that doesn’t have a new manager. Bill Ianniciello, who had managed the Ospreys for seven years, takes over the Tomcats, who were managed by John Galanoudis last year. “He made the switch over to Riverhead, and I could not be happier,” said White. Meanwhile, Patrick Riley has become the Ospreys’ fourth manager.

“All kinds of fresh faces and familiar faces doing different jobs,” said White.

Opening Day on Saturday will bring a slate of three games. Among them, the Tomcats will begin the defense of their league title at home against the Shelter Island Bucks. The Ospreys will host the Long Island Road Warriors.

The Tomcats have three players returning from their league champion team: infielder Louis Antos (Queens College), pitcher Nick DeSalvo (Long Island University) and pitcher Joe Murphy (New York Tech). Two former Shoreham-Wading River High School players, pitcher Gabriel Romano (Quinnipiac) and outfielder Nicholas Manesis (United States Military Academy), are on the roster.

The Ospreys, who finished in sixth place with a 14-22-4 record, are coming off a season in which they never seemed to get on track. It’s the job of the team’s co-GMs, DeCaro and Rochler, to help that happen. They are succeeding Janet Dickerson, who remains with the club. The two have coached together at Mattituck High School for 13 years before Rochler succeeded DeCaro this year as the Tuckers’ head coach.

“Now we’re management,” DeCaro said. “I guess we’ve always been management.”

Two of their former high school players will play for them once again, infielder Matt Heffernan (SUNY/Fredonia) and outfielder Joe Tardif (SUNY/Cortland), both of Cutchogue.

Elsewhere, infielder Miles Kelly (Rutgers University) of Mattituck will play for the Road Warriors and infielder Nick Bottari (Southeastern University) of Wading River will play for the Westhampton Aviators.

The seventh annual HCBL All-Star Game will be played at the Ospreys’ home, Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic, on July 13. The first two all-star games were played in Peconic in 2013 and 2014.

DeCaro described his GM work to this point as “organized chaos.” He said, “I’m looking forward to Opening Day so instead of all the management things I’ve had to do … I can just go and watch.”

Host families needed. The HCBL is looking for host families to provide housing for players. Anyone interested can find information at hamptonsbaseball.org.

Photo caption: North Fork’s Connor Stanton slides in for a triple, beating the throw to Riverhead third baseman Nicholas Lucchese in the ninth inning in a 2018 game. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)

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