Joe Tardif’s entrance into the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League was loud and dramatic.
In his first at-bat for the North Fork Ospreys, Tardif blasted a 3-and-2 pitch for a grand slam against the Long Island Road Warriors. “That was cool,” he said.
The funny thing is, for all his talents, Tardif is not known for being a home-run hitter. Then again, he is a ballplayer. There’s no question about that.
Tardif, a two-time athlete of the year selection by The Suffolk Times when he attended Mattituck High School, brought his game to SUNY/Cortland, where he will enter his senior year. The speedy centerfielder catches anything within reach, swings a bat for high average and runs the bases like a demon. This past season at Cortland, Tardif put up a .306 batting average, 15 RBIs, scored 17 runs and went 5-for-5 in stolen bases. He started 30 of the 38 games he played in for the Red Dragons.
And now he’s spending the summer essentially playing in his backyard at the Ospreys’ home field, Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic. “It’s nice having a field five minutes from my home and playing good baseball and good competition every day,” said the Cutchogue resident.
Tardif joined the Ospreys knowing two of his new teammates beforehand — infielder/outfielder Matt Heffernan (SUNY/Fredonia), who played with Tardif on Mattituck’s 2015 state championship team, and pitcher Kevin Glasser, who had played at Cortland before transferring to Adelphi.
The difference between high school baseball and the college version, Tardif has found, is the mental game.
“It’s not so much more physically advanced, it’s more like mentally advanced,” he said. “It’s more a smarter game … You’ve already been playing for your whole life so it’s not so much mechanical any more, you’re just trying to stay positive and work through whatever adversity you face.”
Through Sunday, the 5-8, 165-pound Tardif had a .318 batting average, one homer, 15 RBIs, 26 runs scored and eight stolen bases in 23 games. His smart play has endeared him to the Ospreys’ new manager, Patrick Riley.
“He’s been awesome for us,” Riley said. “He’s been right at the top of the lineup and playing centerfield for us and we’re playing him just about every day. Not only is he a good player, but he’s really good off the field. He represents this organization, everything that it is and he’s awesome. He’s an awesome guy. He’s a talented player and we’re going to need him to keep doing the same.”
What does Tardif want to get out of the HCBL?
He said, “Just play good baseball, get my at-bats in, get good swings at balls, hit the ball hard.”
• Now playing LF, Heffernan
Matt Heffernan of Cutchogue was a shortstop for Mattituck High School, but he’s been a spot starter in leftfield for the Ospreys. The SUNY/Fredonia junior had a .148 batting average through Sunday. This past college season, his slash line was .211/.360/.263 in 12 games.
“He plays the game hard,” Patrick Riley said. “He goes out there and competes and provides a spark. He’s a talented player, no doubt. He works hard and that’s what we need him to do.”
• Call Vaz a catalyst
If there is a catalyst for the Ospreys, it has to be Javier Vaz. The sophomore infielder from Louisiana State University at Eunice has been tearing it up. Through Sunday he led the team with a .358 batting average (third in the league) and 12 stolen bases in 18 games.
“He’s done a really good job,” Patrick Riley said. “He’s been playing shortstop for us, batting in the middle of the order, batting leadoff or batting third, depending on who’s in the lineup, but, you know, he’s done a good job and he’s got a lot of energy. He’s got a good baseball sense, runs the bases well, plays hard, hits the ball well to all fields, so he’s definitely been a strength for us.”
Photo caption: Joe Tardif fielding a ball in centerfield while being backed up by Isaac Deveaux. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)