About 25 percent of Nassau County High School varsity baseball players are getting a chance to step on the field together in 2020 thanks to the efforts of many coaches, led by Clarke’s Tom Abruscato.
He sprung into action soon after official word of the cancellation of spring sports throughout New York State came in late April due to Covid-19. After six weeks of development and planning, the result was a 14-team L.I. Boys of Summer league that got underway July 6.
“We always have a few teams in the Boys of Summer every year,” said Abruscato, who in 2019 guided Clarke to its seventh county championship during his tenure. “This year it’s more about the seniors than anything else,” he added. “Most of them missed not only the baseball season, but prom and graduation.”
While the Rams won’t get to defend their title until next spring, they’ll look to have success — and more importantly, fun — this July and August competing against some of the top competition in Nassau. The summer league is in no way related to Section VIII high school athletics.
“We’re all itching to get back on the field and it’s great to get this opportunity to play,” recent Clarke graduate Chris Giardino said.
In addition to Clarke, the league includes Bellmore-JFK, Bethpage, Calhoun, Clarke, East Rockaway, Garden City, MacArthur, Mepham, North Shore, Oceanside, Plainedge, South Side, Valley Stream and Wheatley. Valley Stream’s roster includes kids from Central, North and South high schools.
“For our seven seniors, losing the high school season was just devastating,” Mepham coach Eric Passman said. “This summer league isn’t really about winning, it’s about kids getting to play with their friends one last time.”
Kennedy alumni Jordan Kanner and Zach Rosenfeld are coaching the Cougars. “The student-athletes deserve a taste of what they missed out on this past season,” Kanner said.
On opening day, July 6, Calhoun defeated Mepham, 5-4, in walk-off fashion at Cantiague Park in Hicksville. Pat Sanchez doubled home Pete Rogers with the tying run in the bottom of the seventh and then scored the winning run on an error.
“It’s an amazing thing to give these kids some type of season,” Calhoun coach Art Canestro said. “They’re excited to play.”
Each team will play a 10-game regular season, followed by playoffs. “We have to figure out how the playoffs are going to work as far as seeding and maybe some byes, but every team will get in and it’ll probably be double-elimination,” Abruscato said.
Games will be the usual 7 innings and most will be played Mondays and Tuesdays at 4 p.m. Fields being used include Cantiague, MacArthur H.S., Eisenhower Park, Garden City Community Park, and Mitchel Athletic Complex.
“Every single kid wanted to play, that’s why we’ve got a million kids here,” MacArthur coach Steve Costello said opening day. “It’s a home run. I give Tom [Abruscato] all the credit in the world for putting this together.”
The league will follow Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s safety guidelines for Phase 4 opening. This includes limiting spectators to two per player, not allowing sharing of equipment and being socially distant in the dugout, etc.
“I’m excited we’re able to give the seniors a little closure and have a few more laughs together before they head off to college,” South Side coach Tom Smith said.