Although they were only one of three Garden City High School teams this season to win the New York State Championship title, the GCHS baseball team's win was all the sweeter because by winning that title, they accomplished what no other team in the history of Garden City baseball has.
The Garden City High School baseball team ended their season 26-3, with the last 16 wins coming in a row. In winning the Nassau County title for the first time since 1945, earning the right to compete in the regional then state finals, Garden City defeated several longtime Nassau County powerhouse teams including Levittown's Division Avenue High School and Wantagh High School.
When asked how he felt about winning the state title, GCHS baseball coach Rich Smith, who has been coaching the team for 28 years, stated, "I accept it with a feeling of satisfaction, the emotion hasn't gotten to me yet. I'm just so satisfied that the group of kids we have had the opportunity to experience this." Smith attributes the team's success to "this group," which includes nine seniors, four of whom have played on the team since their sophomore year and John Maloney, who has been with the team since he was a freshman. "When you get to this level of play, when you have that senior maturity, it's a big factor," said Smith.
Another factor to which he gives credit is his coaching staff, which includes two assistant coaches, pitching coach Robert Trenkle and hitting coach Charles Menges. "The successes that we've had could not have been attained without them. The work that these guys have put in has been paramount to our success," stated Smith, who coached both Menges and Trenkle when they played on the Garden City High School baseball team in the early '80s.
Smith noted that the team began hitting and pitching clinics back in January which gave the players a jump start before the season began. "What Bob has done for our pitching staff proved major ¬ [Matt] Daley was 10-1 and [Jon] Burke's 11-0, he just had these kids pitching to their maximum. We had 16 hits in the semifinals and 13 hits in the final- Charlie handled the hitting aspect of the program so that's a credit to him," the head coach said proudly. "The rewards of their work certainly proved out as we finished the season."
The turning point of the season, in Smith's view, was a game during the Lynbrook season, where Garden City came from behind late in the game to win it, and then went on to win the next 15 games, right through the state finals. Throughout the season the team spoke about knocking down obstacles, looking at each game as another obstacle in their ultimate goal of winning the state championship, which in the beginning the team considered a long shot but attainable. Smith said that as each game was won the team kept a level emotional keel, congratulating each other but remaining focused on their ultimate goal. He said that single-minded focus remained right through their semifinal win on Saturday morning, which got them into the finals. "There was no emotion, no excitement, because the job wasn't done yet. It was just another obstacle they knocked down," said Smith, who admitted that early in the season winning the state championship was, "the farthest thing from my mind." He noted that as the season went on and he, Menges and Trenkle were talking, they realized that with the players they had, it actually was a possibility, "but it seems so far away when you look at what you have to do to get there."
Smith concluded, "The next obstacle that I'm going to have to face is not waking up in the morning and having the opportunity to go to practice with these kids again, because they've been such a part of our program for the past three years."