In February 2006, a group of parents met to discuss the idea of playing spring travel baseball for their 12-year-old sons at an advanced level of play. The level was 75-foot bases, 51-foot pitching mound, stealing and a higher level of competition. Most other areas on Long Island had already initiated travel in their spring baseball programs, some at earlier ages. The travel program, although not affiliated with the Manhasset PAL, would be done in tandem with the spring PAL league. There were some sacrifices that had to be overcome, but after considering the overall benefits to the kids, the 12-year-old travel baseball team was born.
The travel team entered the spring FABL (Federation of Amateur Baseball League) with a 14 game season and played the home games at Christopher Morley Park. The team consisted of PJ Barry, Alex Baydar, Patrick Heaney, Luke Koskovolis, Michael Marciano, Conor McNamara, Danny Merola, Conor O'Donnell, Stephen Pace, Billy Riggin, Jack and Will Salter and Alessandro Troia. The manager and coaches were Charlie Merola and Lou Koskovolis, Gino Pace and Bill Riggin, respectively. Others who contributed their time and energy were PJ Barry, Jim Baydar, Scott Heaney, John Marciano, Dennis McNamara, Pete O'Donnell and George Salter.
During spring play, the kids got acclimated rather quickly to the increase in the base paths, pitching mound and base stealing. Highlights of the spring centered around a solid defense, with Alex Baydar, Patrick Heaney, Luke Koskovolis, Conor McNamara, Danny Merola, Stephen Pace and Billy Riggin on the mound; PJ Barry, Patrick Heaney, Michael Marciano, Conor O'Donnell and Jack Salter behind the plate; Billy Riggin and Jack Salter at first base, Stephen Pace at second, Michael Marciano and Danny Merola at shortstop and Luke Koscovolis and Conor McNamara at third. The outfield was anchored by PJ Barry, Alex Baydar, Conor O'Donnell, Will Salter and Alessandro Troia. The kids really enjoyed the faster movement of the game with the addition of base stealing and went on to steal more bases than any other team while capturing first place with a 10-4 record.
The travel team went on to play summer baseball with 75-foot bases. They entered the FABL with a 16-game season and again played at Christopher Morley Park. Matt Woop joined the team and added both offensive and defensive strength. With the spring season under their belts, the kids further strengthened their play at this level and captured second place in the FABL with an 11-5 record. During the summer season, they also played a seven-game tournament in Glen Cove. The kids, with a 4-3 record, played their best baseball of the year. In the three loses, one should have been won and in the two others the teams played the top teams in close games, losing 3-0 and 6-3. Highlights of the tournament were a strong battery, pitching by Alex Baydar, Patrick Heaney, Luke Koskovolis and Danny Merola, and catching by Michael Marciano, Conor O'Donnell and Jack Salter. Other standouts were infielders' Patrick Heaney, Luke Koskovolis, Michael Marciano, Danny Merola, Stephen Pace and Billy Riggin along with outfielders' PJ Barry, Alex Baydar and Will Salter.
In the last stop for 2006, it was realized that the children would be playing baseball at 90-foot base paths in spring 2007 with their respective middle-school teams. They would again be elevated to another level. The travel team entered the fall season with the FABL with a 14 game season at 90-foot bases and 60-foot pitching mound. The games were played at the Manhasset High School fields, which was the first time this year they played in their own town. Joining the team for the fall were Doug Aaron, Mark Downey, Chris Mateo and Cole Schietinger, who added strong defensive skills at pitching, catching and the outfield. Again, the kids got acclimated rather quickly to the larger field. The one noticeable hurdle was the 90-foot distance to first base. Once first base was attained, the kids were off and running again.
Looking back over 2006, over three seasons of play and some 50 something games, there was a need to recognize many individuals who made the year in baseball very enjoyable and a total success in every way. First, thanks to the kids who made a major commitment to this program for three seasons. They elevated their game of baseball in every way, came together nicely as a team and as better friends and provided tremendous laughs to all of their families with their unique personalities.
Next, thanks to the coaching of Lou Koskovolis, Gino Pace and Bill Riggin for their extensive time commitment to the team and all the families who had made these same commitments to the program over the year.
Thanks to all the coaches and dads for their time in assisting with field preparation before our games.
Thanks to the moms for their generosity in providing lunch to the team between games. A special thanks to Terry Riggin for her camera work during the year, in providing each family with the most unique pictures of their kids, and the team picture.
Thanks to Marirose Merola, Scott Wysota, Pete O'Donnell and Jim Smyth for their time and assistance throughout the year.
Thanks to Dr. Cardillo, Armand Markarian and the Manhasset School Board for granting access to our town fields at the high school during the fall season.
In closing, after looking back at the 2006 year in baseball, heartfelt thanks to everyone who took part in this program in making it a total success. In future years, it is hoped that others will realize the benefits to the children and the sport of baseball, by competing at the travel level in the spring, summer and fall seasons.