Written by Geoffrey Walter Thursday, 08 May 2014 00:00
Most high school varsity baseball teams in Nassau County only have to travel 30 miles at most for an away game. During spring break, Mineola traveled a little over 1,170 miles for eight scrimmages. The team flew to Vero Beach, FL, to Dodgertown, USA, the former spring training facility of the major league Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, for an extended training vacation, and won seven out of eight scrimmages against the likes of Poughkeepsie, Carmel, Brooklyn-based Midwood, Aquinas Institute, Jesuit McQuaid, Connecticut-based East Granby and Roth high schools.
The Dodgers moved their spring training home from the Florida-based Grapefruit League in Florida to a new facility in Glendale, AZ in the beginning of the 2009 season to be closer to their Los Angeles fanbase.
“Many of the Brooklyn [Dodger] fans have unfortunately passed on, so there’s not really too many of them left,” coach Helmut Bohringer said. “Dodgertown became like a Disney sports village.”
The week-long trip was the brainchild of Bohringer, a former minor leaguer in the Dodgers organization in the single-A advanced, or “high-A,” league—two levels away from the majors.
“One of my seasons was actually in Vero Beach so a couple of people that worked there remembered me—the old man—and they got programs and they gave me little gifts, it was really nice,” Bohringer said. “For me it was a week of memory lane.”
Bohringer had only organized one other training trip for players during his 19-year coaching career—2010 to North Carolina with Garden City High School as partners on the excursion. Like the trip four years ago, the inspiration for the 2014 trip came from the players themselves.
“With this group of seniors, there were four that were on the varsity as sophomores and there were a couple others that could have been but I said to them ‘I don’t know how much playing time you’re going to get,” Bohringer said of John Lusardi, Vinny Bieniek, Nick Iadevaio and Ryan Kelly.
“Those four guys made it but guys like Kenny Faith... and Brendan Healey, Mersim Redzematovic, all those guys, I said, ‘if you do everything that you’re supposed to do, be a good student in school,’ I said ‘we’ll try to have a trip.’
In all, 18 players from the varsity squad and two JV players accompanied Bohringer and JV coach Chris Schacca on the trip.
The cost amounted to about $1,100 per player for the entire week, A variety of fundraisers were used to lower costs, which included a recent plant and Christmas tree sale, a McDonald’s night and donations from Dominic’s Italian American Deli, Bucky Demelas & Son Landscaping and the Mineola
Booster Club which benefited the whole team. While at Dodgertown, the team was treated to three meals a day, had complete use of the facilities, stayed at the villas instead of staying at a hotel, had access to a player lounge and even a swimming pool.
“I wanted to give them a week of what it’s like to be a professional baseball player and the fact that this is what you would do if you were a professional baseball player,” Bohringer said.”
Though the Mustangs managed to win their April 21 game 3-2 thanks to a pitching performance from Iadevio, who struck out 14 Locust Valley batters, Bohringer was critical, saying that the team “didn’t play like we had been practicing all week.”
After sweeping Locust Valley, Mineola (8-4) is currently in a three-way tie for third place in battling for a playoff spot in conference IV. But while the Mustangs typically are in that same predicament every year, the 2014 season is different because of the change in the number and quality of teams in the new conference structure which used to be comprised of four teams: Seaford, Clarke, Valley Stream North and Mineola.
“That’s four really good teams where generally three out of four usually made it,” Bohringer said.
But now the conference totals have added Locust Valley, Cold Spring Harbor and Island Trees, a semi-finalist in the county playoffs five of the last six years.
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