Braves Baseball Begins Long Journey Towards Playoffs
While the frigid temperatures this week may have made it difficult to claim that baseball was in the air, don’t tell that to the 38 players who shuffled out to the baseball field to compete for a spot on the 2011 Braves roster.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald stood along the third base line watching the hopefuls, trying to pick out the group he will spend the next three months guiding. Although Fitzgerald has a lot of seniors returning, that doesn’t make his job any easier.
“Cutting is never fun,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s the least favorite part of my job. Right now, my challenge is to whittle it down to a manageable number for practice and select the group that I think can win us a championship.”
The manager is a meticulous talent evaluator. His basis for choosing players extends well beyond pure hitting and pitching prowess. For both offensive and defensive talent, Fitzgerald judges players based on ten distinct categories. He also grades intangibles, such as attitude and baseball IQ.
The Braves finished one game above .500 last season, barely missing the playoffs. The young junior crop of 2010 has turned into an experienced senior group. Fitzgerald expects the team to be composed primarily of seniors, with a few top juniors and sophomores sprinkled in.
In addition to dealing with the challenges of choosing a team, early March baseball tryouts are always littered with weather concerns. The wind and rain hardly made trying out any easier. Fitzgerald tries to make the weather a bit more bearable by keeping each hopeful extremely involved.
“People have told me I coach baseball like a football coach,” Fitzgerald said. “I like to think that I’m pretty good at planning, as far as keeping all the guys as busy as possible. It’s a little more difficult in tryouts because you’re trying to see each individual kid."
Pending SAT conflicts, a final inter-squad workout is scheduled for Saturday. Fitzgerald said he expects the team to be selected by Monday.
Syosset Boys Lacrosse Trains for Start of Season
Not surprisingly, expectations are high for head coach John Calabria’s Syosset Braves boys lacrosse team. in the Nassau County semifinals last season, the Braves expect to go to the county championship this season.
That journey began this week.
The first week of regular season practice isn’t designed to serve as an orientation, but instead is looked at as an extension of Calabria’s ten month program.
“Since we play almost year round, the first week has kind of lost the luster of being new,” Calabria said. “That gives way to a really positive feeling of hitting the ground running.”
The coach, already in his twelfth season, has been pleased with the start.
“The boys seem ready to go this season with a great first week of preparation,” he said.
The Braves open up the season on March 22 against Garden City.