Tomcats’ Mason Seizes Opportunity, Sets Single-Season Homer Mark

07/27/2012, 10:48pm EDT
By Jim Furlong

Scorching July Catapulted Riverhead Slugger to Top of HCB Roundtripper List

Josh Mason flashed a mile-wide grin. As he rounded third base Thursday night, his Riverhead teammates and coaches all saw the lingering joy on Mason’s face. Now all the Tomcats can say they played with a HCB record-setter.

When Mason (William & Mary) slugged his 12th homer of the summer season, he established a new HCB single-season record for homers. The left-handed hitting infielder surpassed the 11 homers that versatile Kevin Heller hit for the Westhampton Aviators during the 2011 season.

“I was so happy,” said Mason. “That is probably the best homer I have hit in my life.”

Soon after the Tomcats lost to the North Fork Ospreys 5-4 on their home field, Mason said he was eager to call home and talk to his parents, Sharon and Jeff, at their home in southeastern Virginia.

“My dad will probably be more happy than I am,” said Mason, who also planned to call the new head baseball coach at William & Mary.

Mason said he feels amazed when he thinks about his accomplishment.

“It still is a little hard to believe. It has not sunk in yet,” he said.  “Yes, I am surprised. I wasn’t expecting this.”

When the HCB season started two months ago, Mason did not join the league with impressive college statistics.

As a freshman reserve at William & Mary, he batted .156 (five hits in 32 at-bats with one double). He made 10 starts in 20 appearances for the Tribe.

“I lost a lot of confidence at William & Mary and I found it here again (with coach Randy Caden’s Tomcats),” said Mason. “My goal is to get back in the swing of things. I didn’t play much at William & Mary. I love the sport and I just wanted to play this summer. If people told me at the start of the summer that I would do this, I would think they were crazy. … But in high school I was a power hitter.”

During his last two prep seasons, Mason produced a combined 16 homers. As a senior, he slugged 10, which shares the single-season record for Bishop Sullivan High School.

As the Tomcats competed, the 6-0, 185-pound Mason gradually raised his batting average to .312, but his season didn’t round into shape until July, and even with his big month, Mason broke the HCB single-season mark for strikeouts too (61). Nevertheless, his 12th homer, a solo shot of about 375 feet to right center at the Riverhead High varsity field, gave him his 29th RBI in 132 at-bats.

“I just got my confidence and I have been working a lot on my swing,” Mason said. I work every day and I think it clicked. I found something that worked: getting on my front foot more. I have definitely shown consistency with power. I hit more balls on the barrel.”

Mason, who is using a 34-inch bat weighing 33 ounces, inspires himself before every at-bat.

“When I am on deck, I tell myself that I am a great hitter,” he said. “That calms me down.”

Mason said he did retrieve his record-setting home run ball and he plans to add the souvenir to his mother’s collection.

Eric Romano of North Fork, in his third HCB season, praised Mason’s feat. Romano has played with and against most of HCB’s top hitters the last three years.

“It is impressive,” said Romano. I didn’t think anyone would break Heller’s record. For (Mason) to do that, in a short amount of time, that’s amazing.”

North Fork manager Bill Ianniciello, who worked for the New York Mets for 31 years, also praised Mason.

“Give the kid credit,” said Ianniciello. “By any measure, it is a good record. We do have some hitter-friendly fields, but you still have to get good wood on the ball.”

Mason joins Joe Solomeno, the leader of the Center Moriches Battlecats, in rewriting the HCB record books. Solomeno (Pace University) has already set new HCB marks for hits (60) and RBI (53). The front runner to be named the 2012 HCB player of the year, Solomeno (.432) appears to be in position to break the single-season record for highest batting average, which stands at .397.


Pitching Dominates at ACBL All-Star Game

07/21/2012, 2:41am (EDT)
By Jeff Noreman (photos by Jeff Noreman)

Hamptons, Kaiser, & Wolff Send Some of Their Best to Brooklyn

2012 ABCL All Star Game

Riverhead's Will Bacon

The combined Kaiser & Wolff Division All Star Team strung together three hits in the top of the first inning to jump out to a 2-0 lead over the Hamptons Division All-Stars. They made it stand up throughout the game where pitchers from all ACBL divisions dominated. In front of families, fans and scouts, the Kaiser/Wolff squad earned a 2-1 win in the nine inning game at MCU Ballpark in Coney Island.

Shamrocks outfielder Steve Goldstein (Stony Brook) led off the game by beating out a grounder to third. Lehigh Valley’s Corey Jensen (Whittier) followed him with a sharp double to left. After Paul Paez (Rio Hondo JC) of Southampton struck out the next batter, Trenton General’s DH Matt Moceri (Davis & Elkins) lined an 0-2 pitch to left center for a single, scoring both runners.

“It was a changeup down the middle, and I swung and … it came out well,” said a humble Moceri. “I was looking offspeed, I didn’t think he was going to throw another fastball. It worked out.”

The story of the game was painted in innings two through eight. The pitching for both sides was consistently solid to excellent. During those innings, only three hits were given up in total, yielding no runs for either side. One of those pitchers was the Tides Matt Mantione (Kean), who pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning. Mantione got the call that he was playing in the All Star Game just two days before.

Sam Frost (Mississippi St.)


Westhampton’s Danny Goldstein (Bucknell) had a very solid performance in the seventh inning. His arsenal includes a fastball, slider, changeup, and sinker, which he used as he faced three batters, fanning two of them. When asked which of his pitches worked best for him today, Goldstein responded, “They all felt pretty great, to be honest. I don’t mean to boast, but they all felt pretty great.”

Goldstein was one of many players that call the area home, having grown up in the New York, New Jersey, & Long Island tristate area.

The Aviators Sam Frost (Mississippi St.) scored the Hamptons run. He played third base and reached base in both of his at bats. Tomcats DH Jim Luppens (Canisius) appreciated being selected to represent the Hamptons All-Stars as well. “It was my first time,” said Luppens. “It’s an nice stadium. It was a great atmosphere tonight. But I wish we could have won it.”

Kaiser/Wolff closer Dashon Jones (Union CC) of the Pilots came into the game with guns blazing in the bottom of the ninth. Several times he touched 93mph on the radar gun, but he was admittedly excited and and walked three and hit one batter. After allowing a run on a fielder’s choice, he closed out the game with a strikeout, stranding runners at the corners.

“I was a little bit amped up coming in,” said Jones. “I got my family here. My mom usually doesn’t come to the games because she’s always working. I was excited to show off for my mom.”

Pictures of both teams from this event are available here…

Hamptons Players Feel Self-Satisfaction, Collective Pride at Annual All-Star Game

07/20/2012, 12:22am (EDT)
By Jim Furlong

Hampton Division Falls Short of Repeat But Appearance Leaves Lasting Impression with Scouts, Selves

The participating Hampton Division players and coaches shared a mostly positive reaction Thursday night. They came to grips with the fact they lost the 2012 ACBL All-Star Game, by a 2-1 margin, against the Kaiser/Wolff division, but they enjoyed the overall experience, to compete in a pro stadium, the roundtrip bus ride to Coney Island in Brooklyn and the collective bonding for the athletes representing the seven East End squads.

“I think everyone is feeling pretty good to be here,” said shortstop Robb Scott (Bucknell/Southampton). “The outcome of the game is not as important as being here. It is important for the league to showcase its talents and for the individuals to showcase their talent and have the label of being an All-Star.

“I like getting to know the guys you don’t play with every day. It brings a different sense of league unity.”

About 25 pro scouts watched the action at MCU Park. “This was my first time (to be an All-Star). It was one of my goals,” said Jim Luppens (Riverhead/Canisius). “It was a lot of fun. Even though we lost, we fought to the end.”

Hamptons manager Rob Cafiero used nine different pitchers and said he hoped to give all the field players two at bats.

“We were here for a showcase,” said Cafiero (Southampton), who had eight assistant coaches. “Our pitchers did a good job. Our defense did a good job. No errors in the whole game. That was impressive.

“I just wish we could have hit a little better. Pitching dominated the All-Star Game. It is a little surprising because, in our league, we have been swinging the bats well throughout the year.”

After Kaiser/Wolff grabbed a 2-0 advantage in the top of the first inning, on a two-run single hit by game MVP Matt Moceri (Trenton), the Hampton bats were silenced before getting a lone run in the bottom of the ninth. After hitting into inning-ending double plays in the seventh and the eighth innings, the Hamptons mounted a ninth inning threat. Sam Frost (Mississippi State/Westhampton) walked and Charlie Curl (Texas A&M/Sag Harbor) reached when he was hit in the helmet. After a strikeout, Griffin Moore (Lipscomb/Center Moriches) walked on four pitches to load the bases with one out. Rob Fonseca (Northeastern/Southampton) plated a run with an RBI fielder’s choice.

With about 400 spectators watching near the surf of the Atlantic Ocean, Robb Paller (Columbia/Southampton) walked to refill the bases. The comeback attempt died, however, when pitcher Dashon Jones got a called third strike.

The Hamptons’ hitters manged only five singles (no walks until the ninth) and were struck out 12 times.

“This is, definitely, the top pitching I have seen this summer,” said the Hamptons’ RBI leader, catcher Joe Solomeno (Pace/Center Moriches). “We are not too upset that we lost 2-1. We wanted to win. (Cafiero) wanted us to have fun; not press. . .. Last year I was not picked (for the All-Star Game ( when the Hamptons won 5-4 in 2011) and I always wanted to be part of it.”

Curl, whose parents listened to a internet radio broadcast of the All-Star Game at their home in Amarillo, Texas, said he will remember seeing “all the pro scouts and meeting the dudes we play against.”

Hamptons’ pitchers David St. Lawrence (Brown/North Fork) and Danny Goldstein (Bucknell/Westhampton) both threw 1-2-3 ininngs. In all, six East End pitchers threw more than 90 miles per hour.

“It was an accomplishment just to get here,” said St. Lawrence. “I wanted to throw strikes and throw hard. . . . It is cool to see all the (Hamptons) players and talk to them.”

Goldstein, like St. Lawrence and other players, had his parents watching from the stands.

“I knew there were a lot of scouts here and this was an opportunity to show them what I have,” said Goldstein. “I wasn’t at Scout Day (on July 9) so this was my chance for the scouts.

“(Baseball) is not so much a game. It is part of what you are, a lifestyle. Everyone in the dugout has the same dream: to play baseball; not work on Wall Street. We are all doing what we want to do instead of doing what we think we have to do. . . . A lot of the kids share the same passion for the game.”

Hamptons’ pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts while giving up just five hits. Also pitching a scoreless inning were: Kyle McGowin (Savannah State/ Sag Harbor), Will Bacon (LSU-Eunice/Riverhead), Conan Leon (Iona/Westhampton), Adam Brown (Dowling/Center Moriches), Nick Johnson (Southern Miss/Riverhead) and Glenn Wallace (Sonoma State/Shelter Island).

Lefthander Paul Paez (Rio Hondo (Cal.) JC/Southampton) was the starting pitcher.

Curl Has Been Mainstay in Sag Harbor Lineup

07/16/2012, 1:51pm (EDT)
By Jim Furlong

Texas A&M Product Headed to All-Star Game After Second Outstanding Summer

Sag Harbor’s Charlie Curl is congratulated by Whalers head coach Jim Buckley after going deep in Southampton.

Before his summer games, Charlie Curl repeats two routines. For one, the Sag Harbor shortstop chuckles giving an explanation. For the second, he’s more solemn.

“About half of us (on the Whalers) put a dab of lemon juice in your hair,” said Curl. “Will Marcal started it (in June) out of the blue when we were kind of struggling.”

While that’s a new oddity, Curl also turns serious. He prays before his first at bat, asking for God’s blessings.

“I say ‘Thank you’ for letting me play this great sport,” said Curl. “It is kind of a routine. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. . . . I feel (baseball) is something I’ve got to do. This is the game I have always wanted to play and, hopefully, play after college; turn into a real job. It is basically the best thing you ca do – in my head – to play the sport you love for a career.”

Curl has boosted his pro ambitions the last two months. In his second season competing for the Whalers, Curl appears much improved and  he bounced back from a disappointing 2012 performance for Texas A&M. Now, he’s emerged one of the HCB’s top hitters and home run leaders.

Sag Harbor coach Jim Buckley said Curl deserves to make the Hamptons’ squad for the 2012 ACBL All-Star Game July 19 in Brooklyn.

“I like his work ethic,’ said Buckley. “He is the kind of kid that, if you show up early for practice, he is already there hitting, asking for extra work. He is always willing to listen, asking questions and, when he makes a mistake, he realizes it before you have a chance to tell him. And the biggest thing is he has the ability to correct the mistake.”

Curl stressed his father, Charles, and the Texas A&M coaches inspire his daily dedication.

“My dad always tells me make sure no one outworks you on and off the field,” Curl said. “It is your own life. You have to make sure it is enough to get to the next level. You can’t have any regrets. You have to have the feeling you have worked as hard as you can. I definitely play hard. Sprint on and off the field. We are taught that at A&M.”

As the Whalers still hope to make the four-team HCB playoffs, Curl shows a .315 batting average (second highest on the team) and he leads Sag Harbor with 21 RBI, 23 runs scored and seven stolen bases. His seven homers are among the ACBL leaders.

“His approach at the plate is better,” said Buckley. “He is disciplined at the plate and able to drive the baseball.”

At their home field, Buckley estimated Curl has launched “eight balls” against the wind in left field that would have been homers at other HCB fields.

“I feel a lot more balanced; not drifting (in the batter’s box),” said the 5-11, 187-pound Curl.

Once a high school standout in Amarillo, Texas, Curl enjoyed his first college season. As a second baseman for the Aggies, he appeared in 59 games (38 starts). hit .276 and was named to the All-Big 12 freshman team.

Last summer, in his HCB debut, he batted .286 for the Whalers with no homers and eight RBI; he arrive in late June due to Texas A&M’s trip to the College World Series. His second college season, however, proved a rude change. Curl started only three games for the 2012 Aggies, and finished with two hits in 13 at-bats.

“I learned you never have the job won,” he said. “I learned a lot sitting out the year. It was a letdown. I wanted to help the team, but I wasn’t doing my part. It was weird. I was not swinging the bat like the I should have.”

Curl, who gets teased by his teammates for usually wearing surfer shoes and shower shoes, has grown chin whiskers this summer and he enjoys relaxing at the Sagg Main Beach. He said he’s seen famous people like Johnny Depp and Justin Bieber around town.

Buckley said he thinks Curl can be a pro draftee next June. “He’s slightly above average running; slightly above average arm,” said Buckley. “His bat will carry him. I think he has shown (pro) potential, but he has to go out and show it in the (2013) school year, to prove it in the SEC. He definitely has tools. He needs to put it together.”

More than 100 Players Show Well at Fourth Annual Scout Day

07/09/2012, 11:29pm (EDT)

All Seven HCB Teams Exhibit Their Skills in Front of More Than a Dozen Scouts

On Monday, July 9, at Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus, Hamptons Collegiate Baseball held its fourth annual Major League Baseball Scout Day. More than 100 players from the seven East End teams exhibited their skills in front of 14 major league scouts and cross-checkers, including representatives from both of New York’s professional teams.

The day was split up into two sessions, with three teams in the morning, three in the afternoon and the host Southampton Breakers divided between the two. The day began with players running the 60-meter dash. Outfielders then made throws to third base and home plate from right field, while infielders made plays from the shortstop position and, for first basemen, across the diamond from first. After catchers made a series of throws from home to second, players took batting practice. Each session wrapped up with pitchers taking two warm-up pitches and then throwing eight pitches to show their total arsenal.

The fastest 60 time was registered by Shelter Island’s Trevor Simms (Weatherford JC), who ran in the 6.4s, knocking off Southampton’s Cody Lovejoy (Texas State) from the top spot. Lovejoy’s 6.62 was the quickest time in the morning session.

There were a number of impressive hitters, including current home run leader Zach Collett (New Haven), also of Shelter Island. On the mound, several pitchers were consistently in the high 80s and low 90s on the radar gun.

Teams represented at SBU Southampton included the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks. A fraction of the players on display will be selected for the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League (ACBL) All-Star Game, to be held on Thursday, July 19, at MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets’ Single-A affiliate.