« Back to 2014 News Archives
John Schiffner likes to put a quote at the top of the practice plans he tapes to the dugout wall.
When asked at the start of the season how he decides what quote to use on a given day he pointed to his head and said, “It’s all up here.” Sometimes, he said, it could be something jovial like telling the bullpen pitchers to stay out of the dugout. Other times a team saying. And when the time’s right, Vince Lombardi’s famous line about achieving excellence while striving for an unattainable perfection.
So as his team practiced under the lights on the eve of Opening Day on Monday night, Schiffner’s message, as it always does, accented the dugout wall. The quote was short but tangible, and permeated throughout Veterans Field as the team took batting practice and chased down fly balls.
It read, “Now the fun begins.”
Chatham opens it season against Orleans at Eldredge Park at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and here’s what you need to know about the Anglers’ hitter and pitchers in anticipation of first pitch.
All potential pawns in the Anglers’ lineup have been cycling through the batting cage in the last week, shown by Chris Shaw’s (Boston College) ripped batting gloves and Robert Baldwin’s (Yale) snapped bat after a round on Tuesday. With the continuous hitting reps the players have been able to sponge up the advice of the coaches — including Schiffner and assistants Jay Grenier and Alex Kocol — who have been offering their thoughts from behind the cage.
“What I like is that some of the guys have improved,” Schiffner said. “They’ve worked with all of us who have made suggestions as far as hitting goes. We’ve really emphasized getting their hands inside the baseball and they’ve done a great job.”
While the full roster is still trickling into Chatham, the current group provides a multitude of options for Schiffner heading into the season.
The team’s three catchers Nick Collins (Georgetown), Patrick Mazeika (Stetson) and Baldwin have looked good at the plate while Collins and Mazeika have taken fielding reps at both catcher and first base. Collins and Mazeika each hit over .350 in their respective college seasons this spring, and Collins started in all of the Hoyas’ 48 games while Mazieka made 58 starts. Baldwin hit .304 and started in 40 games and also made two relief appearances on the mound. If their college seasons were any indication of what they can provide the Anglers with, the trio of catchers should be good for reliable bats and bodies.
Landon Lassiter (North Carolina) and Mitch Gonsulus (Gonzaga), each returning players, arrived earlier this week and were plugged into the infield in their first practices. Gonsulus also saw reps in the outfield Tuesday and said he played every position but pitcher and catcher this spring, and added that he primarily saw time at second and third base for the Anglers last summer.
“I’ll play anywhere they need me to, just want to see the field,” Gonsulus said. “We have a really good group of guys all over the field.”
In the infield, that group includes players that can be plugged into multiple positions. Along with Lassiter and Gonsulus, Blake Butera (Boston College) is also returning for his second summer with the team and has been seeing reps at shortstop. Other utility-type players include Kevin Fagan (Stetson), who has been playing second base, and Matt Peters (California-Pennsylvania), who took reps with Lassiter at third. Whomever may be plugged into the middle infield spots promises to provide sure hands and a dependable bat, as all of Butera, Fagan, Gonsulus and Peters were successful contact hitters this spring.
A.J. Murray (Georgia Tech) has been practicing at first base since joining the team and Jake Rogers (Johns Hopkins), who originally joined the team as a bullpen catcher, has also been taking fielding reps there. Murray finished the college season tied for the Yellow Jackets’ team lead with four home runs this past season, and also hit .283 with 16 doubles and 33 RBIs.
When Gonsulus was asked Monday night if he thought the lineup would have some pop this season he laughed. He had only been in Chatham for a short time and still was getting to know his teammates. One already stood out.
“There was some lefty up there really smacking the ball around,” he said. “I don’t think I know him yet but he can really hit it.”
That lefty is Shaw and his impressive strength in the cage has been a continuation of his season with the Eagles. Shaw hit .329 with six home runs and 45 RBIs, and has been taking reps in right field. Alongside Shaw in the outfield — aside from Gonsulus who was moved around Monday — has been Donnie Cimino (Wesleyan) and Ryan Medeiros (Massachusetts-Dartmouth), each of whom are quick in the field and soaking up coaching at the plate. Medeiros hit .358 and scored 46 runs this past season, and Cimino hit .329 and stuck out just 16 times in 170 at-bats.
Andrew Chin (Boston College) will jog out to the mound for the first game of the season, and pitching coach Jake McCarter is very confident in what will follow him.
“Whenever guys come into a summer like this in this league they are here for a reason,” said McCarter, who’s starting his first season with the team. “They obviously have the ability to compete at a high level or else they wouldn’t be here.”
McCarter mentioned that when you coach college you have at least a full semester to learn about the arms on your staff and the pitchers’ tendencies. His situation has been different since arriving in Chatham, and he can constantly be found asking guys what pitches they throw, when they like to throw them, how many days they need off between bullpen sessions and what their average velocities are, among other things.
Overall, he said the pitchers’ mechanics are all there and he’s had an “enjoyable experience” thus far.
After Chin, the team has yet to formally peg a rotation but there are no shortage of arms. Jake Dorris (Texas A&M-Corpus Christie) joins Chin as the second returning pitcher currently with the team. Some of the other pitches include Jeff Burke (Boston College), a trio of west-coast arms in Kyle Davis (Southern California), Lucas Long (San Diego) and P.J. Conlon (San Diego) and Bryan Goossens (Siena), with a host of other arms.
There is no telling if pitchers that started games with their college teams will also be starters with the Anglers, as guys traditionally are moved around and placed in sometimes unfamiliar roles throughout the summer.
“It’s hard to get a read off just a few days but we’re going to be good,” Davis said. “We’re excited to start the season.”