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WINTER ISSUE

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IN THIS ISSUE:

ANDREW BAILEY: AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR PAGE 6

Peak performance doesn’t just happen.

JIM EVANS ACADEMY OF PRO UMPIRING PAGE 44

It’s built on hard work and sharp focus. At PNC, we offer banking solutions that work hard for you including hundreds of convenient branch and ATM locations throughout New Jersey.

To learn more, stop by any branch, call 1-877-CALL-PNC or visit pnc.com.

JACK CUST: MENTAL APPROACH TO HITTING PAGE 32

OPERATION SHOEBOX PAGE 28

©2008 The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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DIAMOND NATION M

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DIAMOND NATION MAGAZINE FLEMINGTON, NJ 08822

PUBLISHER

CONTENTS 6

ANDREW BAILEY The Rise To Stardom

ERIC CITRON

12

2009 SOFTBALL INAUGURAL

CREATIVE DIRECTION

18

JACK CUST SR.

20

“A NIGHT WITH JABA”

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SOFTBALL ON THE SILVER SCREEN

ISLAND COAST PRODUCTIONS

HEAD WRITER BEN MASUR

PRINTING

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HAIG GRAPHICS

Jennie Finch Softball Extravaganza

Mid Atlantic Scouts Association Award Recipient

16U SPARKS

Softball Champions

SOMERSET PATRIOTS

28

OPERATION SHOEBOX

30

CATCHING SCHOOL

Diamond Nation Magazine is designed as a resource guide for the baseball community. Its intent is to present all types of businesses that cater to families. When you purchase or utilize a product or service that you saw within the pages of DNM let them know you found it in Diamond Nation Magazine. Thank You!

32

HITTING WITH JACK CUST

34

STRENGTH & CONDITIONING

38

CRAIG & JEFF NETTLES

In order for Diamond Nation Magazine to be free to consumers this publication is paid for by the advertisers. Unless specially noted, no services, ideas, columns or concepts in Diamond Nation Magazine are endorsed by the publisher. Diamond Nation Magazine reserves the unrestricted right to refuse, edit or otherwise alter any advertisement submitted for publication. All information in the magazine is copyrighted, including the text, the logo and the layout. All the content of the magazine or the website www. diamondnation.com may not be copied or distributed without the written consent of the publisher. The publisher of the publication does not warrant or make any representations concerning the accuracy or reliability of the information contained herein.

38

PROBLEMS WITH YOUTH ARMS

42

WHAT’S IN A NUMBER?

44

JIM EVANS

For information about having Diamond Nation Magazine distributed in your location or to advertise or submit a story contact 908-455-1613.

48 52 56 58 61

2010 Schedule Announced

Helping US Troops Overseas

Second Of A Four Part Series

Tony Tierno N.D., C.P.T. C.S.N.

Father And Son In Baseball

Looking forward, I know it’s hard to think about baseball and softball during the cold months of winter, but inside the pages of Diamond Nation Magazine, we are here to help you stay in touch with all that is happening on and off the field. For those fortunate enough to be able to travel to Flemington, NJ, the baseball and softball season doesn’t end. Diamond Nation is the home of the HealthQuest Sports Dome, the largest amateur sports dome in America. Inside the dome during the winter months, baseball, softball and lacrosse are played in full swing regardless of the weather outside. As we enter the New Year, the staff at Diamond Nation Magazine is busy putting together the next issue. We are very excited about a new four-part series: A behind the scenes look at the life of a Major League Baseball player on the road. In addition, we also plan on expanding our instructional articles as well as bringing you human interest stories relating to baseball and softball personalities that have roots in the New Jersey and surrounding areas.

Rick Peterson & Gary Armida

As always, visit our website www.diamondnationmagazine.com for up to the minute news. If you have a story idea, you can email me at: ecitron@diamondnation.com.

Professional Umpiring School

HALL OF FAME NEWS

And friend Diamond Nation on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/diamond.nation

HALL OF FAME NEWS

SPORTS COUNSELING

Eric Citron

AFTER THE GAME

Publisher, Diamond Nation Magazine

Spirit Of The Game

Last Call

THE SPORTYS

Learning Through Baseball

Growing Great Relationships

The Diners Of Mike Anastasi

62

2009 MICHAEL ROMANO AWARD

64

DN 2010 TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

68

ell, we are now in the winter months here in the Northeast and the Holidays have just passed. All of us at Diamond Nation Magazine want to wish our readers a happy and healthy New Year. In this issue, make sure you check out the coverage of the Jennie Finch Softball Extravaganza. It was an incredible event and it’s not often you get three Olympians in once place sharing their knowledge.

Camp Acorn Presents

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WHY PITCHERS GET HURT

Rick Peterson

Thanks,

Eric Citron


AMERICAN LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

ANDREW BAILEY THE RISE TO STARDOM

By Ben Masur Andrew Bailey is 25 years old and he already has a long list of “never-forget” moments in his baseball career. His most recent one came on November 16, when Major League Baseball announced that Bailey had won the American League Rookie of the Year. Bailey, who was born in Voorhees, NJ and played high school baseball at Paul VI in Waterford, NJ, set an Oakland A’s rookie-record with 26 saves (in 30 chances). He posted a 6-3 record with a 1.84 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP while adding 91 strikeouts compared to just 24 walks in 83 1/3 innings over 68 appearances. Part of what makes Bailey’s story so captivating is not just his great success, but the disappointment, letdown and long odds he has overcome in his journey to becoming a star. In high school, Bailey was anything but a superstar. He played freshman baseball and then junior varsity his sophomore year. His last two years, he played on the varsity team but he wasn’t exactly a top prospect. He was a starting pitcher and got people out, but didn’t throw hard enough to turn heads. Bailey wanted to play in college, but he didn’t receive a lot of offers. He wasn’t picky: he would go anywhere that offered him a scholarship. When Bailey graduated high school, he still was undecided about his future. Finally, Bailey got an offer from Division III RutgersCamden. But then Division I Wagner University swooped in and offered more money and Bailey made his decision. Three months later, Bailey would be attending Wagner. Bailey made nine starts in 12 games as a freshman and led the team with 53 strikeouts while ranking second with 57 innings pitched. Sophomore year, Bailey broke out as Wagner’s ace, leading the staff and placing top five in the Northeast Conference (NEC) in ERA, wins, innings pitched, strikeouts and opponents average. Bailey had three games with 10+ strikeouts while setting the Wagner single-season strikeout record with 84, breaking a 40-year record. Bailey’s strikeout

6

success was due in part to a growth spurt. He entered college about 5-foot-8 and after his sophomore season, he was standing at 6-foot-2. “The combination of growing and working out constantly and dedicating a lot of my time to baseball all helped me increase my strength and velocity,” Bailey said. “I just kept on gaining miles per hour as I grew. I already knew how to locate and mix pitches, and then once I was able to throw harder, that’s when the success started.” The success didn’t stop. After his dominant sophomore year, Bailey played in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL), one of the top summer leagues in the country. Right away, Bailey started and continued where he left off after his sophomore season. Bailey dominated and was named the top pro-prospect on his team. While he was honored by the accomplishment, Bailey made sure to stay humble. He didn’t put any additional pressure on himself to perform in his junior season. He just wanted to prove to himself that he didn’t just get lucky. In 2005, Bailey was named the top pro-prospect in the NEC by Baseball America in their annual preseason predictions and it was then that Bailey started to realize he had a shot to get drafted and play professionally. His career was getting ready to take off. Bailey went 3-2 in seven starts with a team-leading 3.46 ERA while striking out 47 batters in 41.2 innings, an average of 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Bailey was named NEC Pitcher of the Week thanks to a 4-2 win against Boston College on March 13 in which he struck out six while yielding two runs in six innings. Bailey was well on his way to another incredible season and becoming a high draft pick. But halfway through his junior year in 2005, Bailey’s road to success hit a speed bump. Bailey blew out his elbow and required Tommy John Surgery. It was an unfortunate situation for Bailey, one that he at times struggled with. Whether it was a

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question of throwing too many innings over the summer in the NEBCL or whatever the cause, he believes that everything happens for a reason. “It made me stronger mentally and makes you work harder,” he said. “You are being looked at to get drafted and then you have an arm problem; all the teams stop calling and you don’t hear from anyone. That’s hard to handle as a kid. It was definitely frustrating and you wake up and you don’t want to do the rehabilitation, but I had to see the light at the end of the tunnel and work hard to get back to where I was.” Bailey’s light would soon get much brighter. While he was sitting at home watching the MLB Draft, his arm still in a sling, he heard his named called by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 16th round. Bailey wanted to finish his degree, and knowing that either if he went pro or stayed in school, he had to rehab his arm. The combination of finishing his education and wanting to continue working with staff and trainers at Wagner led Bailey to choose not to sign. But being drafted was a moment he will never forget; he admits that he was sitting at home when he heard he was drafted and he broke down into tears. He also admitted that being drafted helped him focus on his goals and

made him work that much harder to obtain them. “If something goes wrong or you slack off in any way during rehab, you may never get that opportunity to hear your name called again,” Bailey said. “I knew it was an opportunity I was giving up, but I thought I could come back stronger and better.” Bailey, who has an incredible work ethic, spent the summer, fall and winter months in the gym and going to rehab. Then on March 26 in a home game against Army, Bailey came out of the bullpen to pitch an inning. It was his first appearance in almost a year and he struck out two batters. All of Bailey’s hard work paid off and after the inning was over, as he was walking off the mound to head back to the dugout, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. It was emotional for Bailey, his family, his friends, his teammates -everyone who saw him day in and day out working to get back to the mound. It was also scary for Bailey. Standing there on the mound, not knowing if his arm was going to tear again, he said he had faith in the rehab process and his trainers. Bailey made a few more appearances out of the bullpen before taking the mound as a starting pitcher again. After all was said and


done, Bailey was 3-1 with two complete games, three saves, a 2.03 ERA in 44.1 innings of work while striking out 53 batters and limited hitters to a .146 average. Bailey was back to his dominating ways, but what would it all mean for his draft status? “I was nervous, a lot more nervous than in 2005,” he said. “I couldn’t even sit in the house with my parents; I left the house and had to go for a drive. I put on music and drove around, not knowing anything. It was so nerve racking. My name had to be in red somewhere as being an injury risk, and the question was whether or not a team wanted to take a chance.” Then in the sixth round, with pick No. 188, the Oakland Athletics selected Bailey in the 2006 Draft. “To be taken by the A’s, knowing I was going to go play, that is what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. Bailey technically still had another year of eligibility because of his redshirt junior season. But he had already graduated and got his degree, majoring in business administration with a concentration in finance. To Bailey, getting his degree was extremely important and since he succeeded in that, his decision as to whether or not to go pro was easy. He was not only leaving Wagner with a degree, but as the top pitcher in program history. He amassed 14 wins, a school-record 237 strikeouts and nine complete games to go along with a 3.94 ERA in 219.1 innings while striking out 9.7 batters per 9 innings. Bailey was ready to start his professional career. At 22 years old, he reported to the Class A shortseason Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League. Bailey pitched in 13 games and finished 2-5 with a 2.02 ERA. In 58 innings of work, he struck out 53 batters. It was a promising start to his professional career. The following season, he reported to Class A Kane County Cougars of the Midwest League. Bailey pitched in 11 games, going 1-4 with a 3.35 ERA. In 51 innings, he struck out a remarkable 74 batters. Bailey then moved up to the Class A Advanced Stockon Ports of the California League. In 11 games with the Ports, he pitched 66 innings, going 3-4 with a 3.82 ERA. When the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats of the Pacific Coast League needed an emergency starter, Bailey got the call. If the A’s organization was unsure where Bailey fit as a prospect, they would soon have no doubts. In his spot start, 8

Bailey pitched 8.0 innings, giving up three hits, one run, walking one and striking out four. After 2007 was all said and done, Bailey struck out an organization-high 150 batters (while only walking 54 batters) and landed on a number of top prospect lists.

“I had confidence, but I was nervous,” he said. “You are facing big league hitters, but you can’t think about who is at the plate. You can’t pitch to the name on the back of the jersey. I just wanted to impress, open some eyes and go after guys and challenge the hitters.”

In 2008, Bailey reported to the Double-A Midland RockHounds of the Texas League. He was on the fast track to the big leagues and it only seemed like a matter of time before he would be in Oakland. But his road didn’t exactly go as planned. If Bailey’s arm trouble in college was a speed bump, he was about to hit a pot hole. After 15 starts in Double-A, Bailey was 1-8 with a 6.18 ERA.

Bailey did just that and then some. He didn’t allow a run until the final week before the 25-man roster was set. But still, nothing was guaranteed for Bailey and he knew luck played a factor in making the club as well. A’s relievers Justin Duchscherer and Joey Devine went down with injuries and two roster spots were there for the taking.

“When I got to Double-A, everyone was telling me that you can’t make a mistake with Double-A hitters,” he said. “I took a different mindset and I was trying to pick corners and be a finesse pitcher, which I wasn’t. My stuff was there, I just wasn’t using it to my advantage. I wasn’t challenging hitters and throwing it by guys.”

Bailey kept a confident mindset, one that had been tested a couple of times in his career up to that point. He felt that even if he didn’t win the spot out of spring training, he would be called up at some point during the year. He could only control what he could control. But in the spring training bay rival series against the San Francisco Giants, Bailey, a relaxed, mellow guy, would have to do everything he could to keep his emotions in control.

Bailey was approached by Gil Patterson, the A’s pitching coordinator, who told Bailey that he could either go back down to Class A where he had success in 2007 or move to the bullpen. Bailey accepted the move to the bullpen, wanting to fix his pitching woes in Double-A while keeping his dream alive of making it to the majors. That dream now seemed to set sail as Bailey’s career was in the midst of a tailspin. But Bailey was no stranger to hard work to get himself back on track. While pitching in relief, Bailey started to have the success he and the A’s organization had grown accustomed to seeing. “Something triggered and I went back to who I was,” he said. “For me, it was a simple switch in my head.” It also helped that he learned to throw a new pitch -- a cut fastball. Bailey has a good four-seamer and since the grip and delivery look virtually identical, it seemed like the logical pitch to help him get batters out. Patterson worked with him on it after he was trying to get Bailey to throw a sinker, but the ball wouldn’t sink. Instead, everything cuts. Bailey added the pitch to his repertoire and began completely dominating out of the bullpen. Over 22 appearances in the second half of the season, Bailey posted a 0.92 ERA, .207 average allowed and 41 strikeouts in 39 innings. While Bailey admitted he was hoping to turn back into a starter when he initially made the move to the bullpen, he was clearly having success as a reliever and why mess with that? He was invited to the prestigious Arizona Fall League and continued to impress. In fact, he was so electrifying that he was invited to his first big- league Spring Training.

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“We were in Oakland facing the Giants and I was getting ready to come out of the game,” Bailey said. “The manager came out, took the ball from me and said, ‘You had a great spring training.’

Well for two hours after that, all I could think was, ‘What the heck did that mean?’ I was waiting around and they called me into the office where the front office people and coaches were sitting and they told me I had made the team. I wanted to scream so loud, but I had to keep it all in. That hard work and dedication and love for the game paid off. I’ll never forget that moment.” Bailey’s life would soon be filled with a few more of those moments as the A’s travelled to Anaheim to face the Angels in the first series of the 2009 season. Sitting in the bullpen on April 6, the phone rang. With the A’s down by three runs, the call was for Bailey to get loose. “My heart was pounding,” he recalled. “It was an adrenaline rush. To this day, I swear to you, I can’t even remember warming up. It just went by so fast. Running to the mound from the bullpen felt like the longest run of my life.” Standing on the mound in the bottom of the eighth in front of 45,000 people, Bailey tried to stay calm and focused. But then he saw who was coming to bat for the Angels: Torii Hunter. “I was like, ‘You got to be kidding me,’” Bailey said.


But Bailey stuck to what he knew. Changing his mindset is what got him in trouble in Double-A, and he knew he wasn’t going to change what had got him to the big leagues. So Bailey went after him, unafraid. Bailey got Hunter to fly out to centerfield. As Hunter was running back to the dugout, Bailey stepped off the mound towards third base and looked around to take in the moment. He couldn’t believe it was actually happening – what every baseball player dreams of. Bailey struck out Kendry Morales and Juan Rivera flied out to right field to end Bailey’s first Major League inning. Andrew Bailey was a Major League relief pitcher. It was a far cry from where he had started his professional journey. He hadn’t even pitched on back-to-back days until he was in the big leagues. But being a starter for most of his baseball career wasn’t all for nothing. He learned how to pitch and set guys up, which he carried over to the bullpen. Bailey’s off the field hard work also played a major role in keeping him prepared for whatever he was asked to do. “It’s so important to take care of yourself off the field,” he said. “I still do my Tommy John rehab and exercises and it’s so important to take care of your arm, especially as a reliever.” Bailey ended up taking over the A’s closer role when Brad Ziegler struggled and was bothered by injuries. On July 14, 2009, Bailey was at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. It wasn’t an interleague game, but Bailey had been selected as the A’s lone representative to the MLB All-Star game. He was the only rookie in either league to earn the trip and was grateful, especially considering he was only in the league just four months. “Everyone was telling me I had a chance, but I didn’t think I was going to make it,” he said. “I don’t pay much attention to that kind of thing. It was crazy and I just felt very fortunate.” Being an all-star is another event that Bailey will never forget. Walking into a locker room filled with guys he watched growing up, Bailey made sure to just go about his business and act like he has been

there before. It was that same mindset that helped Bailey prove himself in spring training and continue to pitch well at the highest level. Tampa Rays manager Joel Madden told Bailey before the game that if a pitcher was getting in trouble out there, he would come in. But no situation came up as Bailey didn’t enter the game. When asked if he was disappointed if he didn't get in the game, he joked, “I'll let Mariano pitch to Pujols.” All kidding aside, Bailey took pleasure in being able to take in everything. “I loved going there and relaxing,” he said. “It was the first time in as long as I can remember that I enjoyed myself watching a baseball game.” Bailey finished out the year as the A’s closer, a remarkable season and an even a more amazing story. The roller-coaster ride of overcoming Tommy John surgery to pitching lights out in a Triple-A start to struggling so mightily, he got moved to the bullpen to dominating again to making the big league club after being a long shot to becoming an All-Star to setting club records to winning Rookie of the Year. What has made Bailey so successful is he doesn’t take any of it for granted. He knows it was his hard work that got him to where he is now and it’s that same attitude that will keep him in the big leagues. He knows that just because he had a remarkable run in 2009, it doesn’t automatically mean he is guaranteed to have the same fortune in 2010. “Stats and success don’t transfer over,” he said. “You have to go out there and prove it again.” Bailey will continue to prove himself and work hard on and off the field. As the accolades pile up, Bailey will continue to keep a level head, but thanks to his past, he knows at any point, he could hit a detour on his road through Major League Baseball. Where it will end up, nobody knows, but he is just focused on the present while never forgetting the moments that have led him to become the ballplayer he is today.

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JENNIE FINCH’S 2009 SOFTBALL INAUGURAL EXTRAVAGANZA HITS A HOME RUN

Jennie Finch, Andrea Duran, Leah Amico-O'Brien Doug Finch

2009 SOFTBALL INAUGURAL But the Olympians didn’t just talk. They demonstrated, thus making the convention different than any other clinic the Olympians had done before. Instead of coaches just sitting there taking notes behind a desk in a classroom, they were actually able see the girls in their element; on the field.

By Ben Masur

Coaches had the ability to see the drills put in motion. They were able to ask complicated questions about mechanics and see the answers, leaving very little up to speculation when they go to relay the information to their team. “I think what we did with the coaches was very exciting,” O’Brien-Amico said. “I’ve never see anything like it. It’s different and better.” Jennie and Doug Finch

On December 5 and 6, Diamond Nation hosted Jennie Finch’s 2009 Softball Inaugural Extravaganza. The two-day convention, which took place at the HealthQuest Sports Dome in Flemington, NJ, featured Jennie, her father and pitching coach Doug Finch, Olympic silver medalist Andrea Duran and three-time Olympic gold medalist Leah O’Brien-Amico. “This is our first launch and it was a great success,” Jennie said. “We want to offer as much as we can to the coaches and players.” The first day of the convention featured a coach’s clinic. There were 119 coaches in attendance and the day started with Jennie and Duran talking about the basics of hitting. They not only talked about the style and mechanics of the swing, but demonstrated how it should look. They also explained what drills to do in order to improve players’ hitting technique.

The coaches not only saw drills, but were treated to a hitting demonstration by the three Olympians. Jaws dropped as balls flew off the wall. While the girls showed off their talents, they continued to teach.

Olympians did earlier in the day, actions always speak louder than words. Jennie showed off her different pitches while her Dad did the talking; explaining what she was doing and why it was the correct way to do things. He even corrected Jennie a few times while she was pitching – which, of course, just like any player, led her to want to throw a little harder out of anger. A few coaches talked after the clinic about how they were taking a totally different ap-

proach when teaching their girls about pitching and after hearing Jennie and her Dad talk, the Finch’s way makes perfect sense. Coaches had been converted and they, along with their players, will see the positive results. The coaches then took advantage of a question and answer period. “Sometimes it feels like answers can only be found in books or DVDs, but how often is it that you get the amount of talent we were able to put in one place to answer any question you

Always a hit with fans from all over the world...

With Duran hitting, Jennie pointed out, “Notice how much power she gets with her swing.” And after O’Brien-Amico missed a slap, she joked, “That’s what you don’t want to do.” The coaches weren’t reading a sheet of paper on proper footwork and follow through, but were witnessing it live. Prior to a lunch break, Duran and Jennie talked about being an infielder; positioning, taking the ball out in front and the importance of glove work. The girls demonstrated a few drills with the help of Finch’s Aces of the Jennie Finch Softball Academy at Diamond Nation. After lunch, the coaches got to see Jennie and her Dad talk about the importance of pitching mechanics. And then, like the hitting demo the

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(Less than a 5 minute ride from Diamond Nation) 8 spring street, flemington, nj open sunday and everyday www.flemingtonfurs.com


Players Clinic: HelathQuest Sports Dome

wanted?” said Kathy Shoemaker, Director of Softball at Diamond Nation. An autograph signing took place after and the first day of the convention came to a conclusion. The following day, the coaches came back along with parents and players. There were 250 players in attendance to take part in the clinic. Each girl received a free tee-shirt and a ticket for a free hot dog. After everyone was

efficiently checked in, girls were broken into groups. There was hitting off tees and in cages, pitching, throwing, infield positioning and outfield positioning. Each group of girls went to each station throughout the day. Jennie was in charge of the hitting station, Duran was at infielding, O’Brien-Amico teaching the outfielding and Doug Finch at the pitching station. “We want it to be more than just a clinic, we want it to be an experience,” Jennie said. “It’s something these girls will never forget. It’s not just hand outs and words being said.”

Duran agreed that it’s much more beneficial for the girls to have a hands-on approach. “Talk is one thing, but to see it in action, you get so much more out of it,” she said. “Hopefully this inspires girls to keep playing and getting better.” And parents saw their children getting better by the days’ end.

Peter Watts (Basking Ridge, NJ), who was there all day on Sunday with his daughter, was thrilled with the way the day went. “Everything was organized and it was great for the girls to be working so closely with the Olympians,” he said. “My daughter really seemed to learn a lot.” Parents were also impressed with the facility. The HealthQuest Sports Dome is the largest air


Coaches Clinic

structure in the nation and is considered the east coast’s premier indoor facility for winter athletic programs. The approximately 140,000-square-foot dome is heated and allowed plenty of room for the clinic. “To not have to worry about weather and to have so much space in the dome, it’s just so incredible,” said Ron Wolfgang (Wyoming, PA). “This was my first time here and I hope to definitely be back.” The Olympians – it was Duran’s and O’Brien Amico’s first time at Diamond Nation and the sports dome – were also extremely impressed with the facilities. “We travel all around the country and this is definitely some of the nicest facilities in the country,” O’Brien-Amico said. All three Olympians are from the West Coast,

but they understand the importance of having a facility like Diamond Nation in the northeast for the growth of softball. “These facilities mean opportunities,” O’BrienAmico said. “These girls will have chances at younger ages to get playing time and more practice year round which will allow them to get college scholarships.” With the first extravaganza being such a success for everyone involved, where do they go from here? “I think things grow because everybody is happy with what they received,” O-BrienAmico said. “Talking to coaches, parents and players, they all seem to be getting something out of the weekend and people will want to return to it and spread the word.” Jennie added, “The sky is truly the limit as to what we can offer at Diamond Nation.”

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JACK CUST SR. RECEIVES MID ATLANTIC SCOUTS ASSOCIATION AWARD

JACK CUST SR. Jack Cust Sr., the founder and owner of Diamond Nation, accepted an award given by the Mid Atlantic Scouts Association (MASA) for his contributions to Amateur baseball. The awards dinner, which took place in November at Cal Ripkin Stadium in Aberdeen, MD, featured several keynote speakers including Rick Dempsey. “It’s a great award,” said Cust. “We’ve enjoyed a wonderful relationship over the years with professional baseball and the scouts that are involved.” Through the HealthQuest Sports Dome and the Jack Cust Baseball Academy, and now Diamond Nation, Cust’s goal is to not only help make the job of scouts easier by providing facilities and opportunities for them to see players, but to also level the playing field for those players.

Already, people in the baseball community are talking about Diamond Nation as the premier tournament and training complex in New Jersey and the north east. It’s that dedication to amateur baseball that Cust was given the award. An accomplished player himself in the 70’s, Cust played at Cathedral HS and went on to play collegiate baseball for Mike Sheppard at Seton Hall University. There he hit a grand slam in the NCAA Regional Final in the 9th inning to lead Coach “Shep” to his first College World Series appearance. Cust is also responsible for the development of Diamond Nation’s hitting curriculum called “The Process” that is preached in their Nationally Acclaimed Hitting School.

Thanks to what he has built, he has given the ability to give Jack Cust, Sr. players the best exposure posBaseball players in the South and West, ie: sible. He’s been responsible for many students Florida, Texas and California, gain an incred- being drafted over the years and continues to ible advantage thanks to weather all year have players in the collegiate and professional round, allowing them to play competitively ranks. outside. “It will continue to grow every year as we “It’s really about having the players from the seem to have more and more students either north east getting the same opportunities to be getting developed or more committed to the drafted,” Cust said. “The weather holdbacks development aspect and are getting better rereally are difficult and what we’ve done with sults,” Cust said. “Players are training better, the dome and Diamond Nation really levels programs and facilities are better and when you put it all together, it really ends up letting the playing field.” the players be in a better position by the times The design of Diamond Nation and the scout- they are seniors in high school.” ing tower that is centrally located is set up to accommodate scouts and give them a user- Playing baseball at the next level takes dedifriendly environment. Diamond Nation, which cation and hard work. But it also takes the necopened in June 2009, will continue to in- essary facilities and teachers, and that is crease the number of players that get college where Cust’s vision of Diamond Nation comes and professional opportunities. As Diamond into play. Nation’s reputation grows, so does the talent level of baseball players in the area.

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Camp AcornPresents

“A

NIGHT WITH JOBA”

Two weeks after the New York Yankees won their 27th World Championship, Joba Chamberlain was still celebrating. On Monday night, November 16, Chamberlain wasn’t just playing the role of baseball superstar, but local hero. Chamberlain is the Director on Camp Acorn’s Honorary Board of Directors and hosted a kickoff dinner to begin Camp Acorn’s capital fundraising effort and raise awareness about the Camp’s programs and the population it serves. In looking to build a permanent home for Camp Acorn, the Board has begun a multi-million dollar fundraising effort which will allow the Camp to purchase property and build a new home. Some of the amenities will include indoor and outdoor recreational facilities, a swimming pool, arts and crafts rooms and other adaptive environments to enrich the lives of the individuals the Camp serves. “It’s a great thing that they are doing for the kids,” Jack Cust said. “Everyone has people in their life that has been affected by different things and this is a place where people can go to continue to learn and have fun. It’s important for all of the families involved. Everyone there is doing a great job; the patience they have is amazing. I really look forward to being a part of it for years to come.” Camp Acorn is a non-profit, year-round social and recreational program out of Paramus, NJ for individuals with disabilities ages 4-21. Campers participate in various social and physical activities with disabled and non-disabled peers while developing an enhanced self-esteem which carry over into all aspect of their lives. The event, which took place at The Venetian in Garfield, NJ, began with a cocktail hour from 6:30pm-7:30pm.

Hour devoirs were spread out at a buffet style table and a large variety of memorabilia items were set up on tables for people to bid on throughout the night. The spotlight then switched to Chamberlain as everyone applauded as he entered the room. While some people mingled, everyone else was waited in line to take their picture with Chamberlain. The Yankee pitcher accommodated each request until it was time for dinner to be served. Speeches by Chamberlain and Jack Cust followed. Both were grateful for being able to participate in a great night and more importantly, a great cause. While there was a silent auction going on, the night also featured some big ticket items including going to lunch with Chamberlain prior to attending a Yankees game, Legends Seats tickets for a Yankees-Red Sox game, a trip to the All-Star weekend with a chance for his/her child to shag fly balls in the home run derby and more. A 46” Sharp AQUOS LED LCD TV was also raffled off, which Diamond Nation’s own Mike Raymond was the winning recipient of. Guests who attended were also treated to live music by Total Soul, whom donated their time. It was a night about giving and helping serve the disability community. Both Chamberlain and Cust were more than happy to sign autographs and take pictures, even after most guests started to head home. “People look up to you and just because you’re playing a sport on TV, it doesn’t make you any better than anyone else,” Cust said. “It’s important to give up some time to make people happy and it’s an honor to be there and humbling that people want you to be there. It’s a good feeling; especially for such an important cause.”

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DIAMOND NATION’S LISA IANCIN SHARES HER “HOLLYWOOD” EXPERIENCE

SOFTBALL ON THE SILVER SCREEN Lisa Iancin, Softball Instruction, Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator at Diamond Nation, was informed by her former assistant coach with the New England Riptide, Erin Goettlicher, that a movie with Reese Witherspoon was looking for some softball players as extras. Iancin appreciated the call, but didn’t concern herself with the news, thinking nothing would come of it.

also features Jack Nicholson, Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd. Iancin took her involvement seriously no matter what role she was going to play. She got back in playing shape, working out and taking ground balls. In fact, when she checked into her hotel in Philadelphia for the start of the movie, she still had dirt on her shirt from practicing. Iancin wasn’t expecting much except to be there for a couple of days, have a good experience and then return to her life of looking for full-time employment.

The next thing she knew, however, Iancin had 24 hours to send in her audition tape if she was serious about wanting to be in the film. Iancin was in Florida on vacation with her parents. She Filming began and on didn’t have time to do one of the first days, anything but give her Iancin was told to take Mom the video camera the field. She hustled out and film her taking to shortstop and took Reese Witherspoon ground balls that her ground balls, practicing Dad hit to her. She sent in the tape and with Olympians like Andrea Duran by her shortly after, she got a call to say she was side at third base. in and to report to Philadelphia. “I didn’t even think about Reese or the di“It was crazy,” Iancin said. “I went from rector,” Iancin said. “I just pretended like it hanging out on vacation to hurrying back was a real practice and dove for every up the coast to get ready to be in a movie.” ground ball and made all of the plays. I could hear some of the cast and people The film right now is untitled and directed ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing.’” by James L. Brooks, a director, producer and screenwriter. Brooks has won three Os- After her performance practicing as a memcars (all in 1984 for Terms of Endearment) ber of Team USA, she was asked to be on and received 47 Emmy nominations, win- the “A Team.” Not only did this mean she ning 20 of them. Along with Witherspoon, would be in scenes with Reese on the field, the film, expected to be released in 2010, but off the field as well. It was a bigger role 22 FOR ADVERTISING CALL: 908.455.1613 . ON LINE: WWW.DIAMONDNATIONMAGAZINE.COM

than Iancin anticipated and she would have to spend two weeks in Philadelphia instead of two days. Considering Iancin was unemployed at the time, she was thrilled. Not only would she be playing a role – no matter how small or big – in a major motion picture, but she would be representing the game of softball, which was more important to her than anything else. “It’s an 85-minute romantic comedy, but four of those minutes are for softball and we want to make the game look good,” Iancin said. “They could have had Reese’s character play any sport, but they chose softball. It puts softball on a platform.” In her off the field scenes, Iancin was in an apartment on a couch, seated next to twotime Olympic Gold Medalist Crystl Bustos. Iancin and Bustos played on the same team and against each other while growing up and while they were on the set to work, Iancin enjoyed getting the chance to catch up and re-develop that friendship and others. While also on set, Iancin grew in amazement of Witherspoon’s professionalism and respect, not only for acting, but for the sport of softball. Iancin, who has no acting background, was also amazed at how tough it is to be an actor. The long hours and many takes could amount to something that doesn’t even get on screen; hours and hours just to get one scene right. In fact, three days of work in a scene Iancin was in may relate to just a minute on the screen.

Nancy Apriceno

With Iancin’s newfound respect for acting and the movie-making business, she said there are a lot of similarities being acting and softball. “In both cases, you really have to get in a strong mindset and be ready to perform,” she said. “One take, Reese was struggling so she took a moment to gather herself and came out ready and did an amazing take. I do the same thing before an at bat. I get mentally focused and know what I have to do to get the job done.” Iancin didn’t have any speaking lines and while the movie won’t come out for a while, it’s an experience she is thankful for and glad she went through with. She admits that the excitement has died down a little bit but once the movie comes out, she will get pumped for the release and definitely have a screening party with the other softball players from the movie. And while Iancin isn’t moving to Hollywood any time soon, she knows that no matter what she does in life, she can say she had a small movie role. But she is hoping the role of softball in movies is only just beginning. “This was such an amazing opportunity to show everyone what our sport is about,” Iancin said. “A League of their Own was more about baseball, but this movie shows where our sport is now. It would be great to see a movie in the future that focuses on USA softball or the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF).”

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SOFTBALL

Joe LaManna’s New Jersey Sparks Bolster Organization’s Reputation with Championships

16U SPARKS By Ben Masur When Joe LaManna created the New Jersey Sparks softball organization out of Pequannock, NJ in 2002, he just wanted to help maximize the potential of the girls who were playing in the little league and town all-stars. The goal was to make kids better. And seven years later, LaManna’s 16U Sparks are the 2009 New Jersey State Champions and Pony National Champions. In the first couple of tournaments of the summer, however, the Sparks couldn’t make it out of the semifinals. LaManna preached to his team to just enjoy the journey as LaManna knew his group was talented and competitive. At the State Tournament in Rockaway, NJ, which took place the weekend of July 4, everything came together and his 16U team sparked fireworks. “Things were just clicking,” LaManna said. “Our pitchers were hot and rolled one game to the next and we were really playing well. It’s a long day and we built great momentum.” But LaManna wasn’t thinking about momentum carrying over to the Pony Nationals, which was held July 26August 2 in Akron, OH. In fact, when he committed his team to going, being State Champions was still a dream away. LaManna had to sign his team up in November of 2008. But he didn’t register his team because his goal was to win Nationals. “You look at it as an experience for everyone, including the families,” LaManna said. “You don’t go out there expecting to win.” There were 70 teams participating in the National Tournament, in which

each team is a guaranteed five games. LaManna told his team that his goal for them was to make it to the Sweet 16, which his team did easily. After that, the Sparks had their work cut out for them. But he also said reaching their goal allowed them to play more relaxed. “When we got to the round of 16, everything after was gravy,” said LaManna. “The playing competition steps up after that, but you aren’t winning or losing at that point. You aren’t nervous. You want to compete and play your best game. You are going there with the expectation you want to get to a certain level and then you want to get beat by someone better.” But it was the NJ Sparks that were better than everyone else. The semifinal and championship round took place at Firestone Stadium, the home of the National Pro Fast Pitch Akron Racers. While the girls may have been taken aback with the “wow factor” of playing in a professional stadium, the Sparks didn’t show it. In the top of the first inning in the semifinal game, the Sparks came right out the gates, hitting a two-run homer and advanced to the title game to face the Maryland Stars 16U Black.

LaManna’s game plan worked out to perfection, as his stud pitcher completely shut down Maryland’s explosive offense. With a 4-1 victory, the New Jersey Sparks were the 2009 16U Pony National Champions. “It’s a pride thing for me,” LaManna said. “Everything is so competitive now; people look down on you if you haven’t been around for 20 years. It was just so satisfying to win to show that you’ve gotten to that level and that you belong.” Talking about it four months later, LaManna still didn’t have the words to explain what it felt like to be New Jersey State and Pony National Champions. “It’s just really unexpected,” he said. “You really don’t think you’ll win something like this. You go out for the experience. But, sometimes you have to get the breaks and a lot has to work in your favor to win something like that and there really becomes no room for error.” LaManna now plans to move up to coach the 18U Sparks, where his focus shifts to getting his players looked at from colleges and trying to help them get scholarships. He admits, though, that now there is more pressure on the new 16U coach, Stacy Veech, because wherever she

leads the Sparks, they will have a target on their back as defending champions. While it may be a lot to live up to, it’s a great boost for the seven teams (ages 10-18) that make up the New Jersey Sparks organization which will begin to garner more attention and respect. The championship solidifies their program as an elite one in the state of New Jersey and the Nation, and he knows that will attract a lot of new players and interest. LaManna, though, hasn’t let this success affect him or what he is trying to create. “We stay with the program and what we set out to do,” he said. “We don’t chop someone’s head off for the next big thing. We want to be competitive, but you look for chemistry and enjoy the journey. We try to maintain consistency and have kids progress through the ranks of our program. You don’t have to have the best 14 individual players, but you have to have good chemistry. The whole is better than the individual.” Joe LaManna is one individual, though, that made a huge difference for the New Jersey Sparks organization and was the leader behind the 16U New Jersey State and Pony National Champions.

Everything LaManna had worked for, with his 16U team and as an organization, he was now at the Mecca of youth softball: The Pony National Championship game. “At that point, you are just happy to be there,” he said. “We had played them [Maryland] twice before and struggled, but we didn’t have our top pitcher throwing against them then. We knew they had a very powerful offense and that’s why I saved my Ace.”

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Sitting first row left to right: Raquel LaManna, Danielle Martucci, Gina Martucci, Chelsea Batelli, Sarah Saunders, Dana Torchia, 2nd Row Kneeling left to right: Karra Phillips, Brianna Giovenco, Stephanie Huang, Paige Johnson, Alyssa Cestaro, Courtney Borovskis, Standing left to Right: Coaches Len Torchia, Joe LaManna, Alex Borovskis


2010 HOME SCHEDULE RELEASED

The Five-Time Atlantic League Champion Somerset Patriots have announced the team’s home schedule for the 2010 season. The Patriots will begin the season on the road and will host Opening Day at TD Bank Ballpark on Friday, April 30th at 7:05 pm against the Bridgeport Bluefish. For the second straight year, the game will feature a Championship Celebration with a ring ceremony, the raising of the Atlantic League Championship Flag, and a Post Game Fireworks Extravaganza.

will last during the first month of the season when the team expects to hit the milestone.

nesday games will change to 6:35 pm in September. Sunday games in May, June, and September will generally be 1:35 pm and Sundays in July and August will be 5:05 pm. The Patriots will host five 11:05 am weekday games on Monday, May 10th, Wednesday, May 19th, Tuesday, July 20th, Wednesday, August 4th, and Thursday, August 12th. The May 19th game will feature a scheduled Day-Night Double Header with the second game scheduled for 7:05 pm. Both games will be nine innings long. The Patriots will host holiday games on Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 9th at 1:35 pm, when the team will have their Fourth Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day; Memorial Day on Monday, May 31st at 1:05 pm; Father’s Day on Sunday, June 20th at 1:35 pm; Independence Day on Sunday, July 4th at 5:05 pm; and Labor Day on Monday, September 6th at 6:05 pm.

The Patriots will host 32 home games on weekends and are currently putting together the promotional calendar that includes fireworks nights, giveaways, and theme nights. The Patriots are planning on special giveaway days including items celebrating the team’s five championships.

The Patriots will host 70 home games at TD Bank Ballpark during the 140 game Atlantic League schedule running from Thursday, April 22nd through Sunday, September 19th.

“Our goal, as it has been every year, is to have something new and exciting every night at the ballpark. We want our fans to have a blast whether it is their first or hundredth time at a Patriots game,” said Patrick McVerry, President/General Manager of the Somerset Patriots Baseball Club.

In 2010, the Somerset Patriots will welcome the team’s 4,000,000th fan to TD Bank Ballpark. The team is working on a celebration that

Start times for Monday through Saturday games will normally be 7:05 pm from April through August. Monday through Wed-

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The Patriots Greet the Fans

For information about the Somerset Patriots 2010 Season, stop by the Ticket Office located at TD Bank Ballpark, call (908) 252-0700, or visit the Patriots on-line at www.somersetpatriots.com.

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DEDICATED TO COLLECTING AND SHIPPING CARE PACKAGES TO US TROOPS OVERSEAS

OPERATION SHOEBOX Volunteers set up outside the store for six hours and as shoppers enter the Operation Shoebox; New Jersey door, the volunteers hand them a list of needed items and asks them to purchase some items and drop them off on the way which most of them do.

Operation Shoebox New Jersey, founded in 2005, is an all-volunteer grassroots organization dedicated to collecting donated supplies and shipping care packages to U.S. troops based in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle East countries. Located in Somerville, NJ, Operation Shoebox has shipped over 28,000 packages to U.S. military personnel and will be sending over donated supplies at the end of this month. And thanks to the generosity of Diamond Nation, there will be 1,000 Diamond Nation Magazines included when Operation Shoebox New Jersey sends out its next group of boxes.

There are also closed packing events, such as the one that took place with students on December 1st at North Hunterdon High School. The goal for Operation Shoebox New Jersey was to pack 250 boxes, as the boyfriend of one of the high school teachers, who lives in Flemington, was just deployed.

PROUD BUILDERS OF DIAMOND NATION

You can visit http://opshoeboxnj.org/ for more information or contact Rod Hirsch at OPSHBXNJ@yahoo.com. “We are always looking for help, hoping to spread the word or making a contribution or donation,” Hirsch said. “We need to raise money to keep doing what we do.”

“Jack Cust Sr. has been a big supporter of Operation Shoe Box New Jersey,” said Operation Shoebox New Jersey executive director Rod Hirsch. “I was at Diamond Nation when Jennie Finch and Jack Cust Jr. were there in the spring. It’s absolutely amazing what Diamond Nation has put together.” Operation Shoebox New Jersey, a 12-month-a-year operation, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation registered in the state of New Jersey. All donations are tax deductible and they have raised over $110,000 since its inception. “We have expenses and are always in need of funds to pay for the care packages we ship to our troops overseas,” Hirsch said. Operation Shoebox New Jersey also has eight to 12 packing events each year that are open to the public. Last month, the Somerset Patriots hosted a volunteer packing at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, NJ, with 612 boxes packed for shipment overseas. On November 21, a Christmas Packing took place in Manville. It was open to the public and Hirsch expected to pack in excess of 1,000 boxes over the course of the day. On November 28, there was an all-day shopping spree at ShopRite on Elizabeth Avenue in Somerset, NJ.

Army Sgt. Sais Singh, a graduate of Somerville High School and former resident of Branchburg, sent this photograph of a group of Marines at Al Asad Airbase in Iraq displaying a signed Operation Shoebox New Jersey flag. The flag was presented to Sais recently when he visited New Jersey while on leave. The flag will be returned and displayed at OPSHBX NJ headquarters in Hillsborough. This marks the second time the flag has been unfurled in Iraq; last year, Air Force Capt. Will Simmons, formerly of Martinsville, had members of his unit sign the flag during his deployment in Baghdad.

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CATCHING

THE PREMIERE CATCHING PROGRAM IN THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY

CATCHING SCHOOL:

Cust, Dori & Benick

In Part I, Travis Anderson talked about the set up and the beginning steps to becoming a great catcher. Here in Part II of his four-part series, Anderson will teach you about blocking and curing your fear of the ball.

CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS

CATCH LIKE THE PROS Part II: BLOCKING The reason why I teach blocking second is to take fear of the baseball out of you. This is for all ages, it doesn’t matter how old you are. I am going to break this down for you into four simple steps:

1. Glove down: Your glove should be down and out in front. With this, I want your pinky to be down, meaning you don’t want to flip your glove up; you want your target always facing forward. Make a wall with your glove, not a ramp -- what that is doing is protecting the “5-hole” or the space between your legs. 2. Drop forward and drive your knees down: I want you to drive your knees down towards the ground; you don’t want to give ground, you want to take away ground. You want to go towards the ball and be aggressive. 3. Place throwing hand behind the glove: What this will do is protect your throwing hand and also give your glove a little bit of support.

4. Keep your head up, tuck your chin and breathe out: You want to go down and see the ball, you don’t want to go down and hope the ball hits you. The reason why you tuck your chin is to protect your throat and the reason you breathe out is to relax your body and create space between your chest and the chest protector. The chest protector absorbs the ball and then hits your body, which is relaxed because you are breathing out or “breathing on the ball.” Drills: Once you know the four steps, then it’s all about practicing and getting comfortable with the flow of them. After you start getting a hang of that, then I will do a drill in which you start in a good blocking position and then I want you get that feeling of absorbing the ball and breathing out. Every time you go down, you are going to get hit with the baseball and I want you to be 100 percent comfortable with that. Once we work on that and you are feeling good about blocking the baseball, then we’ll start you in the catching position and then go down into the blocking position while I bounce a ball off you. It’s about repetition: go down and get hit, go down and get hit. We want to make sure you

are doing the four steps properly and it will make blocking really easy. Once you see that the ball isn’t going to hurt you and we take away that initial fear, you will see how fun catching is. I work you really slow and I’ll go at your pace because the one thing I don’t want to do is scare you away from catching. I’m trying to bring you in. Catching can be fun and I’m going to show you how fun it is. Blocking is the one thing you can do like your favorite Major League catcher. You can’t duplicate hitting a home run like most of the guys, but you can block like a Joe Mauer or a Brian McCann. Practice: You may not have the room at home for someone to throw a ball off you, but you can still practice at home. Start in your catching stance and go down into your blocking position, practicing the four steps. Practice getting into the blocking position over and over and teaching your body what to do. Angles: Another drill we will do after you get your four steps down is working on blocking angles. You want to block the ball in front of home plate. When you go to the right, you want our right knee to lead a little bit. And when you go to your left, you use your left knee. You want to smother the ball and block the ball in front and towards home plate. This allows you to get your momentum moving forward and that really helps you throw with your all body and that will make your throws a lot better from behind the plate. This is why we have our feet ducked out and this works back into what we talked about in Part I on your catching stance. You don’t want to work against yourself. You want to move easily to your left and right and get those blocking angles out in front of home plate. This will lead on up to Part III: Receiving, which is simply catching the ball the pitcher throws you. A good catcher will make this effortless and I will tell you how next month.

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Under the guidance of Travis Anderson and Princeton University Head Coach Scott Bradley: The Catcher’s School: Session 2 Ages 9-12 Friday: Jan 8, 15, 22, 29, Feb 4, 12, 19, 26 -7:30pm-9:00pm @ HealthQuest Sports Dome Ages 13-18 Sunday: Jan 3, 10, 17 24 – 2:30pm-4:00pm @ HealthQuest Sports Dome Tuesday: Jan 5, 12, 19, 26 – 5:30pm-7:00pm @ HealthQuest Sports Dome Email info@diamondnation.com or call (908) 284-1778 to register today!

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JACK CUST CONTINUES HIS FOUR-PART SERIES ON THE ART OF HITTING

g n i t t i H ... JACK with CUST Second of a Four-Part Series By Jack Cust Part I: Mechanics Part II: Approach (Mental) Part III: Hitting for Power to All Fields Part IV: Dealing with Pitchers Mastering the mental part of hitting is just as important to learn as the mechanics of hitting. The mental approach to hitting deals with developing a plan that you can formulate to ensure your success. The essentials of the plan should be comprised of several components designed to

eliminate poor at bats. Simply put, learn how to not get yourself out! One of the most important things to learn is to understand the strike zone and don’t swing at bad pitches. You can have the best mechanics in the world, but if you swing at pitchers that are not strikes, your chances for success will be greatly diminished.

As you continue to practice your mechanics and zone hitting techniques, you should be developing better, consistent at bats. You should also assess your at bats during the game. If you have a good at bat, strive to repeat it. If you have a bad at bad, ask yourself why and make the adjustment. “Did the pitcher get me out with good pitches or did I get myself out?” If the pitcher made good pitches, tip your cap to him and bear down on your next at bat. In our last part of our series, we will cover dealing with the pitcher. If you get yourself out, you need to review what happened. Was it a mechanical flaw? Try to have someone video your at

bats so you can review and make adjustments. The best correction of mechanical flaws is to simply emphasize not tilting the pole on your swing. This is kind of a catch-all fix because so many things go wrong when you tilt the pole and conversely, so many things are right when you “keep the pole straight.” If you got yourself out and it’s not mechanical, then the majority of the time it’s because your swinging at bad pitches and you need to keep working on your zone hitting. You are now building a foundation for success. Your confidence should rise and your results should improve. Now that you’re developing your building blocks for success, next month we will get a little advanced and discuss how to hit for power to all fields.

The easiest way to become proficient is to practice what we call zone hitting. It’s a fairly simple drill, but like every other aspect of hitting, it requires lots of practice to become good at it. The drill involves using a short soft toss and is typically executed in a batting cage. As you are doing the soft toss drill, you assume you are hitting with less than two strikes. Eliminate the corners of the plate and the highest and lowest part of the strike zone. Then create an imaginary circle or box. In what is now a smaller strike zone, concentrate on only swinging at pitchers that enter the imaginary circle or box. As the person tosses the balls, he should throw balls randomly in the zone (circle or box) and out of the zone. By taking pitches out of the zone, you will develop a keen eye and what is known as patience at the place. By repeating this drill, you will eventually learn how to take pitches. The reason why we assume less than two strikes is to develop a habit of not swinging at a pitcher’s pitch (ball on the corner or up or down in the zone) until you are forced to because it is more difficult to hit those borderline pitches hard.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF STRENGTH TRAINING FOR THE MALE AND FEMALE ATHLETE

STRENGTH & CONDITIONING By Tony Tierno N.D., C.P.T. C.S.N. Director of Fitness and Human Performance. HealthQuest Fitness Center. USPF Certified Official. S.O.N.J State Powerlifing Director. Strength training makes a better athlete. The best time to start training is now. A stronger athlete is a better athlete -- and all major sports substantiate this axiom. Strength training existed as far back as the sixth century B.C., when Olympic wrestler Milo of Crotona lifted his baby bull each morning. As the animal grew, Milo grew stronger. This strategy -- now known as progressive resistance training -- became the basis for all strength-training programs. Milo’s theory was unique in his time, but today all superior athletes use specialized training and are measurably stronger, bigger and faster than those of the previous generation. Regardless of your sport or level of competition, you can strength train to improve your performance. There are a total of 50,000 genes that combine to program your body’s development, performance and internal and external structure. Whether it’s hitting, running, change of direction or throwing, hundreds of muscles synchronize to perform thousands of coordinated contractions each second. Each muscle can be trained

JACK CUST

for increased speed, emphasizing strength training’s positive role in producing stronger, faster athletes. A study published in The Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy is typical of scientific results that find “no damage to bone, epiphyses and growth tissue” from strength training. HealthQuest and Diamond Nation are huge supporters of individualized and monitored sports specific training and nutrition. Learning proper technique and execution of all exercise phases are critical in reducing injury. Core training is the foundation of building your pillar of strength. Movement starts at the very center of the body -- the core area of the

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torso. Balance and stabilization are interrelated and important in any training program. The main purpose of functional training is injury prevention. The main objective is to reduce the deficit between absolute and functional strength. The inevitable result of functional strength and power training is improved performance. If you feel that you have reached a plateau or you want to step up to the next level, you need to look into the HealthQuest flexibility and agility test. Testing enables athletes and fitness participants to assess their athletic or human performance levels as well as areas in need of enhancement. The human body has approximately 700 muscles and 206 bones. Learning proper techniques and execution of all exercise phases are critical in reducing injury. It is imperative that the tendons, ligaments and connective soft tissue that surround the muscle are protected. This 60 to 100 step test, depending on evaluation, includes procedures such as lateral speed, change of direction, strength, trunk rotation, body flexions, vertical jump, three planes of motion, four axis of the body, neck and spine flexibility, spiropet lung test, body rhythm, acceleration, deceleration and gait assessment. By obtaining all this valuable information a training program can then be designed for you so your first workout will enable you to be in progression mode. If you’re traveling a long distance to get to HealthQuest or Diamond Nation, take advantage of our eight-week cycle training program that will enable you to train close to home and be reevaluated at the end of that period. This way your training will always be productive. By approaching training from this holistic and logical approach, the inevitable result is improved performance. Believe in yourself and never put a limit on your maximal potential.

MIKE FORD

JACK CUST

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FATHER AND SON SHARE MORE THAN FAMOUS LAST NAME

GRAIG & JEFF NETTLES By Ben Masur

After they beat the Dodgers in ’77, the Yankees repeated in ’78 thanks to Graig’s glove. The Yankees lost the first two games of that series in Some kids are born with a silver spoon; Jeff NetLos Angeles, but in Game 3 back in New York, tles was born with a baseball bat. He knows he Graig made several sensational plays at third had a different childhood than most, and while it base, saving about four runs to back his starting may have helped and hurt as an up-and-coming pitcher, Ron Guidry. In the third inning, with a ballplayer, he doesn’t wish anything different. runner on third base, Davey Lopes lined a hard shot to Nettles, who made the play and saved “I assumed everyone’s Dad played big league a run. After Bill Russell drove in the Dodgers baseball,” Jeff said. “I didn’t know any better. I only run, the next batter, was born into this life and Reggie Smith, hit a hard that’s all I’ve known. I ground ball that Nettles wouldn’t trade it in for speared and threw to anything in the world; second for a force play growing up at Yankee Stato end the inning and dium and Jack Murphy rally. In the fifth, the Stadium and being able Dodgers had runners on to be the bat boy and run first and second with around the field and see two outs when Smith hit what my Dad gets to go a liner down the third through.” base line that Nettles made a diving stop on, In case you didn’t recogbut was unable to throw nize the last name, his Smith out at first but no Dad is none other than runs scored as the next Graig Nettles, who, in a batter hit into a force to 22-year career in Major GRAIG NETTLES Nettles to end the inning. In the League Baseball, hit .248 with WITH SON JEFF sixth, the Dodgers loaded the 390 home runs and 1,314 RBI in bases again with two outs, but 2,700 games. But he was more Nettles made a great stop on a ball hit by Lopes than just an offensive prowess as Graig is conto again complete the force play and pull sidered one of the best defensive third baseman Guidry out of a jam. In the top of the ninth inof all time with a career fielding percentage ning, with the Yankees ready to close out a 5-1 of .964. victory, Lopes came to bat and he jokingly waved Nettles away from the third base line. While Graig played for six different teams among his professional career, it was the 11 sea“We needed that game and we thought we sons with the New York Yankees that elevated his had it with Guidry on the mound,” said Graig. stardom. With the Yankees, Nettles won four pen“Guidry didn’t have his best stuff, though, and nants, two World Championships, two Gold I was fortunate to help bail him out. It definitely Gloves and received five of his six All-Star selecturned the series around for us.” tions. Nettles had his best year in 1977, when he had career-highs in home runs (37) and RBI (107) Graig played at San Diego State University while leading the Yankees to the World Series before being selected in the fourth round of the against the Dodgers.

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1965 Draft by the Minnesota Twins. In the three seasons he played for Minnesota, Graig totaled just 121 games played. In 1969, he was traded with Dean Chance, Bob Miller and Ted Uhlaender in 1969 to the Cleveland Indians for Luis Tiant and Stan Williams. The deal was a huge career boost for Graig, as he got a chance to play every day in Cleveland. He played in 157 games in just his first season while getting 549 at bats – double the amount he had the year before with the Twins. In his three seasons (1970-72) in Cleveland, he had his best year in ’71, when Graig hit .261 with 28 home runs and 86 RBI. He was a solid offensive player, but he also emerged as a force defensively. “I worked on it [defense] very hard in Cleveland when I was given the chance to play every day,” he said. “All I wanted was that opportunity. Once you get to the Major Leagues, the fields are better manicured and I always thought I could do well.” The ability he showed on both sides of the ball is why in 1972, the Yankees gave up John Ellis, Jerry Kenney, Charlie Spikes and Rusty Torres for Graig Nettles and Jerry Moses. With the Yankees, Graig became an All-Star for the first time in 1975 and was again in 197780. After his career-year in ’77, Graig put together another incredible year in ‘78 – winding up sixth in MVP voting after finishing with a .276 average, 27 home runs and 93 RBI. Doing what he did in Cleveland was one thing, but to be able to replicate his incredible performances on baseball’s biggest stage set Graig apart. “I was a good third baseman before I came to the Yankees, but to do it at Yankee Stadium in front of big crowds, I was so fortunate to be able to succeed and do that,” he said. “I put a lot of hard work in trying to make myself a great third baseman.” A few months before Graig would win his second gold glove award and second World Championship, something special happened off the field. The same day Graig was celebrating his 34th birthday – August 20th, 1978 – he became a father. Jeff was born in Englewood, NJ and Graig was on the road in Seattle at the time, but he remembers it being a thrill, especially because he would share a birthday with his son.

But that’s not the only thing the two would share. Being around the game, Jeff picked up his Dad’s love for baseball. Jeff played shortstop at Torrey Pines High School in San Diego, California, but when he went to Palomar College, which is currently ranked No. 11 in the nation among top junior college baseball programs, Jeff was turned into a third baseman. Jeff thought it was a good idea, as did his Dad, who knew a thing or two about the position. “I always thought he was a third baseman,” Graig said. “He didn’t have the speed or range to play shortstop, so I was always hoping they would move him to third.” Jeff had no problem with the transition. He was drafted after his first year at Palomar by the Toronto Blue Jays but he decided to stay at school. Unfortunately, he was ineligible because of grades. His Dad talked the Yankees into drafting Jeff and he was taken in the 47th Round of the 1998 Draft. While they thought they were just doing Graig a favor, Jeff held his own and lasted five years in the organization. “I’m glad they did that for me,” Graig said. “He [Jeff] had to work harder than anyone else to show that it wasn’t just a favor, but he was drafted because he was good and had the talent.” But Jeff was stuck behind Drew Henson, who the Yankees took in the third round of that same Draft and gave Henson a $2 million dollar signing bonus. And in 2001, Henson accepted a $17-million, six-year contract with the New York Yankees. With politics and business involved, Jeff was forced to become a utility man. He played the outfield and then played first base and a little shortstop. He even reported to pitchers and catchers to learn how to catch. Because of his talent and ability to play multiple positions, Jeff made it as high as Triple-A with the Yankees. After the 2002 season, however, Jeff was released. While Jeff never had the chance to play every day in the Yankees organization, he doesn’t regret anything. “I was young and I would have liked to get a better opportunity but it was a lot of fun and it was a great experience,” he said. “I kind have had to find my own way to be noticed and I wouldn’t change anything.”

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tively, in 2001. In Spring Training the following year, Jeff made it until the last day before being sent home. “All you can really do is prove you belong and then you have to keep moving on,” he said. “It’s kind of like, ‘What else do you need to do?’ Being a free agent like I was, they have their own guys and you have to work extra hard and do just a little bit extra and it still may not be enough.” Jeff plans to play one more year with the Patriots in 2010. He is currently enjoying his offseason working on his golf game, playing with his Dad, who got Jeff interested in the game at an early age. In fact, Jeff is such a good golfer, after his baseball career is over, he may have a chance to play professionally. But no matter what Jeff does or did, his Dad is proud of him. And vice-versa. “I’m just proud the way he plays and respects the game,” Graig said. “If you see films of me playing and then watch Jeff play, we look very similar out there in the field. I think he watched a lot of my films and picked up a lot of my habits.”

The Yankees released Jeff late, which made it tough for him to find a job with an another Major League team. He didn’t have a lot of options and Jeff had to rely on his Dad. Graig knew that his former Yankee teammate Sparky Lyle was managing the Somerset Patriots of the Independent League. At the time, they didn’t need a third baseman but Lyle took on the son of Graig Nettles. Then Jeff finally got a good break. The Patriots starting third baseman signed to play in Mexico and Jeff was at the right place at the right time to step into the role. Patriots fans, players and Lyle would soon realize they weren’t just getting the son of a famous Yankee, but Jeff Nettles, the ballplayer. Since Jeff joined the team in 2003, he has become one of the top players in Somerset Patriots and Atlantic League history, ranking among the Patriots career leaders in just about every offensive category. “I credit that success to just playing every day,” he said. “In the Minors, I used to get to the field and look at the bottom of the lineup card where the extras were. But now, I just look to see where I am in the lineup. Knowing I am in there

every day when I come to the ballpark takes a lot off your shoulders and I am able to relax and play baseball. I’m having fun and playing the game the way it should be.” In his six years with the Patriots, he has helped them to three Atlantic League Championships and, in two of those, Jeff was named the MVP. Jeff had two more shots to play and latch on to a Major League team; in 2007 with the Kansas City Royals and 2008 with the Baltimore Orioles. In 2007, he was picked up in the middle of the season to replace an injured player on the Wichita Wranglers, the Double-A Royals affiliate. Jeff played in 58 games, hitting .267 with eight home runs and 41 RBI. But the player he was filling in for got healthy by the time spring training came around and Jeff was released. In 2008, Jeff earned a chance with Bowie, Baltimore’s Double-A affiliate. He was their every day third baseman and put together an All-Star season; a .253 batting average with 129 hits, 25 doubles, 24 home runs and 78 RBI. He played in 134 games and got 562 plate appearances while his previous high in the Minor Leagues was 95 and 332, respec-

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So does he felt he’s lived up to the last name? “I don’t know if they are expecting more or less, I don’t think about that,” Jeff said. “I don’t know any different, all I can do is go out there every day and play baseball.” And he learned to play the game from his Dad, a common bond spread among lots of fathers and sons in the world today. “We had no idea he was going to be a ballplayer,” Graig said. “I just got him playing whatever he wanted to play; he wanted to throw a ball and run. He picked baseball.” Whether it was defensive positioning or hitting with two strikes or the business side of the game, the biggest thing Jeff learned from his Dad? “Not to let anything bother me,” Jeff said. “When I’m on the field every day, just get ready to go and show what I can do.” Father and son continue to show and share their passion for baseball, on or off the field.


FOR A MAJORITY OF MAJOR LEAGUE PLAYERS, IT’S MORE THAN JUST A NUMBER

WHAT’S IN A NUMBER? By Ben Masur Major League Baseball players care about their numbers; batting average, home runs, RBI’s, wins, ERA. Numbers define their success and failures. But the numbers game expands past the box scores and onto their backs. The Cleveland Indians became the first big league club to experiment with numbered uniforms in 1916, wearing numerals on their left sleeves. The Indians were also the first to wear numbers on the back of their jerseys and were involved in the first Major League Baseball game to have both teams wear numbers on their jerseys, when Cleveland played the New York Yankees in 1929. By the mid-1930s, every Major League team had adopted uniform numbers, though it wasn’t until 1937 that the Philadelphia Athletics put numbers on not only their home, but road uniforms as well. It used to be that a baseball player’s number was specifically related to where he batted in the lineup. Hitters 1-9 would get numbers 19 (ie: Babe Ruth was No. 3 and Lou Gehrig was No. 4) and then starting pitchers would take 10-14 (skipping 13 out of fear of bad luck) and relief pitchers and backup position players would take the remaining 15-26 (rosters had 25 guys). A player is recognized by the number he wears. Players have their numbers retired on baseball field’s walls. You know Hank Aaron’s number (44). You know Jackie Robinson’s number (42). When youth players pick their uniform numbers, they want the one to emulate their favorite player. Everyone knows Derek Jeter is No. 2 and David Wright is No. 5.

For a majority of players, it is more than just a number. The number each player wears isn’t random. Sometimes it’s to honor a person or place. George Brett wore No. 5 to honor fellow third baseman Brooks Robinson. Sandy Alomar Jr. wore No. 15 to pay tribute to Thurman Munson. Carlos Delgado wears No. 21 to honor Roberto Clemente. Justin Morneau wears No. 33 because as a native Canadian growing up, he idolized goalie Patrick Roy. Sid Fernandez and Benny Agbayani wore No. 50 to honor their native Hawaii, the 50th state. Bernie Williams wore No. 51 to honor his homeland of Puerto Rico, the 51st state. Sometimes it’s more personal. Joba Chamberlain wears No. 62 because when he was 12, his best friend, Nate Raun, died of brain cancer so Chamberlain choose No. 62 because it adds up to No. 8, which was Raun’s number in youth baseball. Scott Schoeneweis wears No. 60 because it reminds of him all he has overcome in his life: testicular cancer that he defeated as a sophomore at Duke University and reconstructive elbow surgery that came within the same year. Schoenewies wore No. 60 during spring training with the Angels in 1999 and made the team. He was never offered a lower number (the higher the number you are offered, the lease likely chance you have of making it on the big league club) because he was overlooked, yet he proved himself every year and No. 60 stuck with him. Bud Smith who pitched with the Cardinals in the 2001 and 2002, wore No. 57 in the Phillies’ 2003 Spring Training camp to honor Darryl Kile, Smith’s teammate who had passed away the summer before.

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And a lot of the times, it’s superstition. The Yankees gave skipper Joe Girardi No. 27 because they wanted him to help the organization win its 27th World Championship, which they did. There is talk already of Girardi getting No. 28 in pursuit of the Yankees’ 28th championship next season, keeping the superstition alive. The newlytraded Yankee Curtis Granderson, who whore 28 when he was with the Detroit Tigers, chose to wear No. 14. It’s the number he wore in high school because his father, Curtis Sr., wore No. 14 in his adult softball league. Superstition is synonymous with baseball players. Bobby Valentine, while on the Angels, switched from No. 13 to No. 11 after his jaw was broken by a pitch, his leg was broken running into a wall and a ground ball broke his nose. Exactly how important are these numbers to the players? Some will do just about anything when traded or signed with a new team to keep their number. Rickey Henderson reportedly paid Turner Ward $25,000 to get his No. 24 when he was picked up by the Blue

Jays in August of 1993. When Roger Clemens joined the Blue Jays in 1997, he gave Delgado, who was wearing Clemens’ coveted No. 21, a $15,000 Rolex in return for Delgado switching uniform numbers. Jack Cust wore No. 19 in 2001 when he started his Major League career with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He switched to No. 21 in 2002 with the Colorado Rockies and then wore No. 39 for two seasons with the Baltimore Orioles in 2003 and 2004. In 2006, he wore No. 9 in a short stint with the Padres. And since 2007, he has been with the Oakland A’s and has worn No. 32. “I just take whatever number is given to me,” Cust said. “A lot of guys get comfortable in certain numbers, but I’ve never had a chance to pick a number. I like No. 29, that’s what I wore in high school and the minors.” And if he goes to a new team next season? “We’ll just have to see what’s available,” he added.


Founder, Owner and Chief Instructor...

JIM EVANS By Ben Masur Jim Evans is sitting on a bench outside of a batting cage. A drill is taking place between a few umpires. Evans is in the midst of talking to someone when out of the corner of his eye, he spots a mistake. He shouts, “Follow the ball with your eyes, not your head.” The exercise taking place was to work on the criteria for the home plate umpire. Evans, sitting 10 feet away, saw that the umpire wasn’t tracking the ball into the catcher’s glove. You thought it was just calling balls and strikes? “There’s head height, width of stance, amount of squat, amount of torso lean, proper use of equipment, half swing mechanics, voice, judgment situations,” Evans said. Jim Evans is the founder, owner and chief instructor of the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring. Evans is a former Major League Baseball umpire who worked in the American League from 1971-99, and spent 19 of those years as an AL Crew Chief. He umpired four World Series, nine League Championship Series, three AllStar games and is the author of the Official Baseball Rules Annotated, Professional Baseball Rules Index and more. Evans and the Academy’s main objective is to prepare candidates for professional baseball; however, the majority of his graduates will go home as much better qualified amateurs. From November 11-15, the Academy held the Fall Liberty Classic Extended Clinic at the HealthQuest Sports Dome in Flemington, NJ. “I know the umpires who attend have a real passion and interest, so that’s a positive sign,” said Evans. “They have a desire for umpiring, but they have never been taught their job.”

THE ACADEMY OF PROFESSIONAL UMPIRING

Evans first got introduced to umpiring when he was 14 years old. He was a catcher in a Pony League game when the umpire working behind the plate asked Evans if he was interested in umpiring some games the following weekend. Despite being nervous, Evans worked the plate in four games and the bases once. Nobody complained about his strike zone and he made sure he hustled on every play. When he got home that day, he was excited and discovered something that was as much fun as hitting a home run. And from that day on, he started umpiring the nights he wasn’t playing and soon, he began enjoying the umpiring more than playing. He continued to umpire in high school and started to get serious about it when he attended the University of Texas. He joined an umpire association and took all of the tests and eventually worked his way into some college games. Evans was working a game when Dusty Boggess, a retired National League umpire, saw him working the plate in a tournament and called Evans to the backstop between innings. “He told me to get off my butt, I was working too low,” Evans said. “He then asked me to meet him after the game at his hotel. He told me that I had as much natural talent as anyone he had ever seen.” Evans finished his last class at UT in May of 1968 and was working in the Florida State League a week later. During the winter, he went to the inaugural Baseball Jim Evans Umpire Development Specialization Course and was the No. 1 student in the class. At Evans’ Academy, he doesn’t recognize having a No. 1 student because he feels it creates unnecessary pressure on the umpire and is “counterproductive in promoting the proper mindset for the job.” After Evans completed his course, he went to the Double-A Texas league. During the offseason in his second year there, he received a

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letter from AL President Joe Cronin that the AL had purchased his contract and Evans would be going to Triple-A in the upcoming season. It also meant he would be working Major League Spring Training. Near the end of the 1971 season in late August, Evans got the call that he would be brought up to the big leagues to fill in for an umpire. His first game was in Baltimore. Evans was the third base umpire, but didn’t have many calls. On one play, a ball was hit about a foot foul passed the base. Brooks Robinson fielded it and threw a strike to first. Brooks turned to Evans and asked him if he was sure. “When I told him I was, he said, ‘Good call. You’re one for one.’” Evans remembers all of his firsts. “Those firsts are always exciting,” he said. “My first time at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park; classic cathedrals of baseball. Right there, where Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio stood, and where Yogi Berra caught. I was in Yankee Stadium in charge of the game.” He worked thirty days as a 23-year-old American League umpire, the youngest ever, and as they say, the rest is history.

Evans would become one of seven umpires in history to have worked in two perfect games. He was the third base umpire for Mike Witt’s in 1984 and the second base umpire for David Cone’s in 1999. On May 15, 1973, Evans was the home plate umpire for the first of Nolan Ryan’s record seven no-hitters. He was also behind the plate for Don Sutton’s 300th victory on June 18, 1986. In 1978, Evans was the first base umpire when Bucky Dent hit his infamous three-run homer. The year before, Evans was down the right field line in the sixth game of the 1977 World Series when Reggie Jackson hit three home runs with three swings. Evans was the home plate umpire for another historic game. On May 8 and 9, 1984, he was behind the plate for the longest decided game in major league history, a 25-inning affair between the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers. The game was played over two nights, lasting eight hours and six minutes. Not many people remember that game, but one that is still talked about to this day is the sixth game of the 1986 World Series. Evans was working second base that night and was one of the closest people on the field to Bill Buckner when he let the ball go between his legs.


example of a crew chief he had who checked into his hotel and had a letter waiting for him from his family, but he wouldn’t read it until after the game. It’s that kind of mental discipline and toughness that makes a great umpire. Another aspect to being a great umpire is having a real command of the rule book. The worst thing that can happen to an umpire is to lose a protest. Evans had seven protests as a crew chief and didn’t lose one. “The vast majority of people who watch baseball can properly call 95 percent of all plays that happen on the field, but my job is to teach you how to call the other five percent,” Evans said. “That means you have to be able to get into the proper position to see exactly what happens. The key to doing that is anticipating play potentials and adjusting to them. I call that situation awareness.” Jim Evans School of Professional Umpiring

Evans has stories and memories that could go on for days, but one that he will never forget was his last All-Star Game in 1999. He was the plate umpire and was standing near the first base dugout when the golf cart carrying Ted Williams passed by him. “I consider myself very good at controlling my emotions and I teach my students the importance of emotional detachment as an umpire, but, I’ll tell you what, I lost it,” Evans said. “That was our chance to say goodbye to one of the greatest legends of all time.” Ten years earlier, Evans was invited to the Umpire Development Committee meeting at the All-Star game in Anaheim. Evans had 15 minutes to make his case as to why he thought he was qualified to start an umpire school when there were already two schools in existence. A week later, he got a call telling him that his school had been approved. Many of his Major League colleagues told him he was making a business mistake going up against two other schools, but Evans was confident in himself that he could train umpires better than anyone else. Coupled with his love for umpiring and his degree in education, Evan’s umpiring school flourished. Now, Evans’ Academy conducts a five-week course at the Osceola Country Stadium and Sports Complex, located in Kissimmee, Florida, where students use the same classroom, fields and facilities as the Houston Astros do during their spring training. For those who can’t commit to that program, Evans has smaller clinics as well, such as the one that took place at HealthQuest Sports Dome. Even with a limited time span, Evans tries to jam pack

as much as possible, making sure he covers three important points. “The number one thing is your knowledge of responsibilities -- knowing your job, where you are supposed to be and how to acquire proper position,” he said. “Number two is being able to read the cues on the field and adjusting to plays. And number three is using your eyes properly to tracking pitches, making sure you don’t create timing problems.” This past postseason, the umpires had problems of their own. They were making headlines and thanks to technology, the fans could see every mistake that was made. Evans admitted that he watched some of the postseason and while he is always pulling for the umpires, some of the mistakes made could be easily fixed. It’s traced back to fundamental mechanics. “It emphasizes the need for training,” Evans said. “I think it’s a shame that guys get to the big league and training stops. You need continuing education and then bring on the replay. I want the replay to show the umpires are right, not wrong.” Evans is 100 percent in favor of technology and of using the most advanced technology available to help umpires. Evans sees replay being used in postseason very soon, but not being implemented daily during the regular season. That regular season grind of an umpire isn’t glamorous. It takes a special commitment and dedication to living that lifestyle. It takes a special person who can be away from home for six months and who doesn’t let the mental aspects off the field carry over on to the field. Evans gave an

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If the umpire does make a mistake, Evans teaches his students that tough situations are opportunities and if it was an easy job, anybody could do it. But as much as baseball fans like to think they can do it, it’s not as simple. For example, can you name 10 umpire signals? Most people will get six to eight: safe, out, ball, strike, fair, foul, check swing. In Evans’ book, he teaches 47 umpire signals.

There are men on first and third with one out. As the hitter swings at the pitch, his bat ticks the catcher’s glove, but he makes contact with the ball as well, hitting a fly to right where the fielder makes the catch. The runner from third tags up and scores; the runner on first stays at first. What’s the signal for catcher’s inference? But wait; because of the catcher’s inference with the swing, he awards the batter first base, which forces the runner on first to second. By rule, because the batter’s fly ball was nullified, the runner who scored is returned to third. The manager of the hitting team comes out to complain that his team is being unfairly penalized and argues that his team shouldn’t lose a run because the opposing catcher was guilty of interference? So, what do you do? Not as easy as you thought, huh? The answer is that the umpire offers the manager the option of taking the results of the play as it had played out instead of accepting the results of the interference. So the manager can choose: bases loaded, one out, no runs in or man on first, two out, one run in. Didn’t know there was a rule where the umpire can give the manager an option? You would if you went to Jim Evans Umpire Academy. You can check out his website: www.umpireacademy.com for more information.

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Spirit of the Game

HALL OF FAME NEWS Clemente, Gehrig and Robinson honored with new statue at Baseball Hall of Fame By Craig Muder National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Rachel Robinson looked at the statue of her husband, Roberto Clemente and Lou Gehrig for a long moment before finding the right words. “It’s beautiful,” said the widow of baseball’s first modern African-American player. “I hope it reminds everyone who comes here about the character and courage these men had.” Rachel Robinson, the Clemente Family and Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling helped the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum celebrate Character and Courage Weekend on Nov. 1, 2008, by dedicating

Jackie Robinson

the new statue in the Museum’s foyer. An overflow crowd gathered to view the new artwork, created by world famous sculptor Stanley Bleifeld and made possible through a generous donation of Museum supporter Bob Crotty – both of whom were on hand for the dedication.

“This isn’t from me,” said an emotional Crotty. “This is to the fans from the fans.” Bleifeld has created several other statues for the Hall of Fame, including ones honoring Women in Baseball, Satchel Paige and Johnny Podres and Roy Campanella of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers. Also in attendance

was author Jonathan Eig, whose landmark books on Gehrig and Robinson captured the spirit of the two players. Vera Clemente, Roberto’s widow, attended the celebration along with her sons, Luis and Roberto Jr., and profusely thanked all those involved. She and her sons spent almost 30 minutes signing autographs for fans after the ceremony. “The Hall of Fame is like my family,” Vera Clemente said. “We are so honored to be here.”

Vera Clemente alongside New Statues at The Hall of Fame 48 FOR ADVERTISING CALL: 908.455.1613 . ON LINE: WWW.DIAMONDNATIONMAGAZINE.COM

So was Schilling, who described himself as in “awe” at the prospect of speaking at a ceremony celebrating the lives of the three Hall of Famers. “I can’t believe I’m standing here,” said Schilling, a long-time admirer of Gehrig who also praised Clemente and Robinson for their contributions to the game. “I’m embarrassed to be standing here, really. These three men accomplished so much.” Members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum receive free admission to


the Museum, as well as access to exclusive programs, such as the Voices of the Game Series. Additionally, members receive a subscription to the Hall of Fame's bi-monthly magazine, Memories and Dreams, the 2009 Hall of Fame yearbook and a 10% discount and free shipping on retail purchases. For information on becoming a member, please visit baseballhall.org or call 607-547-0397.

Roberto Clemente

conferences galas weddings Lou Gehrig

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is open seven days a week year round, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Museum is open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. seven days a week. The Museum observes offseason hours of 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. from the day after Labor Day until Memorial Day Weekend. Ticket prices are $16.50 for adults (13 and over), $11 for seniors (65 and over) and for those holding current memberships in the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion and AMVets organizations, and $6 for juniors (ages 7-12). Members are always admitted free of charge and there is no charge for children 6 years of age or younger. For more information, visit our Web site at baseballhall.org or call 888-HALL-OF-FAME (888-425-5633) or 607-547-7200.

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Rice joins, Ruffing, Medwick and Kiner as Hall of Famers elected in their final year of eligibility

maximum 15 times on the BBWAA ballot to reach the 75-percent level necessary for election.

By Jack O’Connell

Rice may take pride in the select company to which he belongs. That group features the winningest right-handed pitcher in the Yankees’ storied history, Red Ruffing; the last National League player to win the batting Triple Crown, Joe Medwick; and the dominant home run hitter of the decade following Word War II, Ralph Kiner.

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – The last might not always be first in baseball, contrary to the biblical phrase. But for Jim Rice and three other Hall of Fames who were not elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America until the final time they were on the ballot, being last meant they finished first in the eyes of baseball fans.

It is hard to imagine how any of these outstanding players nearly missed being elected. And as tough a journey as Rice had to Cooperstown, it cannot compare with the bumpy path traveled by the other three. To the point, if the rule that went into effect in the mid 1970s by which a candidate is dropped from the ballot if he doesn’t receive at least five percent of the vote, then Ruffing, Medwick and Kiner would each have been wiped from the competition after his first year. Ruffing and Medwick first appeared on the ballot in 1948. Ruffing received four votes (3.3 percent) and Medwick merely one, which was less than one percent. Kiner got three votes (1.1 percent) in his first year of eligibility in 1960. By contrast, Rice got off to a blazing start when he made his ballot debut in 1995 with 137 votes (29.8 percent).

Jim Rice - recently Elected To The Hall of Fame

Rice will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on July 26 alongside a first-ballot winner, fellow left fielder Rickey Henderson. Rice, however, needed the

Voting rules differed from today for many of the years Ruffing, Medwick and Kiner were eligible. For one thing, there was a period in the late 1950s and early 1960s when voting was conducted every other year. There were no BBWAA elections in 1957, ’59, ’61, ’63 or ’65. A rule permitting players to be considered for 25 years following their retirements was lengthened to 30 years in 1956, then shortened to the current 20 years in 1963.

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had he not gotten the required 75 percent. Similarly, Kiner’s election in 1975, 20 years after he called it a career, was on his 13th ballot but last try. And he made it by one vote over the necessary total that year, the narrowest call in BBWAA voting history.

Jim Rice, Ralph Kiner, Red Ruffing - Credit - National Baseball Hall Of Fame Library

HALL OF Last Call FAME NEWS

There were also two run-off elections in the 1960s, repeating a process that had been used, unsuccessfully, in the mid 1940s. Ruffing and Medwick were part of both with Ruffing getting elected in the ’67 run-off that also included Kiner.

Ralph Kiner - Slugger for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Medwick, for example, was elected on what was actually only his ninth ballot in 1968, which was 20 years after he retired, so it would have been off to the Veterans Committee

Run-offs were sort of a second chance in the same year. If no one got the required 75 percent in the balloting, a run-off was held by which the top 30 vote getters went back on the ballot. The stipulation, however, was that only one player could be elected, provided he got 75 percent. In the 1964 run-off, Ruffing got better than 75 percent but was five votes behind Luke

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Appling, who was elected. The same thing happened to Medwick in the 1967 run-off. He was on 248 ballots (81 percent) but was 18 votes behind Ruffing. No run-off was needed in 1968 because Medwick made the grade in the regular election at 84.5 percent. Run-offs were eliminated after that. Since then, the BBWAA has had only two years when no player was elected, in 1971 and 1996.

was 82-33 (.713), pretty strong stuff from a guy who had consecutive years of 10-25 and 9-22 records with the Red Sox. Ruffing’s postseason record was exceptional: 7-2 with a 2.63 ERA and eight complete games in 10 World Series starts. Ruffing wasn’t a strikeout pitcher however, averaging less than 100 per year. That coupled with those 20-loss seasons in Boston probably kept him from getting votes in his early years on the ballot.

As the newcomer of the group, Rice’s background Medwick was a 10-time All-Star is familiar by now. He led and career .324 hitter with the AL in total bases four 2,471 hits, 1,198 runs and times, home runs three 1,383 RBIs. He had four seatimes, runs batted in and sons of 200-plus hits, six seaslugging twice apiece. He sons of 100-plus runs, five is the only player to lead seasons of 100-plus RBIs and the majors in triples, home led the NL three times in douruns and RBIs in the same bles and twice in hits. The left season, 1978, when he fielder on the Cardinals’ “Gas was named AL Most ValuHouse Gang” teams of the able Player. Rice’s 406 1930s and later Leo Durocher’s total bases that year Dodgers in the ’40s, Medwick marked it as one of only was the NL MVP in his Triple three seasons over the Crown year of 1937 batting past 50 years in which a .374 with 154 RBIs and 31 player has totaled 400 or home runs (tied with the Giants’ more bases. The others Mel Ott). were Hank Aaron (400) Red Ruffing played in 7 Fall Classics in 1959 and Larry Walker with Yanks What may have hurt Medwick (409) in 1997. in the voting was that he was not a prolific power hitter with 205 career Ruffing had one of the most interesting careers home runs. He was also the only player reof any pitcher. He came to the majors with the moved from a World Series game by a comRed Sox in the late 1920s when they were one missioner. In 1934 Kenesaw Mountain Landis of the worst teams in baseball, then was traded ordered him off in Game 7 after fans in Detroit to the Yankees in 1930 and became part of littered the field in debris following a controtheir legendary run of success. Ruffing’s win- versial slide by Medwick spiking Tigers third ning percentage with the Red Sox (.289 based baseman Marv Owen. on a 39-96 record) was actually worse than Boston’s overall (.352) in those years. How- As a rookie, Kiner led the NL in home runs with ever, his winning percentage with the Yankees 23 in 1946 and kept slugging. He led or tied (.651 based on a 231-124 record) was for the NL lead in home runs for seven consecgreater than that of New York’s overall (.624) utive years. Twice, he topped 50, including 54 in his time in the Bronx. in 1949, the highest league total in the years between Hack Wilson’s 56 in 1930 for the In the four consecutive seasons that the Yankees Cubs and Mark McGwire’s 70 in 1998 for the won the World Series from 1936-39, Ruffing Cardinals. Forced into retirement after 10 sea54 FOR ADVERTISING CALL: 908.455.1613 . ON LINE: WWW.DIAMONDNATIONMAGAZINE.COM

sons due to chronic back ailments, Kiner, who hit .279, finished with 369 home runs and 1,015 RBIs.

becoming a member, please visit baseballhall.org or call 607-5470397.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is open seven days a week year round, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, Jack O’Connell is the secretarythe Museum is open from 9 a.m. until 9 treasurer of the Baseball Writp.m. seven days a week. The Museum ers Association of America. observes off-season hours of 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. from the day after Labor Day until Members of the National BaseMemorial Day Weekend. Ticket prices ball Hall of Fame and Museum are $16.50 for adults (13 and over), $11 receive free admission to the for seniors (65 and over) and for those Museum, as well as access to holding current memberships in the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, American exclusive programs, such as the Legion and AMVets organizations, and Voices of the Game Series. Ad$6 for juniors (ages 7-12). Members are ditionally, members receive a always admitted free of charge and subscription to the Hall of Joe Medwick there is no charge for children 6 years of Fame's bi-monthly magazine, Memories and Dreams, the 2009 Hall of Fame age or younger. For more information, visit our Web site yearbook and a 10% discount and free ship- at baseballhall.org or call 888-HALL-OF-FAME (888-4255633) or 607-547-7200.

In the end, they all made it to Cooperstown.

ping on retail purchases. For information on


SPORTS AGENT’S NEWEST CLIENTS ARE ANIMATED

THE SPORTYS By Ben Masur Bobby Barad deals with Major League ballplayers, executives and some of baseball’s highest ranking officials on a daily basis. But it was Barad’s son, Ben, who sparked the sports attorney’s vision to create The Sportys, a DVD series which features a team of lovable animated characters being taught the fundamentals of the game of baseball, teamwork and sportsmanship from the voice of Academy Award nominated actor Michael Clark Duncan as, “Stitch” the baseball. “I watch baseball every night and my oldest of two sons came down and asked if he can watch with me,” Barad said. “I thought it was great and while watching, he would stand in front of the TV and create his own strike-ball game. The next morning, he asked if he could watch baseball again with me that night. He didn’t even care who was playing, he just wanted to play the game again. I was pretty amazed at what he could learn from cartoons like Little Einstein and Dora the Explorer and it clicked that I needed to create something like that for baseball; not a how to, but on the concepts that make up the game.” Barad took his idea, researched and put together a team to make up The Sportys, INC. Barad brought in animated producer Jason Strougo, celebrated Major League Baseball player Brady Clark, Mr. Barad’s longtime client and friend, who serves as Executive Producer, Dan Yaccarino, the

illustrator behind the animated stars of hit children’s programs such as Oswald and The Backyardigans and a group of many others. Over the course of the year, the DVD was created and it was released on October 6, 2008. The first half of the DVD features a 22 minute segment which walks kids through baseball’s rules and terms (such as strike vs. ball and fair vs. foul, player positions and the four ways to get an out) by showing nine animated characters (Duke, Rusty, Nails, Webster, Dizzy, Scooter, Lefty, Righty and Grunt) playing their first game. The players face a rival team, who are, at first, much better than the Sportys. They strike out constantly and run into each other while fielding, but eventually defeat the other team through Stitch’s teachings. For example, he tells them “If you’re going to catch a fly ball, say ‘I got it!’” or “Lead off? What’s that? That means you bat first.” And Stitch goes beyond the fundamentals, “Being good at sports does not mean you are a good sport.”

“The Sportys reinforces the idea that everyone can be part of a ‘winning’ team, no matter their shape, size or skills,” Barad said. “They kids watching this don’t even realize they are learning because they are having so much fun.” The second half of the DVD includes a 30 minute live-action segment with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long. It offers a hands-on tutorial with pointers for parents on teaching baseball skills to their children through creative, fun and effective instruction, including realistic goals. In addition, the DVD comes with a collectible poster with special tips on fielding, hitting, hustling and having fun from 2008 Rookie of the Year and All-Star Third Baseman, Evan Longoria. The Sportys is available online at www.thesportys.com and can be ordered via phone at 1-800-420-7545 for $19.99.

So what’s next for the Sportys? Right now, Barad and company are working on getting out their first line of merchandise and then they hope to put out their next DVD. While they continue to get the word out and this well-reviewed DVD picks up steam, Barad sees endless opportunities, including maybe putting out a Spanish version with his client Robinson Cano. No matter what the Sportys put out on the market, however, it will continue to have the same goal: Teach kids the way they know how to learn -- by having fun. “With the help of the Sportys team, children will learn baseball’s fundamentals in a fun interactive environment, allowing them to enjoy watching sports and becoming a fan with their parents,” Barad said.

While the animated characters learn, so did the kids, incorporating big laughs and catchy songs along the way, including “Yes We Can.” By keeping it basic and fun, the DVD will give the kids a lot more knowledge as to what the game is and values that apply not only on the diamond, but off of it as well.

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SPORTS COUNSELING

GROWING GREAT RELATIONSHIPS (GGR) family will be affected by the decision and they deserve the respect of being heard. The world of competitive athletics for youth is demanding and stressful and not appropriate for every child or every family. In order for it to be a successful experience, all members of the family should be able to voice their needs and understand what compromises need to be made as a family so that the athlete can attain his/her potential without damaging the well-being of the family. Coaches Richard & Jane Horowitz answer questions from parents and youth concerning athletics, competition and its effect on family life. Q: My 12-year-old son and his father were recently approached by our son’s baseball coach in our town’s recreational league about enrolling our son in a baseball clinic for exceptional ball players. The coach indicated that since my son excelled this year, it might be a good idea to start grooming him for a more competitive environment. My son was excited and so was his dad. However, I have some misgivings about the impact on our family of pursuing this recommendation. What do you think? A: We think your concerns are wellfounded. The fact that you are thinking ahead about the potential impact to your family of following the baseball coach’s recommendation lays the foundation for what needs to be considered before you and your husband make this decision. We strongly recommend a family meeting consisting of Mom & Dad, your son and his siblings living at home. The importance of the meeting is for all members of the family to weigh in with their thoughts and opinions. This doesn’t mean that the parents are giving up their authority to make a final decision, but respects the fact that all members of the

The goal is for the family as well as the athlete to benefit from the athletic success of one member and for the family to be there to support the athlete while he/she faces the challenges of competition on the highest level. In addition to the family meeting, it would be a good idea for you and your husband to talk frankly with other parents who have committed to highly competitive athletics. Ask them about the pros & cons of the experience and what they might have done differently with hindsight. Next issue: Whose goal is this -athlete or parent? Growing Great Relationships provides couples, families and professionals with insight and tools to enable their relationships to be rewarding and fulfilling. Dr. Richard Horowitz is an educator, coach, consultant and author of Peaceful Parenting: Parent Empowerment & Child Empowerment. Jane Horowitz is a certified relationship coach. They are the parents of six children.

Parents, Athletes, Coaches

WHAT CAN GROWING GREAT RELATIONSHIPS DO FOR YOU? WE CAN HELP YOU WITH: -Meeting the challenges of parenting the over-loaded child -Coping with the demands on families posed by competitive athletics -How to parent the exceptional athlete and mange the impact on the family -How to balance school and athletics -How to reconcile the differences between parents concerning participation in sports -Helping youth respond positively to the stress of competitive athletics -Providing tips for coaches on building stronger relationships with their athletes -Providing tips for coaches on how to respond to overly involved parents

For more information or to contact GGR, call 908-237-2284/ 866-266-3003 or go to www.GrowingGreatRelationships.com.

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AFTER the GAME

ONE OWNER: THREE LOCAL DINERS

When Mike Anastasi came to America from Cyprus in 1980, he was 20 years old and spoke no English. He got a job washing dishes at a Diner in New Jersey. He then became the cook. Then he became a bus boy. He did everything he could and worked his way up to the top. And now, Anastasi owns three diners with a fourth coming soon. His diners are all centrally located from Diamond Nation in Flemington, NJ, making them a perfect place to stop after a lesson, league or tournament.

6am-11pm, and Friday and Saturday, 6am-3am. The Spinning Wheel can hold about 180 people, The Bridgewater Diner 160 people and The Washington Diner Restaurant is the smallest of the trio with a maximum capacity of 100 people. All three are family friendly and have a great atmosphere to eat and relax after a game. Anastasi employs 250300 workers over the three diners and the menu is filled with simple diner food and lots of options. The Bridgewater Diner, for example, has a 10-page menu with over 1,000 items to choose from. The prices are fair and the service is fast, and Anastasi himself can be seen greeting costumers.

Anastasi started his first diner, The Spinning Wheel, 22 years ago in Lebanon, NJ. In 2001, Anastasi opened his second diner, The Washington Diner Restaurant, located in Washington Township, NJ. And his third diner, The Bridgewater Diner, came three years later in Bridgewater, NJ.

Anastasi is hoping that his fourth diner, which will be located in Flemington, NJ nearby Diamond Nation, will be open by Christmas 2010. Anastasi has never picked up a baseball glove, but he knows how to make his diners casual and comfortable for athletes.

By Ben Masur

All three of Anastasi’s diners are open Sunday to Thursday, from

“I got lots of compliments on my diners and I love my job even more than I used to,” said Anastasi, who said he can envision his new diner’s walls in Flemington being decorated with baseball and softball memorabilia, photos and trophies. It’s a labor of love for Anastasi, who continues to live the American Dream while providing the surrounding areas of Diamond Nation with great food and fun for families and players.

DNM’s Select Restaurants For 2009

“You have to love what you are doing,” Anastasi said. “I love my job. Twenty years ago, there was no Fridays, no chain restaurants and not as many fast food places. There was just Roy Rogers and White Castle. But the competition makes you more alert and keeps you on your toes to constantly improve things and makes it better. I believe in myself and I know what I can do.”

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THE SIGNIFICANCE BEHIND BAYONNE’S CAL RIPKEN LEAGUE SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD

2009 MICHAEL ROMANO

SCHOLARSHIP AWARD

By Ben Masur over town, even by some of the politicians. We had no field to call home. But we had an unwavering will to succeed.”

Four men decided to leave Bayonne Little League and form the Bayonne Bambino League (name was changed by Babe Ruth headquarters to Cal Ripken in 2000) in late 1997. The first decision they made was to charge no fee to play. They set a goal of 50 kids, but ended up having 350 sign up. They scrambled to recruit more coaches and on April 11, 1998, they had a league of 17 teams. That morning, Bob DeChiaro, one of the original four men who helped create the new league, stood at a field with no electricity, no running water, no bathrooms, no scoreboard, no outfield fence, no press box and no dugouts.

While DeChiaro’s baseball league was off and running, his Dad, Joseph, was hospitalized after needing to be resuscitated with a defibrillator. Bob left the hospital two hours later after doctors and nurses were so impressed by his father’s recovery. Later that night, however, after visiting hours were over, Joseph DeChiaro passed away. “I firmly believe that my Dad, who was the most unselfish man I have ever known, fought to live so that we could have our opening as planned,” Bob said. “My mom thought it would be best that rather than receive flowers, she asked people to make a donation to our league. We raised about $1,200 which seemed like a million dollars at the time.”

And he couldn’t be happier.

At the first annual awards dinner for the league, Bob decided to name the Sportsmanship Award: The Joseph DeChiaro Memorial Award.

“Pulling that off was a minor miracle,” DeChiaro said. “We went against a 45year establishment. We were criticized all

And it stayed that way until 2005, when the league lost one of its players, Michael Romano, to cancer.

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Bob’s decision was easy. “My Dad was a hero and as humble as they come, but Michael was an entirely different level,” he said. The name of the award was changed. “I give you Michael Romano – the singlehanded most inspiring and loving young man we have ever had the pleasure of meeting,” it reads on part of Michael’s monument at the Bayonne field. “Courage, perseverance and character; they are words. To Michael, they were his guidelines. And never did he fail to meet his guidelines.” At this year’s banquet, the 2009 Michael Romano Sportsmanship Award was given to David Somers. “We are extremely proud that David was selected to receive the Michael Romano Award,” Paul Somers, David’s Dad, said.

“The following night we ran into a fellow Cal Ripken Mom and Dad who were at the awards dinner. They said to us, ‘That is really the best award. While most awards compliment a player’s ball playing, this one speaks of his character.’ Needless to say, that was a tremendous thing to hear from another parent.” David’s mom added: “He is the kid rallying his team when the score is 15-0 and his team has the 0. Once they were down nine runs and actually did come back and win. David gives the word perseverance new meaning…Our only hope for him is that he remains happy, caring and loyal to his character and principles.” As David Somers continues to play the sport that he loves and advances to new levels, he will remember and appreciate the Michael Romano Award, given to an extraordinary person and leader, on and off the field.


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PITCHING PERSPECTIVES WITH RICK PETERSON:

WHY PITCHERS GET HURT Written by Gary Armida, Senior Writer, FullCountPitch.com Young pitchers are in trouble. Rick Peterson succinctly explains the growing epidemic in the amateur pitching market. “In the last 10 years Tommy John surgeries have increased by 700 percent in the amateur pitching market. Something is obviously wrong here.” Because amateur baseball is more competitive than ever, children (beginning at 8 years old) are pitching more frequently. This increased use, without proper coaching, has led to the explosion of pitching related injuries. The Root of Arm Injuries Assuming that a pitcher is not genetically predisposed to arm injuries (meaning that he can, actually, pitch), there are three main causes of pitching injuries. 1. Poor Delivery/Mechanics The first cause is the classic “bad mechanics”. Peterson (who prefers to refer to this as the delivery) doesn’t limit this one to just pitchers in the amateur market. Instead, he broadens it to poor throwing delivery or poor arm action. “Unfortunately, with amateur pitchers, this can be trained very early. One of the first problems is getting a young pitcher to grip the ball properly. How the heck can an 8 year old properly grip a baseball? His hands are too small.” In youth football, the ball is smaller. Peterson jokes, “Can you imagine giving a ten year old an NFL football and saying ‘here kid, grip and throw the ball like Eli Manning’. It’s not realistic, yet we don’t have that option in baseball.” The most important aspect of a poor delivery is the impact it has on a youth’s arm. The violence of a pitching delivery is very real. Peterson

explains, “Think about the pitching delivery as an upside down tornado. Hip rotation determines velocity. If the delivery is executed properly, the shoulder doesn’t do much work. But, in order for the shoulder not to feel the brunt of the workload, everything must be in sync, on-time, and in coordination with the rotational velocities, the lower body and the upper torso.” In other words, if a delivery is done correctly, the impact on the shoulder is minimal. The problem is that most coaches do not have the pitching education to correct such deficiencies. Instead, most coaches will say to a pitcher something to the effect that the pitcher is “flying open”. But, as Peterson explains, that merely means that the pitcher is out of sync which “puts a ton of pressure on the shoulder during the acceleration phase of the delivery.” The acceleration phase of the delivery is significant in terms of impact on the shoulder. “After the cocking stage, the ball comes to a complete stop or almost a complete stop. This is right before the point where the pitcher’s arm is about to accelerate through the pitch. That stopping point to the completion of the acceleration phase lasts 0.3 seconds. So, if you think about it, in that 0.3 seconds the ball is accelerated from zero miles per hour to 90-plus miles per hour.” Peterson tells a story of an encounter with a doctor after a he gave a presentation on this very topic. “The Doctor said, ‘If your entire body was accelerated at that same rate of speed for over sixty seconds you would die. Your body could not handle that acceleration, the G forces of that type of acceleration’.” 2. Poor Conditioning

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Quite simply, amateur athletes are not conditioned to pitch as much as they do. Peterson wonders, “How many amateur pitchers are made to do shoulder strengthening exercises as a part of their youth programs? The answer is probably none.” Young pitchers are throwing more than ever, but failing to properly condition their shoulders, arms, legs, torso, etc. in order to handle the increased workload. Additionally, conditioning comes into play during the deceleration phase of the delivery. Based on ASMI (American Sports Medicine Institute) research, most amateur pitchers are not old enough (or developed enough) to properly drive through a pitching delivery. Peterson gives a car analogy, “You wouldn’t give a kid the keys to a sports car without brakes, would you? Well, that’s similar to what’s happening to young pitchers. They are not conditioned enough to properly execute a delivery.” The hard throwers, who are likely pitching the most, are the group that is most at risk for injury, especially if they are poorly conditioned. It can be assumed that if a pitcher is throwing harder, the acceleration within that aforementioned 0.3 seconds is much quicker and much more violent. Poorly conditioned, young pitchers will break down as a result.

3.Overuse There are many different variations of the term overuse when it comes to pitching injuries. Peterson speaks of overuse in the context of entire year. “The days of the three letter athlete are over. Today, amateur baseball is played yearround. Amateur pitchers will play in travel leagues all winter and continue to throw. Quite simply, there is not enough time for a player to rest. The winter should be a time for pitchers to reduce their pitch count and monitor when they throw. In the age of increased specialization, this issue is not likely to resolve itself soon. As amateur baseball continues to be played all year round and become even more competitive, pitchers are put at risk. Couple the lack of conditioning with overuse and one as a recipe for disaster, or in this case, the epidemic of pitching related injuries. Rick Peterson is the current Major League Pitching Coach for the Milwaukee Brewers. In addition to his 30 years of professional experience, Peterson is the founder of 3P Sports, a company whose mission is to eliminate pitching injuries in young pitchers. For more information, visit the website, 3psports.com.


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