Youth movement underway for MCS baseball club

By John Bernhardt
“It’s hard to believe, but every kid wants to pitch,” marveled longtime Margaretville baseball coach Rick Funck. Taking advantage of the budding interest, Funck has pieced together a 16-game 2008 schedule to give his young charges ample opportunity to throw.
Funck has called on a familiar face to help cull his teams’ pitching talent. The veteran coach’s son, Greg, a former SUNY Oneonta pitching ace, is assisting his dad’s work with the pitching staff. In fact, Margaretville baseball practices are a real family affair as another Funck, Gregg’s brother, Ryan, is also helping out.
Any talk of Margaretville baseball this season starts with senior Brian Conine. Conine has been a mainstay in the Blue Devils’ line-up since his eight-grade year. “Brian simply loves baseball,” praises his coach. “He’s the ultimate utility player because he can play any position on the field. He’ll be doing a lot of pitching and catching for us this season.”
The team’s only senior, Conine, a second-team Delaware League all-star last spring, is a switch hitter who produces impressive offensive numbers from both sides of the plate.
Another baseball fanatic, junior Guy Nobile will also pitch and catch. Nobile, a solid contact hitter, likes to play the infield when he’s not part of the Blue Devils’ battery.
Chris Costa spent some quality time around second base last spring. The Blue Devils’ pitching coach is working hard with Costa on the hill helping the junior extend the length of his stride and get a little behind the ball in his delivery.
Another junior, Kenny Wilson, is new to baseball at Margaretville. Wilson is an unknown at this point, but Funck likes his aggressiveness in the batting cage.
Six sophomores make up the bulk of Margaretville’s roster. Five like to pitch. Leading the charge is Brandon Lane. “If he can spot his fastball consistently, Brandon can be something special in the Delaware League,” prophesizes Funck. “Brandon worked hard on his breaking ball this summer and he’s picked up a hard slider that really bites down. “Greg is working on an off-speed pitch with Brandon. Brandon will be pitching some big games this spring, and if he shows some consistency, he’ll be really tough,” finished the Blue Devils’ coach.
Brian Faulkner logged a solid year in the outfield as the Blue Devils’ center fielder last spring. With outfield positions up for grabs, Faulkner is a leading candidate to patrol the middle position once again. The tall sophomore is also interested in pitching and has been working some on the hill in the preseason.
An all-purpose player, sophomore Mitch VanKuren can play almost any position on the field. VanKuren attended two pitching clinics Greg Funck conducted after the season concluded last year and took an interest in throwing. “Mitch has looked very promising on the mound this spring,” Funck stressed. “He’s picked up a little cutter that moves down and away from a right hand hitter. He’d like to play some infield when he’s not pitching,” Funck clarified.
A first baseman by trade, Jacob Johnson is also looking to log some innings on the mound. Johnson throws from the left-side which is an advantage on an otherwise all right-handed pitching staff. Johnson spent some quality time in the outfield for the Blue Devils last spring.
Sophomore Nathan Tuck was the only player at Andes to sign up for baseball this year. The two schools combined their squads giving Tuck a chance to play at Margaretville. “Nathan is a great kid, a hard worker who will do anything you ask him to do,” noted Funck. “Nate is working on improving his pitching and has a real interest in first base.”
The final sophomore, Travis Stage is new to Margaretville and the game. Funck is impressed with Stage’s speed. “He runs like lightning. If we can teach Travis to read pitchers, he could do some damage on the base paths,” predicted Funck.
Two talented freshman will shore up the Margaretville infield. When he’s not pitching, Patrick O’Connell plays a very solid third base. A solid contact hitter, O’Connell has started at the hot corner since his seventh-grade year. Funck expects O’Connell to get some quality innings on the mound.
The second freshman, Cody Fronckowiak, is an infielder with great range. Fronck-owiak, a leading candidate to handle the challenge of the key middle infield slot at shortstop, is polishing his throwing skills on the hill, too.
Eighth-grader John Fairbairn will spend a good deal of time for the Blue Devils behind the plate this spring. “John loves to catch. He comes with his own gear and takes the backstopping assignment very seriously,” commended Funck. With a strong arm, Fairbairn is also working on his pitching skills.
“I’m looking forward to working with a real nice group of guys who love playing baseball,” Funck emphasized. “Even though this is a young team, we have some guys with a lot of experience. We have a legitimate chance to go .500 and make the sectionals. In fact, if these guys stick with it and everybody that can will play summer league ball, there’s a nucleus here that could really be something special.”