Youth movement underway for MCS baseball club
By John Bernhardt
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs hard to believe, but every kid wants to pitch,‚Äù 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‚Äô pitching talent. The veteran coach‚Äôs son, Greg, a former SUNY Oneonta pitching ace, is assisting his dad‚Äôs work with the pitching staff. In fact, Margaretville baseball practices are a real family affair as another Funck, Gregg‚Äôs 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‚Äô line-up since his eight-grade year. ‚ÄúBrian simply loves baseball,‚Äù praises his coach. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs the ultimate utility player because he can play any position on the field. He‚Äôll be doing a lot of pitching and catching for us this season.‚Äù
The team‚Äôs 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‚Äôs not part of the Blue Devils‚Äô battery.
Chris Costa spent some quality time around second base last spring. The Blue Devils‚Äô 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‚Äôs roster. Five like to pitch. Leading the charge is Brandon Lane. ‚ÄúIf he can spot his fastball consistently, Brandon can be something special in the Delaware League,‚Äù prophesizes Funck. ‚ÄúBrandon worked hard on his breaking ball this summer and he‚Äôs picked up a hard slider that really bites down. ‚ÄúGreg 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‚Äôll be really tough,‚Äù finished the Blue Devils‚Äô coach.
Brian Faulkner logged a solid year in the outfield as the Blue Devils‚Äô 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. ‚ÄúMitch has looked very promising on the mound this spring,‚Äù Funck stressed. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs picked up a little cutter that moves down and away from a right hand hitter. He‚Äôd like to play some infield when he‚Äôs not pitching,‚Äù 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. ‚ÄúNathan is a great kid, a hard worker who will do anything you ask him to do,‚Äù noted Funck. ‚ÄúNate is working on improving his pitching and has a real interest in first base.‚Äù
The final sophomore, Travis Stage is new to Margaretville and the game. Funck is impressed with Stage‚Äôs speed. ‚ÄúHe runs like lightning. If we can teach Travis to read pitchers, he could do some damage on the base paths,‚Äù predicted Funck.
Two talented freshman will shore up the Margaretville infield. When he‚Äôs not pitching, Patrick O‚ÄôConnell plays a very solid third base. A solid contact hitter, O‚ÄôConnell has started at the hot corner since his seventh-grade year. Funck expects O‚ÄôConnell 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. ‚ÄúJohn loves to catch. He comes with his own gear and takes the backstopping assignment very seriously,‚Äù commended Funck. With a strong arm, Fairbairn is also working on his pitching skills.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm looking forward to working with a real nice group of guys who love playing baseball,‚Äù Funck emphasized. ‚ÄúEven 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‚Äôs a nucleus here that could really be something special.‚Äù