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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 4, 2007

Scotties bite Dutchmen, 32-7

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — All season long, the Guilderland football team has been living on the edge each week as it retains its perfect season.

On Friday, the Dutchmen were finally pushed over the edge.

A gallant Guilderland comeback fell short in the fourth quarter and the Dutchmen’s unbeaten streak ended with a 32-27 loss against Ballston Spa in that Saratoga County village.

"We made too many mistakes," said Guilderland Coach Dan Penna. "That’s tough to do against an explosive team like Ballston Spa."

The Dutchmen entered the contest with a 4-0 record. The Scotties had just one blemish on their record, a loss in week one to Shenendehowa.

The first mistake the Dutchmen made was not taking advantage of great field position in most of the first quarter.

Jesse Terzian took the opening kickoff, taking the ball from his own 10-yard line and returning it all the way to the Ballston Spa 20-yard line.

Then, after a 10-yard run by Paul Booker, the Dutchmen couldn’t get into the end zone, even though they were knocking on the doorstep. A fourth-down field goal attempt was short.

Guilderland got the ball right back, again, in great field position.

A Ballston Spa fumble was recovered on the Scotties 32-yard line by junior lineman Devan Van Auken. But four plays later, the Dutchmen turned the ball over on downs.

The Dutchmen then forced Ballston Spa to punt and got the ball at the 50-yard line.

Guilderland moved the ball down to the 20-yard line, but couldn’t capitalize on the field position and the Dutch were forced to kick a short punt, which worked out well for them as they downed the ball at the Scotties own three-yard line.

Guilderland finally got some points on the board as it got the ball back early in the second quarter.

Guilderland started a drive on Ballston Spa’s 35-yard line.

The Dutchmen moved the ball down to the nine-yard line. Junior fullback Jason Lawrence capped the drive with a nine-yard run into the end zone.

E.J. Genzano kicked the extra point and the Dutch led, 7-0, with 8:05 left in the second quarter.

Burying the Dutchmen

The second Guilderland mistake came on the ensuing kickoff.

Eric Marciano took the kick, blew past the Guilderland coverage, and sprinted 82 yards for a touchdown.

The extra-point kick was good, and the game was knotted up at 7-7 with 7:52 left until halftime.

The return just started a tidal wave of momentum for the Scotties and buried the Dutchmen.

Guilderland got the ball back at its own 20-yard line after the kickoff.

On the first play from scrimmage, Guilderland fumbled the snap even though there was a flag on the field.

The Guilderland coaches and players thought an offside penalty on Ballston Spa was coming. But a penalty was not called and Ballston Spa kept the ball after recovering the fumble. If a penalty had been called on the defense, Guilderland would have kept possession of the ball.

The Scotties scored on the next play as quarterback Mark Seager ran the 20 yards into the end zone. With the extra point, the Scotties led 14-7 with 7:39 left until the intermission.

The Dutchmen fumbled again on their next possession.

This time, quarterback Drew Smith fumbled while running with the ball and Ballston Spa recovered on the Guilderland 41-yard line.

On the next play, Steve Duncan ran off tackle and went the 41 yards for a touchdown. The extra-point kick made the score 21-7 with 7:21 left in the second stanza.

Ballston Spa added a field goal later in the quarter and led, 24-7, at halftime.

"A tale of two halves"

What followed proved the heart and mettle of the Dutchmen.

Guilderland stopped Ballston Spa after the second-half kickoff, then got the ball back and moved it down the field to get a big score.

Behind the running of Smith and a nicked-up Booker, the Dutchmen moved the ball. Smith capped the drive with a 15-yard run on the right side. Genzano’s extra-point kick made the score 24-14 with 3:45 left in the third frame.

Ballston Spa answered on its next possession. Marciano scored on a 55-yard option run. The Scotties added two points on a pass and led, 32-14, with 2:03 left in the third quarter.

But the Dutchmen didn’t quit and moved the ball down the field on their next possession, after starting on their own 18-yard line.

The big play of the drive was a 48-yard completion from Smith to Parker Wolff along the visiting team’s sideline. Smith aired the ball out and it hit off the Ballston Spa defender. But Wolff kept his concentration on the ball and grabbed it as it was bouncing around.

The catch put the ball on the eight-yard line and ended the third quarter.

The Dutch scored four plays later, as Smith leaped into the end zone from one yard out.

The extra point missed, so the score was 32-20 early in the fourth frame.

Guilderland forced the Scotties to punt and got the ball back on its own 14-yard line.

Again Guilderland put together another great drive. This one was led mostly by Smith’s legs, though he did complete short passes to Nick Ranalli and Wolff; he got help running the ball from Booker and Tony Denn.

Smith had runs of 14, 10, and 23 yards, before finishing off the drive with a 15-yard run for a touchdown. The extra point made it 32-27 with 2:09 left in the game.

Guilderland attempted an on-side kick to try and get the ball back, but Ballston Spa recovered.

The Dutchmen got the ball back after forcing a punt, at their own eight-yard line.

After three incomplete passes, Smith picked up 28 yards on a run down the home team sideline.

But Guilderland would not get any more yards as Smith’s second down pass was intercepted at the Ballston Spa 32-yard line.

The Scotties ran out the clock and celebrated a hard-fought win.

"My hat’s off to Coach [John] Bowen and Ballston Spa," Penna said. "In the first half, we were not reading our [defensive] keys and guys were biting. But I have to give them credit. They ran their schemes well.

"It was a tale of two halves," Penna added. "It was similar to the game that happened last week. A loss stings more, though, and maybe that will makes us play four quarters."

After winning their first two games convincingly, the Dutchmen won their last two games by one score — 10-7 over Bethlehem and 21-14 over Christian Brothers Academy.

Guilderland is now 4-1 and still has a spot in the playoffs. The Dutch are battling for position and will look to do so against Saratoga on Friday. The game is Guilderland’s homecoming and kickoff will be at 7 p.m.

The Dutchmen will also look to clean up their mistakes.

"We know that you can’t make mistakes against a good team," Penna said. "We outscored them, 3-1, in the second half. We need to make plays. We have great athletes, but we are continuing to learn."

Blackbirds finding shelter from early-season storm

By Tim Matteson

VOOREESVILLE — It’s been a stormy early season for the Voorheesville soccer team. And last Thursday, the Blackbirds were forced to seek some shelter from the storm.

Voorheesville lost a 1-0 contest to Albany Academy in a game that featured some of Mother Nature’s best pyrotechnics and forced a delay in the game.

The game symbolized the early season for the Blackbirds, as they were probably playing their best game of the year before the delay came early in the second half.

Thursday’s game, against probably the most talented team in the Colonial Council, was being played to a scoreless draw, though both teams had some chances to put the ball in the back of the net.

"They came out better than we did," said first year Voorheesville Coach Willie Sanchez. "It happens sometimes with a delay like that. It’s part of playing sports. You’ve got to be able to step up. It’s a process and we’ve got to learn from it."

The Blackbirds had a 3-3-2 record entering last Thursday’s match and have since gone 2-1. Voorheesville beat Lansingburgh, 12-0, on Saturday and then picked up an impressive 2-0 win over Schalmont on Monday.

The Blackbirds are 5-4-2 overall and are 3-3-2 in the Colonial Council.

"The kids played hard"

Last Thursday, Albany Academy and Voorheesville played to a scoreless first half, but Voorheesville had the best chance to score.

A corner kick by Voorheesville was placed well into the air. Blackbird Ryan Dimmit got his head on the ball in front of the Albany Academy goal and headed the ball on goal.

However, a diving stop by Academy goalie Brian Lajeneusse knocked the ball away from the goal.

The Cadets put some pressure on the Voorheesville defense and goalie Lee Fenner but shot a lot of balls wide or over the top of the goal.

Blackbird senior defenders Noah Gorka, Josh Glover, and Kevin Klembczyk, and juniors Mark Pelersi and Gavin George did a good job in the back against tough and talented Academy offensive players.

The teams took the halftime break, but played just a minute-and-a-half of the second half before the officials called a lightning delay, a rare occurrence for late September.

About eight minutes after the game resumed after the half-hour delay, Albany Academy scored when Matt Dudek got a shot past Fenner.

Voorheesville tried to come back during the remainder of the game, but could not get a great scoring chance against a packed-in Academy defense.

Fenner finished the contest with seven saves. Lajeneusse also made seven stops for the Cadets.

Academy had eight shots on goal and Voorheesville had seven.

"Their guy got loose in the box," Sanchez said of Dudek’s goal. "We had a couple of chances that we couldn’t put away. That was the difference. The kids played hard. We took a step today. We played well and hard."

Albany Academy was playing without its best player — and one of the best in Section II — Denzel Ogunyase. Ogunyase is a Division I college prospect and was resting after having some tendinitis in his Achilles’ tendon.

This was also one of the first games in which Voorheesville has had a full squad. The team had missed some players including Dimmit and senior Kevin Vanderwende due to sickness and small injuries.

"It’s a process"

But the Blackbirds are starting to come together as a team, Sanchez said.

"It’s frustrating when we don’t get results in the standings," Sanchez said. "But we have to understand that it is high school soccer and it’s a process."

Sanchez also sees that his team will be a factor later in the season when the games are of a more heighten importance. And Monday’s win over Schalmont might be a big boost. Schalmont beat Voorheesville, 3-1, earlier in the season.

"They played hard and they should be proud of that," Sanchez said. "Our goal is to be there in October and November.

"It’s early," Sanchez added, "and our goal for right now is to get better."

Sanchez sees a competitive spirit in his team that is going to make them improve.

"I’m glad the guys are upset after a loss like this," Sanchez said last Thursday. "We have to go to work and improve. We’ll take one day off, and get right back to it."

Chatham curse haunts Blackbirds

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — The curse of the Panthers continues to haunt Voorheesville.

Over the past two years, the Blackbirds have just four losses. Three of them have come from their rivals from Columbia County.

Chatham came into Voorheesville Saturday and ruined homecoming as the Panthers won 42-21.

"I think we came out distracted," said Voorheesville Coach Joe Sapienza. "With all the festivities, I don’t believe our thinking was clear. But at certain times during the game, we had the momentum and controlled the game."

Chatham was led by their talented quarterback Zach Kraham who ran for one touchdown and threw three others.

Kraham gave his team a 7-0 lead on a seven-yard run after leading the Panthers down the field on their opening drive.

After Voorheesville turned the ball over on downs, Kraham finished off a seven-play drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Drew Doty.

Sean Kenny kicked both extra points and Chatham led, 14-0, with 2:24 left in the first quarter.

Chatham made the score 21-0 with seven minutes left in the second quarter.

Voorheesville punted and Chatham got the ball back on Blackbirds’ 49-yard line.

Again, seven plays later, Kraham hooked up with Parker Niles for an 18-yard touchdown pass.

Voorheesville finally got on the board late in the half.

The Blackbirds started at their own 20-yard line and marched the ball up the field. Behind quarterback Jay Conde, the Birds took 13 plays to score.

Conde completed passes to Evan Christner, Chris Massaroni, Jordan Murphy, and Christner again, before connecting with Murphy for a four-yard touchdown pass.

The Blackbirds were forced to go to the air as Chatham was keying on running back Pat Jones. Jones was missing his backfield mate Adam Duncan, who is out for the rest of the season with a broken foot.

Lee Fenner kicked the extra point to cut the lead to 14 points, 21-7, with 1:08 left until halftime.

The Blackbirds got the ball back on a fumble by Kraham, which was recovered by Christner.

Voorheesville took over at Chatham’s 23-yard line, but Conde was intercepted in the end zone and Chatham held its lead at the break.

"Not focused"

The team traded punts to start the second half, and Voorheesville came back on its second possession of the third stanza.

Voorheesville started on its own 21-yard line and advanced up the field. Jones was able to get free for some yards and, after a 25-yard run, was hit late and picked up a 15-yard penalty.

That put the ball on the Chatham nine-yard line.

Jones scored on the next play and Fenner kicked the extra point to pull the Blackbirds within one touchdown, 21-14, with 4:19 left in the third frame.

But Chatham answered as Kraham found John Kinnicut in the end zone for a touchdown. With Kenny’s extra-point, Chatham led, 28-14.

The back-breaker for the Blackbirds came on their next possession.

A third down pass by Conde was intercepted by Chatham’s Alex Kellard-Ashe who caught the ball at the Voorheesville 30-yard line and took the ball all the way to the end zone for a touchdown.

With the extra point, the Panthers led, 35-14, with 1:06 left in the third quarter.

"Jay slightly under-threw it," Sapienza said. "He rolled the dice to get a jump on the ball and it worked for them."

Chatham added a touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to go up 42-14 with 8:42 left in the contest.

Voorheesville got one more score as it put together an impressive drive.

Conde capped the 10-play, 80-yard drive with a two-yard run into the end zone.

The big play of the drive was a 42-yard pass play from Conde to Christner that put the ball on the Chatham two-yard line.

But Chatham ran out the clock, forcing the Blackbirds to have to re-group for next week’s game at home against Catholic Central High School of Troy.

"Too many times we were not prepared and not focused for the play," Sapienza said of his team.

"Very up and down"

But some of that credit has to go to Kraham, and his ability to run the team in his fourth year on the varsity team.

Kraham finished the game, completing eight passes for 150 yards and the three touchdowns. He also rushed for 49 yards on 16 carries.

"Kraham does such a good job," Sapienza said. "He’s calling the plays at the line of scrimmage. He is seeing what the defensive call is and he is making a call. And they are executing it."

For the Blackbirds, Conde completed 11 passes out of 33 attempts for 153 yards, though he had two interceptions. Christner made four catches for 88 yards.

Jones rushed 19 times for 70 yards. Conde picked up 43 yards on four rushes for the Birds.

Sapienza said playing without Duncan hurt his team but was not the biggest reason why Voorheesville lost, although the Blackbirds lose two spots — on offense and defense — on the field without Duncan.

"On the very first play of the game," Sapienza said, "they ran right where he would be. And on offense, it hurt us because he is our blitz protector. He picks up pressure and that is what hurt us."

Sapienza said that his team has been focused since the third week of practices, but too much was going on around his players this week and Chatham is too good of a team to get a quick jump on you.

"There’s a lot going on around you," Sapienza said. "And you lose sight that the ball is being kicked off and you have to be ready to play. The last five minutes of the half, I thought we dominated on both sides of the ball.

"Our play was very up and down," Sapienza said. "We did some great things and we did some terrible things."

The Blackbirds are now 4-1 and have two games left in the regular season. Voorheesville is assured of a playoff spot, but is looking for positioning within its division. Four teams in the division have just one loss — Chatham, Voorheesville, Watervliet, and Coxsackie-Athens.

The Blackbirds play Catholic Central at home on Saturday then travel to Coxsackie for a Saturday night game in Greene County to close out the regular season.

"Every week is a dog fight," Sapienza said. "Every quarter and every possession becomes that more significant. What we have to learn, what the Voorheesville Blackbirds have to learn, is that every possession is important. I hope this puts it into prespective."

Lady Birds finally queens of their own nest

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — For the first time in four years, the Voorheesville girls’ volleyball team won its own tournament.

The Blackbirds beat Saratoga Catholic in two games to win the championship after beating Troy in the semifinals.

"This is the first time we’ve won the tournament," said Voorheesville Coach Sandy Vorse. "We finished second three years. It’s a really a big win for us."

"I’ve been looking forward to this all season," said senior Co-captain Alyssa Cave. "It’s my senior year, and I wanted to win it my last year."

The other captains on the team are Kristen Lysenko, who was named the most valuable player of the tournament, and Taryn Smith.

"I was really happy I could give them the trophy," Vorse said of handing the championship award to her captains.

The Lady Blackbirds won the tournament on Saturday in the midst of homecoming activities.

"It was an amazing day of volleyball," Vorse said. "The high-scoring teams in each pool split their games. First place came down to point differential."

Voorheesville had to win five matches to capture the championship. The Blackbirds finished first in their pool after the opening round and then beat Troy in the semifinals.

"It’s nice to have a lot of people in the stands," Cave said. "They were filled."

"Volleyball has finally grown in this area," Lysenko added.

The tournament win is just part of a successful season the Lady Blackbirds have had so far.

"Tough league"

Through Saturday, Voorheesville had an 8-1 overall record and was 5-1 in Colonial Council matches.

"It’s a very tough league," Vorse said. "Every year Schalmont, Cobleskill, and Ravena are at the top. They have depth in their programs and they are always competitive. Our goal is to break into the top three. We are a small school and we play with the big guys."

The Lady Blackbirds have already taken steps to break into the top three in the Colonial Council. They have beaten Cobleskill and Schalmont this season. Voorheesville’s lone loss was to Ravena.

"We are ready for revenge," Lysenko said of playing Ravena again.

The Blackbirds have also competed in other tournaments this fall. They competed in the Fonda Tournament and the Hendrick Hudson Tournament and were successful at both.

"We’ve done kind of better than I thought at other tournaments," Vorse said. "We played a lot of [class] A schools."

Voorheesville won the gold medal in its division at the Hendrick Hudson Tournament, playing against a lot of bigger schools.

"Great shape"

The Blackbirds’ depth and conditioning has helped them play well in those tournaments.

"We have good depth with this team," Vorse said. "Because this team is doing well, they have pushed it to the limits."

"Conditioning has helped us," said Cave.

"We’ve done a lot of sprinting," Lysenko said. "We’re in great shape. Coach runs us hard."

Vorse said that two things have happened to make her team reach the success it has so far this season.

"The seniors are wonderful leaders and are doing an amazing job," the coach said. "The second is the juniors have moved into the line-up and they are working their spandex off.

Joining the three captains on the team are Alissa Hatch, Kate Chiseri, Amanda O’Brien, Mollee Barone, Arielle Smith, Shayna Morse, Morgan Vandervort, and Seneca Gray.

"We still have a lot to learn," Vorse said. "We have girls that didn’t play last year. I thought it would be a rebuilding for us, but we’ve come along nicely. "

"We are a really young team," Cave said. "We’ve done really well. I’m proud of this team."

The Lady Blackbird senior captains hope that all the hard work in practices and playing tough teams in tournaments will help them reach their goal of a good finish in the Colonial Council.

The Voorheesville players also have another goal in mind for when the regular season ends.

"We want to make it to the sectional finals," Cave said. "We made it to that game last year but we lost. We can do it. I think this year we are more improved."

But, just like any coach, Vorse sees things that her players need to work on to be able to reach their goal.

"I’m pleased with how we are doing," Vorse said. "We are working together well.

"But we need to work on consistency," the coach added. "We have a lot of highs, but we are young in some areas," she concluded. "They seem to be having a good time together, which is nice."

Blackbird golfers play older than their age

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — It was a season of surprises for Voorheesville golf coach Tom Gladd and his returning players.

What looked to be a rebuilding year with a young team has turned into a successful season with green players going above and beyond expectations.

"It’s been an extremely good year," Gladd said last Tuesday. "The thing of it was we thought it was going to be a rebuilding year. We had only five out of 10 returning varsity players. We had two kids that moved out of the district. That left us with only two players from last year. At tryout time, I didn’t know what I had."

"I thought we would have a mediocre team," said junior John Malfetano, one of the few returning players. "But we came out and got some good wins. Some surprising wins."

Gladd, a teacher in the high school, said that 30 players came out for tryouts, but he could only keep 10 players on the varsity roster.

"After tryouts, I picked a varsity team with no seniors, two juniors, one 10th-grader, four freshmen, and three seventh-graders including one young lady," Gladd said.

It might sound like a motley crew of players, but they have responded beyond what Gladd could even expect from such a young group.

It helps that he has two juniors who are not only talented players, but also have been leaders this early fall.

"John Malfetano is our number one," Gladd said of the junior. "He has already qualified to be in the sectionals. He got the berth at Ravena on the 28th of August, two weeks before classes even started.

"It was a league match we won, 176-183," Gladd added. "Malfetano and R.J. Cave [a freshman] had sectional qualifying scores. Everybody played well. Our seventh-grade girl won an exhibition match as well."

Through matches last Tuesday, the Blackbirds have an 8-6 overall record and are 7-4 in Colonial Council matches.

"We might have a seventh-grader going to sectionals," Malfetano said. "A couple of seventh-graders have stepped up their game."

"I didn’t think we would be as good as we turned out to be," said Landon Church, a junior.

"Great to go for team sectionals"

Last week, the Blackbirds finished fourth in the Colonial Council championship tournament.

Malfetano finished fourth in the tournament with a final score of 79. The medalist at the meet shot a 75.

Cave shot an 81 for another good performance at the sectional meet.

Malfetano automatically makes the first team on the Colonial Council all-stars. Cave with his score at the tournament is a second-team all-star.

"Malfetano as a junior is one of the best in the Capital District," Gladd said. "Albany Academy has great players, and he is head-to-head with them. He went out and lost by two strokes. Academy is an experienced, successful team.

"The same with Cave," Gladd added. "During the course of the year, he has won 67 percent of his matches. He has handled pressure and played very well. He needed five qualifying scores for sectionals. He got them the first five times he was on the course. I’ve had good golfers since I’ve coached here. But I’ve never had anyone do that."

Junior Landon Church didn’t do so well at the league meet, but last Tuesday he qualified for the sectional meet. Micheal Young, a seventh-grader, also qualified for the Section II meet that will be held at Ravena’s home course Sycamore in October.

"That will help us," Gladd said. "We know how to play the course. It would be great for us for sectional play. That’s why it would be great to go for the team sectionals."

A team needs four players to be able to compete for the team title at sectionals. Late last Tuesday afternoon, Church and Young qualified to give the Blackbirds a shot at the team title.

Young and Church moved up slots after Kyle Russell was lost to an injury.

"He broke his wrist after the first six matches," Gladd said. "His loss has had a big impact on the team. We had some kids step up and they have done a nice job. For the first time in several years, we’re going to sectionals with four players. We have a chance to compete for the Section II team title."

Young has solidified his spot as the number-three player behind Malfetano and Cave. Church is the team’s fourth top scorer.

Also on the team are David Malfetano, John’s brother; Grace Ziamandanis; Willie Smith; Mickey McDonald; and Marty Hesselbacher.

David Malfetano and Ziamandanis are seventh-graders.

"They are doing a super job in matches," Gladd said. "Grace has held her own and done a great job."

Smith and McDonald are freshmen while Hesselbacher is a sophomore.

"He just joined us this year," Gladd said of Hesselbacher. "He has done quite well and will continue to improve. We’ll have a solid squad next year. The future looks good for us."

Junior varsity

Gladd had so much interest in the sport for the past couple of years that, for the second year in a row, there has been a junior varsity team.

The junior varsity team earned its first-ever win, by beating Berne-Knox-Westerlo on Tuesday night. The team is coached by Kyle Tirski.

"We had a lot of players last year so we had the beginnings of a junior varsity team," Gladd said. "They had two matches last year. Both against Columbia, home and away. Again this year, we had so many kids come out. We filled up a JV and they are up and running."

There are 13 players on the junior varsity team. And the team had seven matches scheduled this season.

"We want them to get more experience competing," Gladd said, "so we can add them to the varsity and be good in the future. We want to get them playing on the golf course."

"Good things"

The golf program also now has a booster club to support it. Gladd said that the club has been a big help to him and the teams.

"I want to thank Lisa Cave and Kathy Russell for leading the booster club," Gladd said. "They are working hard to set it up and run it and it benefits the kids."

Gladd was also grateful to the Albany Country Club for allowing Voorheesville to use its course as its home course. Gladd also was grateful of the help he’s gotten from the club’s golf professional, Glenn Davis.

Gladd said that his team will only get better this year and next year.

"The kids have gelled and done good things," Gladd said. "All of them are planning on returning next year. Some of the kids will take part in the Junior PGA tour during the summer and work on their games. For the next few years, we should be quite solid."

But there are things that the players want to accomplish this year.

"We want to take a team to sectionals," Church said. "We want to finish in the top three at sectionals. And we are capable of it."

Pro players share diamond stories skills with youngsters

By Tim Matteson

PRESTON HOLLOW — If Jost hosts it, they will come.

A group of professional baseball players came to the rural town of Rensselaerville for a baseball clinic held by the town supervisor, Jost Nickelsberg.

Five former players of Nickelsberg’s baseball scouting enterprise, The Baseball Academy, came to the Little League "Field of Dreams" in the hamlet of Preston Hollow. The local nickname is based on a movie about an Iowa farmer who builds a baseball field in his cornfield and a great player — Shoeless Joe Jackson — comes to play there.

The all-day clinic on Sept. 16 drew a large crowd of young players. Grade-school players learned in one group and a second clinic was held for high-school-aged players.

Among the five professional players to teach at the clinic were a Major League Baseball player; a minor league player; a player trying to get back into professional baseball after suffering an injury; and a player who was in the minor leagues for a few years, but decided to hang up his spikes.

Humberto Sanchez, a member of the New York Yankees 25-man roster, was the headliner. The relief pitcher is rehabbing after having elbow surgery in April.

Sanchez is probably best known to Yankees’ fans as coming to the team from the Detriot Tigers as part of the trade for Gary Sheffield.

"Jost used to be my summer coach at the Baseball Academy all through high school," Sanchez said. "He is a father figure to me."

Nickelsberg is also a father figure to Elvys Quezada, Brian Parish, Joharry Burgos, and Hector Henriquez, and that is why they showed up to help out in the Helderbergs.

"Jost is a great person," Henriquez said. "I met him when I was 15. Ever since then, our relationship has gotten better. He’s a very humble person, but he has helped a lot of people out to be successful in life. He helped us out a lot."

"We all feel like that," Sanchez said. "Me, Elvys, Hector, and Brian. He took us under his wing. There is a lot of things I would do for Jost."

"Something I love to do"

There was a crispness in the air, but baseball was in full swing on that beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Nickelsburg talked about baseball and life to the young listeners and gave them ideas about what it takes to be successful on the field and off.

Then the players spilt up to work on drills. The younger kids worked on fielding balls in the infield and hitting. Some worked with Burgos, who is a catcher.

Later, the players hit against the pitching of Henriquez, who ran the infield drills.

When the high school players showed up, they split into more specialized areas.

Pitchers worked with Sanchez and Quezada, who is in the Yankees minor-league system.

Infielders fielded grounders hit by Nickelsberg and got instruction by Henriquez, who Nickelsberg said is one of the best middle infielders he’s ever seen. Henriquez was a minor leaguer in the Seattle Mariners farm system.

"This is something I love to do," Henriquez said. "We’ve been down here over in Albany before. There are a lot more kids this year and that is a good thing to see. The parents saw it and liked it. More people got involved and that is a good feeling.

"The kids that come out seem to enjoy it," he added. "They thank you for coming. And that is also a good feeling."

Henriquez is a native of the Dominican Republic but moved to New York City when he was a teenager.

Quezada pitched collegiately at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. He was drafted and is now in the Yankees farm system. He played this past season for the Tampa Yankees, New York’s High Class A Florida State League team.

Quezada was also born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New York City. He now lives in Florida, near the Gulf Coast area.

"I’m playing ball for the Yankees," Quezada said. "It could be better. I could be in New York, but I’m not complaining. I had different things going in my life."

Parish also played for The Baseball Academy under Nickelsburg and wanted to come out and help out his former mentor.

Parish was born and raised in Westchester County and played in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system for three-and-a-half years before an injury forced him to take some time off. He is trying to work his way back into pro baseball.

"We had players from everywhere," Parish said of The Baseball Academy. "Some got drafted and a lot got a chance to play pro baseball. Jost was more than generous with my family and the community. We really want to do that here."

"The nucleus"

The clinic also provided a reunion for the guest players. Most have kept in contact since their time with The Baseball Academy ended, but not all the time.

"We all played on the same team," Sanchez said. "And most of us live in Florida. I talk to Elvys all the time. But I haven’t seen Brian in four years. We were the nucleus of those teams, and it’s great for all of us to get back together."

The Baseball Academy five played on the team for 15- and 16-year olds and then later on the 17 and 18 team.

The stars connected to some of younger players who attended the baseball clinic in Rensselaerville.

Conor Drosseo was one of them. The Little Leaguer from Medusa was excited to see professional baseball players up close.

"These people play in the big leagues," Drosseo said. "They actually know what they are doing. It’s fun, a great experience."

Drosseo plays first base and catcher in the Greenville Little League. He worked mostly with Burgos on catching drills.

"We did a lot of stuff with catching," Drosseo said. "He showed us how to block the ball, our footwork, and easier and faster ways to help us behind the plate.

"They are all good teachers," Drosseo added. "I met Humberto before at a Yankees game. I’m into the stats and line-ups."

Drosseo was thankful that Nickelsberg put on a clinic for the younger players in the area.

"It’s cool to have your town supervisor be a scout," Drosseo said. "It’s really fun. Meeting a major leaguer, especially with the younger kids, it makes them in awe."

Baseball passion: Nickelsburg shares sport with others

By Tim Matteson

RENSSELAERVILLE — Jost Nickelsberg loves baseball.

Born in war-torn Germany in the 1940s, he moved to America and found the nation’s pastime and was enamored with the first African-American player in the history of the Major Leeagues.

What transpired was a love affair that still is with him until this day, even though he had his heart broken by "Dem Bums."

Nickelsberg loves the sport so much he wants to share the joy it brings him with as many people as he can, especially young people.

Nickelsberg has made a career out of providing aid to young players, mostly through teaching, coaching, and being an administrator. It started one day in Westchester County.

"About 20 years ago, I was living in Bedford," Nickelsberg said. "There is a high school there called Fox Lane. We were going by to go shopping, and there was a nice looking ball field. But it was empty. It was fall, but I was sure there were a lot of baseballers that didn’t want to play football and would love to play a baseball game. I thought it was the perfect time to start a fall ball team.

"At the time, there were no other teams," Nickelsberg said. "The weather and the fields were perfect. We busted our ass and we got seven teams. But it was also a lot of fun."

Nickelsberg started a fall and summer team for high school-age players in the area, and would later include New York City and Connecticut players. He called it The Baseball Academy.

"It evolved at the end of the season," Nickelsberg said. "We played double headers on Saturday and Sunday."

"Winningest coach in the history of man"

Nickelsberg was inspired by an old friend who made a mark in another sport.

Harry Hopman was a famous tennis coach from Australia who led his native country to many international championships.

"Australia from the late 1930s to the 1960s were the undisputed champions of the tennis world," Nickelsberg said. "At least 17 times. Those teams had one thing in common. They had the same coach for 20 years. Out of 20 attempts he won 17 times.

"He is the winningest coach in the history of man. He was the best man at my wedding and my best friend. And now they have the Hopman Cup in Australia. He taught me things like no two pitches are ever alike and no two teams are alike."

After having a pretty successful fall campaign that first year, Nickelsberg decided to continue to run the academy all year long.

"We specialized all year round in baseball training," he said. "We held the winter baseball academy first in Bedford and then all of Westchester."

The academy and the teams that sprouted from it grew and attracted players who were eager to learn from a good teacher and be able to play baseball all year.

"We got kids from all over," Nickelsberg said. "We got players from Connecticut, the City, and even Georgia. We put the best of the best on our summer teams."

The baseball academy has been successful in producing baseball players that went to the college level and even to the professional level.

"We have gotten about $125 million in scholarship money," Nickelsberg said. "And we have gotten another dozen drafted. We have now evolved today to doing clinics here or there. The one we did here was the largest we put on."

Former players Christian Jung and Frankie Chu both got good scholarhsips, Nickelsberg recalled. He said Chu got a full four-year scholarship that amounted to $1.5 million from Duke University.

Nickelsberg also said that his team has brought home about 125 pounds worth of trophies and traveled all over the world.

"We traveled to places such as Germany, Italy, California, and Arizona," Nickelsberg said. "We also took mini-trips to Long Island and to other local tournaments. We probably did 1.2 million miles of travel. We made it so a kid could be seen quite well."

Baseball lifer

"I’ve been in love with baseball my whole life," Nickelsberg said.

He was born in Berlin, Germany feels giving back is native to him.

"I come from a service-service place," he said. "You help your neighbor if you have to. That whole part of Germany is like that. My mother and my Grandpa volunteered to do this and do that. They wanted to be part of the solution and solve a problem.

"That was easy, the volunteer part," Nickelsberg added. "It was not as easy to volunteer with the baseball part. I had a job I worked until four in the afternoon. And my wife allowed me to do it on weekends."

He is retired now from a career on Wall Street in finance, and lives in Rensselaerville with his wife.

Nickelsberg’s love of baseball grew when he moved out of Germany and into America.

Nickelsberg’s father was a member of the German Army during World War II and was captured by the Russian Army during the war. Nickelsburg’s mother then married an American officer.

"In 1944 we moved to a western part of Germany, because there were no bombs there," Nickelsberg said. "In 1946, my mother married an American officer and I came to America with my stepfather in 1948, when I was 6 years old."

The family moved to Long Branch, N.J. and Nickelsberg fell in love with baseball in 1949.

He also fell in love with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

"They had Jackie Robinson, who was the most exciting ball player I’ve ever seen," Nickelsberg said. "He would deliberately get into run downs and he got to the next base about 73 percent of the time."

The Dodgers reached the pinnacle of winning a World Series but then hurt all of their fans by moving to Los Angeles in the late 1950s.

"They broke my heart," Nickelsberg said. "Three or four years later, a new team came in. I’m a Mets fan now."

Nickelsberg moved on to Dennison College in Ohio.

"I played baseball there for three years and got a good education," he said. "My love of baseball never grew cold. It’s like a religion. When you’re young, it’s something that sticks with you. The Dodgers come and go, but the game has always stayed.

"I figured I had so much fun I had to pass that long," Nickelsberg added.

Branch Rickey

He got a job in finance on Wall Street and made a good living for himself. But he wanted to keep baseball in his life and have a direct impact on young lives.

The Baseball Academy gave him plenty of opportunity for that.

Nickelsberg and his small staff of coaches had the only winter baseball facility around the Westchester area. So players flocked to it.

"We had seven teams and each played four games a week and double-headers on weekends," Nickelsberg said. "And there were about 20 players on each team. So that is about 140 players. And, in the winter, we would get about 250 kids of various ages at times. We had a gym and pitching tunnels and batting tunnels.

"It was amazing how fast it grew," he added. "But it didn’t happen overnight. We had those 140 to 250 kids that played probably for 10 years. We had about 1,200 winter participants and then we had 18 to 20 kids on our 18-year-old team and 18 to 20 kids on the 16-year-old team."

Nickelsberg also said that he got great support from many families.

"We had about 20 families over a 20 year period that were the best in the world," he said. "They helped with drinks, they would sell popcorn, plan trips and make reservations, and help with scouts and college coaches."

Nickelsberg had four coaches on his first team. Frank Bartolotta was one of his main coaches and helped him instill what is called the Branch Rickey system for teaching baseball.

Branch Rickey was a former general manager of the Dodgers and is best known for bringing Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues and integrating baseball.

Rickey also had a style of teaching baseball by breaking things down by half seconds and fractions.

"It is used by St. Louis, the Dodgers, Pirates, and the Yankees," Nickelsberg said. "It teaches every facet of the game by half seconds and fractions. It breaks things down enough to help the kids tremendously."

Bartolotta helped teach the system and it worked as many players have gone on to playing past high school.

Two of the better players to come from the system were Scott Leius and Gene Larkin.

Both were key members of the 1987 Minnesota Twins World Series team.

"It was a seven-game World Series and the Twins won 4-3," Nickelsberg said. "Of the four games that the Twins won, the academy taught kids that had the game-winning hit. They were not the best players we’ve had, but in the World Series that will never happen again. It is statistically not possible."

Former Colorado Rockie Garvin Alston is another former academy player. The pitcher was the first drafted Rockies player to reach the Major League club. He is in the Colorado Rockies Hall of Fame.

"He was on the team for 17 days, but never played again," Nickelsberg said.

Roy Smith had the longest tenure of any academy product.

"He played 50, 60, and 70 games over 10 years," Nickelsberg said. "He probably played the longest."

"Set up kids for success"

But it not professional players that Nickelsberg is most proud of. He is proud of his former players that have gone on to have successful careers in fields such as law, the medicine, and most commonly Nickelsberg’s own world of finance.

"The main goal is to get kids college scholarships," Nickelsberg said. "The odds of making the majors is really tough. The whole world plays baseball and is it very competitive. We want to set up the kids for success. We are all aiming for the majors, but we want to do it via college."

And after three years of college, when players are eligible to be drafted again, know how good they are.

"They have more options," Nickelsberg said. "Maybe they will succeed and get to the majors. We are using baseball to get an education."

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