By Ted Waddell
ELDRED “It’s the center of the [baseball] diamond that counts,” Eldred Coach Frank Kean said. “If the center of the diamond catcher, pitcher, shortstop, second base and center field is strong, you’re going to win the majority of your games.”
Kean knows what he’s talking about, as this is his 36th year of guiding the Eldred Central School varsity baseball team and his 107th overall sports season of coaching at the “Home of the Yellowjackets.” That’s an impressive number when one adds up all his years of coaching basketball and baseball plus his 35 seasons of leading the Yellowjackets’ varsity football program.
Kean said that the 2009-2010 academic year will be his final frame at Eldred, which will wrap up a 38-year career as a teacher and coach at the small rural central school.
Last year, the Yellowjackets posted a 5-10 record on the diamond.
“My expectations for 2009 are [a] .500 or better [record] and hopefully making sectionals,” Kean said.
The Yellowjackets lost four seniors from the 2008 team to graduation Chris Mehedin, Rob Moriggia, Nic Simonelli and Kojo Williams.
This year’s returning seniors are Aaron Smith, Justin Smith and Mike Walton, who serves as the team captain. Juniors on the Yellowjackets’ roster include Scott Hallock, Ian Halloran, Bryan Henry, Geno Jones, Bill McKerrell, Zak Tyler and Bobby Warden. The team’s sophomores are Matt Balcom, Dylan Kulik, Nick Mehedin, Mike Musse, Patrick Reiser, Connor Walton and Ryan Watts.
The team’s pitchers will be Kulik, Reiser, Aaron Smith, Mike Walton and Warden.
“Last year I started seven sophomores and now they’re juniors, so that one year of experience is going to make a tremendous difference in our ball club,” Kean said. “We have several sophomores that are very talented, so I think that mix is going to really make us a good team.”
In Kean’s view, one perpetual problem facing Sullivan County scholastic teams is that winter hangs around longer than baseball coaches would like, as getting outside for preseason practices is often problematic at best. But if this month’s milder weather keeps up, he expects to get outside later this month, rather than in early April like in 2008.
“Last year, we missed the whole month of March,” Kean explained. “We’re not good until halfway through the year because we’re not able to get outside that much, like the teams in Orange County.”
Another factor limiting the Yellowjackets’ ability to practice indoors is the building project currently underway at Eldred Central School. Due to the project, only half of the gymnasium is available, thus curtailing the team’s batting practice to the short ball and tossups.