By Ted Waddell
LIVINGSTON MANOR “We’re trying to raise the bar, not just be happy to have a team like in the past,” said Livingston Manor Coach Jeffrey Loeffler, who is now in his third year of coaching the Wildcats varsity baseball team.
“There’s no reason why we can’t compete with the other teams,” Loeffler added.
In 2008, Manor posted a 6-10 record, a marked improvement over four or five years ago when the Wildcats didn’t win a game.
Manor lost a couple of seniors, Josh Gorr and Justin Mendez, to graduation last June.
This spring, the Wildcats have a trio of returning seniors Brian Caputo, Claude Davis and Jonah Hinkley.
Loeffler said team captains will be decided on merit.
“I don’t care if they’ve been here one year or three, I’m going to take the bull by the horns and not just go with the guys who are older,” he said.
In addition to Caputo, Davis and Hinkley, the other players on the 2009 Manor roster are seniors Shane Lewis, Justin Maggio, Justin Miranda and William Mott; juniors Ross Abbott, Troy Edwards and Mike Zayas; sophomores Jeremy Rau and Brandon Smith; and freshmen Troy Correa, Ken Fisk, Mike Mills and Chad Rosario.
Loeffler said the Wildcats’ pitchers will be Abbott, Edwards, Hinkley and a “few other guys in the mix we’re still working on.
“Compared to last year, most of these guys are back, and they’ve been working hard all winter long,” Loeffler commented. “A lot of them have been going to Pro Prospects [Baseball and Softball Training Center] in Monticello. For a lot of these guys, it’s their second year in the system, so they’ve got the discipline down.”
Loeffler said it’s all about fundamentals, but with the area’s harsh winters, it’s tough to get outdoors for early season practice sessions.
“We’re miles ahead of where we started last year,” he said. “It’s hard for us to get outside to really get at it, but we’re working hard in the gym.
“We’re working on the basics,” Loeffler added. “Hitting the ball cleanly, making the throws, getting good [field] position, throwing strikes consistently and battling back from challenges.”
Reflecting on several games last season that slipped away, Loeffler said, “Last year, we were really close. Our big challenge is getting to be one of the teams that don’t beat themselves. If you beat us, you beat us.
“Turning around the culture here is hard, but I think we’re making progress,” Loeffler continued. “Last year, we won six games, and we’re looking to build on that. The guys didn’t quit, they stuck with the program. I think this is the year they’re finally going to understand that we can play with schools our size.”
The Wildcats were slated to begin their 2009 season yesterday afternoon by visiting the Fallsburg Comets for a non-league game.
The Wildcats will play their first home game of the spring on Monday afternoon. They will host Chester in a non-league contest.