The 2010 Sawyer team is a young one, with just two seniors. But it does have 14 juniors, six of whom played on last year’s varsity squad. returning. This talented group of kids was a part of the New York State Babe Ruth championship team. This season, the Sawyers are proud to have Sean Wachtel and Jimmy Zmiyarch as their 3 and 4 hitters, respectively. On the team’s trip to Florida this spring break, Zmiyarch consistently got three hits per game, batting close to .800. This lineup will be a force to be reckoned with.
Over spring break, while their classmates took a vacation or lounged around the house, the baseball team made its annual trip to Florida. This year, they decided to visit Tampa Bay to check out how the defending World Champion New York Yankees are getting ready for the year. Players told me the trip turned out to be a great team-building experience. The Sawyers had the opportunity to change in the pro locker room at the old Tampa Bay Rays’ facility as well compete on the field. “Fairfax was our best competition,” said Troy Taylor.
“We had an off inning,” said senior Nick Traficante. “They scored all their runs in one inning, and then we shut them down.”
Additionally, players got to see the media entrance, indoor batting cages and had to face a 360-foot outfield fence. “I hit a one-hopper out to the fence,” said Jon Hindes. “That was pretty cool.” After a grueling day on the field, it was time for some relaxation. The Sawyers chose to do this at a New York Yankees spring training game. The Yankees faced the Blue Jays and the Sawyers watched from the front row. One Sawyer was even able to touch a Yankee player’s bat. Taylor told manager Joe Girardi to have a great season and Joe responded with a point and a wink. Jon Hindes was also able to get centerfielder Curtis Granderson’s autograph. As a final event on the Florida trip, the team spent a day at Busch Gardens. Taylor made the most of it, becoming a volunteer tour guide on the safari. “The Florida trip brought us closer as a team,” he said.
“On and off the field,” Traficante added.
“The team came together on the field very well,” said varsity coach Steve Below. “We worked through situations and came out on top. The trip allows the coaches to see who is clutch in game deciding situations.”
Below discussed some of the players to keep an eye on. “I expect Sean Wachtel to lead the team playing centerfield and pitching. His bat and speed on the bases will be crucial this season. Jordan Baschnagel needs to take control on the mound as a potential number one [pitcher] and his bat needs to produce RBIs this year. Up the middle we are very strong with Matt Dittus and Bowie Matteson defensively and behind the plate we have Kevin Lezette who threw out four runners at second during our trip and the Niskayuna game, which we lost 9-5 in 10 innings.”
Knowing how passionate Saugerties is about its baseball, the community should take heart in Below’s optimism going into the season. “Our ultimate goal is to play as a team and strive to capture the MHAL Championship, strive to capture a Section IX Title and then push and capture our first state championship since 1985. Big goals, but if everyone takes their role to the next level and strives for excellence we can accomplish all of these.”
Fans shouldn’t be let down. Traficante agreed with his coach, and says the ball club is proceeding incrementally with its goal setting. “Our first goal is to win division. It’s a very realistic goal. Then we’ll look toward MHAL and Sections.”
The team knows they won’t be successful without hard work, and the team has been practicing a lot this year; even by Sawyer standards. “Coach Below is making us run more and work harder in practice this year,” said Hindes.
“We are running more as a team to stay in baseball shape,” said Below. “Plus, we work live situations almost every day to stay mentally ready.”
Coach Below is grateful for the help of former player Chris Freeburg. “Having an assistant coach this year helps tremendously. We work on different aspects of the game during practice which allows us to cover more in a timely fashion.”
Coach Below says doesn’t see any individual superstars on this team, capable of carrying the team on his shoulders, so everyone will have to play a part. “The players need to be ready to contribute at any time,” he said.
A team must consist of a good mix of motivation, confidence, chemistry and skill. This Saugerties varsity baseball team has it. Although a young team, they are passionate. Passion is present on any winning team; a team that lacks it doesn’t have the fight necessary to persevere when the chips are down. But this year’s team has it, and they’re expecting to go far.