FDR baseball squad faces a new beginning

High turnover of players a challenge, says coach

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Under head coach Kory VanZandt, the FDR High baseball team has compiled a record of 28-15 in the past two years in the very deep, very competitive Section 9, Class AA field.

VanZandt has been coaching for six years, so when he tells you that this may be a year of upheaval for FDR, you believe it. According to VanZandt, the Presidents in 2014 will be playing under some “unprecedented” change, as the team lost 10 players to graduation, including the first and second slot hitters, most of the outfield, and third baseman Alex Wilcha, who only chalked up three errors in two years on varsity

Not helping is the fact that, so far, 2014 has been an absolute nightmare for high school baseball and softball. Several teams have been taking spring training on snowy diamonds in the past weeks, and recently thawed-out fields are essentially just mud traps. On top of it all, the Presidents had to skip their annual spring training trip to Myrtle Beach, where the boys can get their games together removed from the hassle of March misery, because of where spring break fell this year.

“We’ve been practicing in the gym, which is pretty limiting,” VanZandt told the Observer. “Batters have to hit with a net, which isn’t really like being on the ground outside. And, of course, in the gym the hops (on ground balls) aren’t the same.”

As of April 2, the team, in four weeks of preseason training, has only had three practices outside.

“We’re kind of going into the season blind because we haven’t seen the guys on the baseball field,” said VanZandt. “The first couple of weeks of the season, we’re going to be feeling things out. We’re going to have a couple of different lineups out there.”

But aside from the bigger-than-normal graduating class hit and the late winter’s betrayal of the national pastime, the coach still sees a sunny prognosis for FDR.

“I’d say we’re deep pitching-wise. We’ve got a lot of guys who can throw the ball well. Defense is kind of a question mark, but I think we have a pretty good team overall. We look good on paper, but paper doesn’t mean anything. You’ve got to go out there every day and play,” said VanZandt.

VanZandt added that while he has high hopes for this year’s Presidents squad, he’s not going to set goals that are too lofty, and is going to stick with the annual goal of winning the Mid-Hudson Athletic League title. The Presidents almost made it happen in 2013, but fell to Spackenkill in the MHAL championship game, 2-1.

The team will be headed by Nick Rand, Alex Marinelli, and Kyle Phillips, who will serve as co captains. The first non-league away game was scheduled April 7 against Spackenkill, and their first league game/technical home game will be against New Paltz at Dutchess Stadium on April 10 at 7pm.

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