Around the Horn With Crusader Baseball
Each week throughout the summer of 2019, Holy Cross will check in with student-athletes from the baseball team who are competing in collegiate summer leagues across the country.
Here is a full list of where the Crusaders are playing this summer.
Three rising juniors from the Holy Cross baseball team are competing in the New England Collegiate Baseball League during Summer 2019. Right-handed pitcher Kyle Johnson joins a familiar batterymate, catcher Zach Buck, on the New Bedford Bay Sox out of Massachusetts, while right-handed pitcher Liam Dvorak is playing for the Ocean State Waves in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. The Crusaders have seen success in their playing time so far: Buck has hit .263 in five games, Johnson has allowed just four hits and a pair of strikeouts over three appearances, and Dvorak has struck out 13 in eight innings pitched so far.
How has the season gone so far, and what has the game day atmosphere been like?
Johnson: So far, our New Bedford Bay Sox team is off to a slow start, but we haven’t lost those games by many runs, and our team chemistry is starting to come alive. I really like my new teammates and it has been an enjoyable experience so far. The game day atmosphere is upbeat and all of my teammates get excited for first pitch. Everybody is ready to go, and with there being 18 pitchers on our roster, all of us are anxious to get as many quality appearances on the mound as possible. But the atmosphere is pretty relaxed during the games, and I can feel comfortable going out there and competing to the best of my abilities every single day, with no outside pressures of school or other factors on my mind.
Buck: The season has gone well so far. Every game we play is competitive and hard-fought, which makes playing in the league a lot of fun. Game days have been fun and the fans are great!
Dvorak: The Waves got off to a slow start, but we’re turning it around. We lost some close games early on, but I think we’ve started to grow more as a team, and with that we’ve been having more success. The game day atmosphere at Old Mountain Field has been really great. A lot of families come out to support the Waves and give us a good hometown crowd. There’s also a lot of games in between innings for the kids to participate in, which helps get more people involved in the game.
Walk us through a typical day so far this summer.
Johnson: On a typical day, I wake up in the morning and make myself breakfast before going to work out. I then come back and make myself lunch before heading over to the bus for away games, or I eat and relax before heading to our home field games, with arrival time being around 3 p.m. for early work, and most games start at 6:30 p.m. We stretch, have a full-team on-field BP, then have a quick break an hour or two before getting the game started. Afterwards, we are lucky enough to have food ready for us at the ballpark, where we eat and then depart back to New Bedford, or go straight to our host families’ houses.
Buck: I usually wake up around 9 a.m., make some breakfast and then head to the gym at around 10 or so to get a lift in. After that, I grab some lunch, and then around 2 p.m., I head to the field for some extra swings and early work before pregame BP starts at 3:30 p.m. Games start at 6:30 p.m.
Dvorak: Typically, I wake up fairly early, hang out with my host brother Steve, and then head to the gym or the field when it’s time.
How is the NECBL experience preparing you for the upcoming collegiate season?
Johnson: The NECBL experience is helping me to improve for the upcoming spring season because the competition is just as good as, if not better than, what we see in a weekend series down South, in the Patriot League, or here up North. I have to really focus on my pinpoint location as a pitcher, as well as mixing up all of my pitches, or else hitters in this league will catch up to my pitcher tendencies pretty easily. Also, most of our away games are anywhere from an hour to four hours away, so embracing the long bus rides will make it easier to get off the bus rides during the spring and be successful without being tired from traveling.
Buck: The NECBL is a very competitive league with lots of talented players. Playing with and against such talented players on a daily basis will certainly help me in every facet of the game.
Dvorak: The NECBL is a great summer league and exposes me to some top talent from across the nation. Facing these guys forces me to compete every pitch and limit the number of mistakes I can make.
What are some ways your team has gotten involved in the local community?
Johnson: I’ve had the chance to read to elementary school kids twice this past week. We not only read to these young kids but we also interact with them as much as possible, telling them stories and answering as many questions as they can ask. We also convince them to come to our games and to stay updated on not only how we are doing, but we like to know how they are doing as well. We hand out free tickets and different pamphlets for them to take home to their families.
Buck: Our team has gotten involved in the community in a number of ways, mostly reading to kids at local schools in the area as school winds down for summer breaks. We’ve also helped host a clinic for local little league players.
Dvorak: Our biggest way of getting involved in the community is through reading days. This is where we go into local elementary schools and read to them while also speaking about important life lessons. There’s also always questions about our baseball career and things of that nature. Some other ways we get involved is through kids clinics hosted at the field or gym. Activities could include basketball, kickball, dance competitions, and of course some baseball related things.
A trio of rising seniors -- shortstop Chris Rinaldi, outfielder Austin Masel and infielder Alex Volpi -- are in their first week with the Falmouth Commodores of the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League, which plays host to many future Major League Baseball players each summer. Masel and Volpi return to Falmouth after playing there in 2018, and these three Crusaders continue a long tradition of successful Holy Cross baseball student-athletes playing for the Commodores.
What is it like to have the opportunity to play in the CCBL this summer?
Rinaldi: Having the opportunity to play in the Cape Cod League is an amazing privilege especially because of its history as one of the most prestigious summer leagues in the country.
Volpi: It is a great honor and experience to be able to play in such a prestigious league. The coaches and players are all great people, and everyone cares about your development as an individual player.
Masel: I love being on the Cape for the summer, especially coming back again. It is an unbelievable experience to play with the highest caliber players the country has to offer. Having family from Falmouth, it’s also great to play in front of them at every game. It’s such an honor and incredible experience to be playing in Falmouth while representing Holy Cross.
How does the level of competition in the Cape League help you prepare for the college season?
Rinaldi: The competition in the CCBL helps us prepare for the college season by going up against the best players in the country. It forces us to compete to the best of our ability and develop parts of our game that need the most work so that we come back next year the best players we can be.
Volpi: The competition is some of the best that the three of us have ever seen, which definitely serves to prepare us for the Holy Cross season. Playing at such a high level helps highlight the parts of the game that you have to work on to be the best player possible.
Walk us through what a typical day in the Cape League is like.
Volpi: Most days, we will go to the gym in the morning to lift and then we’ll have lunch before heading over to the field for the game. Before the game, we have early work and then a full team, on-field batting practice. After the game, we head home, where Chris and I are lucky to have dinner waiting for us thanks to our hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Zmuda.
Rinaldi: Though we haven’t played many games yet, we typically wake up around 8:30 a.m. and make breakfast before heading to the gym at 11 a.m. When we are done lifting, we make our way over to the field and make a quick stop for lunch. For a 6 p.m. home game, batting practice starts at 3:15, so if I’m going early to get groundballs or take some extra swings in the cages, I’ll get to the locker room around 2 p.m. After BP, we head into the locker room and change for infield/outfield, which we take around 5:10. Then, after the game, we head home, and Alex and I are lucky enough to have dinner waiting for us thanks to the Zmuda Family.
Have you gotten to explore the Cape at all or enjoy any time to relax? What is unique about the Cape League environment compared to other baseball environments?
Masel: On an off day, the beach is awesome. I always bring some of the guys from the team to my favorite beach on the Cape. It’s awesome to show the guys from around the country different parts of Falmouth that I’ve been going to since I was a kid.
Rinaldi: So far, we haven’t had much time to explore the Cape, but we were able to check out Nobska Lighthouse, which looks out onto Martha’s Vineyard, which was an awesome experience. The Cape League environment is unique because the fans really love the game and take great care of the players. The many host families and dedicated fans always come out to show their support.
Volpi: The Cape has been a great place to explore. It’s a beautiful area with a lot of great places to go see. It has been great spending time with my host family, who has really made the experience very special. I think the atmosphere at the games is incredibly unique. The fans really love baseball and the community of Falmouth truly cares for and takes an interest in the players.
Rising junior infielder Andrew Selima and sophomore catcher Angelo D’Acunto are members of the Starfires, a team in its inaugural season out of Westfield, Massachusetts. To the northwest, sophomore left-handed pitcher Matt Clarkin competes in Pittsfield, Massachusetts for the Suns, and he has not allowed any runs in nine innings pitched so far. Their two teams have met three times this year, with Pittsfield winning two of those three matchups.
How has the season gone so far for you?
Clarkin: The season has been great so far. The team has played well, and there have been plenty of opportunities for everyone to succeed. It has been an enjoyable experience.
Selima: The season is great! We just started the season, so not much has happened yet, but things are going well, and I’m working on improving my field and hitting.
D’Acunto: The season is going really well. I’ve played in seven games so far. I’m learning so much from the coaching staff and my teammates are really great.
Describe your typical day during the summer.
Clarkin: A typical practice is usually light and relaxed. Guys get their work in, hitters take BP, and everyone does what they need to do to stay healthy. For game days, we show up three hours before game time and we take BP, then about an hour before game time, we stretch and throw and get ready to play. Everyone does what they have to do to get ready, and by game time everyone is set to go.
Selima: I wake up, eat breakfast, go to the gym and getting early hitting practice in, then eat lunch, nap and get ready for the game and drive to the field. For a typical home game at 6:30, we get to the field at 2:30, stretch at 3:00 and take batting practice at 3:30. After that, we hang out until infield/outfield at 5:00, then hang out again until 6:00, when we stretch and warm up one more time before our game.
D'Acunto: I wake up in the morning, make myself some cereal, watch some Netflix and then go to the gym. After the gym, I’ll head to the batting cages and get some swings in before the game. I’ll get to the field about three hours before the game, take on-field batting practice, then when the other team is taking BP, I’ll hang out with the boys in the clubhouse and listen to some music and get prepared for the game. We then will suit up and get ready to win a game. If fans are around, I’ll talk to them before the game and hang out with the children. (#ferdakids)
What unique opportunities does summer ball provide?
Clarkin: Summer ball provides a ton of opportunities. You get to meet players from all over the country from many different schools and backgrounds. You also get to experience a community where the people love baseball and support the team. Finally, you get to play baseball with new teammates who all love the game as much as you do.
Selima: It provides the opportunity to meet new people from different schools and from all over the country. You also become part of a new community and become an important part of that town and its community.
D’Acunto: It allows me to perfect my craft. I am able to focus on little parts of my game that others may look past, and it also allows me to get a lot of game reps that I may have not had the opportunity to get during my freshman season. My main focus during summer ball is growing as a player, and figuring out how to get to the next level.
In Westfield, what has it been like playing for a first-year team?
Selima: It has been amazing. This team means so much to the town and it is a pleasure to bring happiness and baseball to the town of Westfield.
D’Acunto: It’s good because we are starting with a blank page. Westfield is an amazing baseball town, and the people who live there are really invested in the team. We are kind of the underdogs and are trying to make a name for ourselves. Hopefully, I’ll look back years from now and be able to say I was on the first Starfires team, and have it really mean something across Massachusetts.
What has it been like facing some of your Holy Cross teammates?
Clarkin: It has been great facing some of the HC guys. Being able to see them before and after the game to talk about the experience of summer ball and then compete against them during the game is a unique thing that is very fun.
Andrew – what did it feel like to get struck out by Matt Clarkin?
Selima: What can I say – he got me. He pitched me well and out-dueled me. All I can say is that next time, that won’t happen again!