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Falcons aim to soar into playoffs

April 4, 2014

by Blaise Bryant

The Albany High School men’s varsity baseball team begins play today at Colonie Central High School.

The Falcons plan to work up pitch counts, and move aggressively on base.

The team implements their strategy this afternoon at the fields off Sand Creek Road. The season was delayed because of what some might characterize as one of the toughest winters in recent memory.

“We finished in fourth place, just a half game out of the playoffs,” said Garrett Baron, second-year head coach.

The team has several returning players, four or five of whom are starters, said Baron. Both the junior varsity and varsity teams have shared practice space inside this year.

Albany High baseball players stretch inside during preseason practices.

Albany High baseball players stretch inside during preseason practices.

“It’s a good organization…a lot of good kids on the team,” said freshman Matthew Pickett, a right fielder.

During practice in the gym recently the two teams, JV and varsity were divided into several stations for batting, fielding, throwing, and base running. At the  throwing station players practiced relay throws to try and throw out a base runner. An outfielder will throw the ball to an infielder, who depending on where a base runner is, will throw through to either third base or home plate.

Fundamentals do not get enough attention, Baron said.

He stresses the fundamentals because it’s how he was taught while playing as an infielder at Ithaca College.

Brendan Murphy talks about the baseball legacy in his family./ Jordan Guerra

Brendan Murphy talks about the baseball legacy in his family./ Jordan Guerra

When the Falcons take the field later today they will have missed several outside practices because the fields were frozen. All spring sporting competitions at the high school, as well as some other Capital Region schools, have been delayed because the playing surfaces were too hard, making them dangerous.The team makes its first home game debut Monday at 4:30 p.m. at Bleecker Stadium.

While making the playoffs would satisfy everyone on the varsity squad, they are hoping to make losing seasons a distant memory.

“We have a great team, and I love guiding everyone through everything,” said Jeffrey Gritsavage, the senior captain of the team.

Gritsavage is the shortstop, as well as the closer for the Falcons.

Baseball players at Albany High fielded grounder inside during preseason practice/Jordan Guerra

Baseball players at Albany High fielded grounder inside during preseason practice/Jordan Guerra

“Our first goal is to win the Big-10 championship,” said Gritsavage.

He has received offers from both the University of Rochester and Saint John Fisher for baseball and football, but is undecided.

“It’s great to come in here and work with past players that have played here- you learn a lot about team responsibility and hard work,” said senior Christopher Michaelis, who plays both first and third base. He prefers first because he feels more comfortable. Michaelis has received an offer from Penn State Altoona for baseball, but doesn’t know what school he’s going to attend.

“I think we’re a great team, we’re going to go far, and I think we’re better than the previous teams have been,” said senior Jonah Levy, catcher and infielder.

Baseball isn’t Levy’s focus in college. He plans to study art history at Ithaca College, where Baron went. I’d like to play club ball, and will try out for the team and see what happens, Levy said.

After practices JV player Jomeer McNeal goes home and practices more. “Practice makes perfect,” said the sophomore catcher and third basement.

Albany High is in the Big-10 conference in New York’s section two. “We anticipate our strongest competition to come from Troy, CBA, and Lasalle,” Baron said.

The team is also active off of the field. They help out with Little League, which is how some of the team started to feel passion for baseball. For Baron, the Falcons helping with Little League is valuable.

“If you were to ask me what the most important part of my job is, it’s to make sure the guys are doing well in the classroom and are active in the community,” Baron said.

For most of the team, the love of the game started even before Little League.

“My grandfather actually played in the New York Giants system, and I always played with him when I was younger,” said junior Brendan Murphy, a left fielder. Murphy’s grandfather, Jerome Bonnabeaux, played for the New York Giants minor league baseball team, before the Giants moved west to San Francisco. He was able to meet Willy Mays, said Murphy.

Murphy hopes to play baseball in college.

“I just have to keep working my butt off,” Murphy said. -30-

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