If all goes according to plan, the Bridgehampton School could be returning to the baseball diamond by 2022.
Lou Liberatore, a 26-year-old who was recently hired to teach fifth-grade science at the school, has spearheaded the challenge of bringing back the program that produced Boston Red Sox great and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, who graduated from the school in 1957. In the years after “Yaz” graduated, Bridehampton baseball had sporadic reamergences, including in 1979 when former basketball head coach Carl Johnson played on the team as a junior. But from 1982, when Mary Anne Jules took over as athletic director, until present day, Bridgehampton has not fielded a baseball team.
For many years now, Bridgehampton has sent those players who wanted to play baseball up the turnpike to nearby Pierson. Bridgehampton currently only offers boys basketball and cheerleading as varsity sports.
During the school’s Board of Education meeting on October 17, Liberatore laid out a five-year plan to slowly work Bridgehampton back into baseball, starting this year with camps on the first weekend of each month. Baseball intramurals have been offered every Thursday during November and will be continued into December, and a summer week-long camp is expected to be offered for student-athletes in grades five through nine.
In September 2019, a four-week pitching machine league will be offered to student-athletes in the same grades. Open gym practices will be offered weekly from November through February and outdoor practices will be held weekly from March through June with another summer week-long camp offered to grades six through 10.
The hope, Liberatore and Bridgehampton Athletic Director Michael DeRosa said last week, is to field a full junior varsity team of 12 to 13 players using seventh- through 10th-graders in 2021, then make the jump to varsity the following year with 15 to 16 players using eighth- through 12th-graders.
DeRosa said that since the small school currently doesn’t offer a spring sport, Liberatore shouldn’t have a problem recruiting players and it shouldn’t conflict with either of the school’s other sports.
“It’s something that’s a long ways away, but we’ve held two clinics already and there was some good interest, and that’s all we’re trying to do right now, is spark some interest,” DeRosa said. “Some of these kids have no background in baseball so we’re trying to let them know that the game is fun. If we can start a JV program, hopefully it will mold its way to varsity.”
Liberatore said there is already a strong core of players who are ready to play.
“We have a core group of players who can play the game right now,” he said. “We have some left-handed pitching and six or seven core guys who really enjoy playing the game. We’re looking to get another seven or eight role players to complement them.
“Everyone who knows me knows I’m big into baseball. One of my greatest passions is to play what I think is the greatest sport in the world,” Liberatore added. “Right now I’m just helping in developing a program from the bottom up.”
Liberatore, a 2010 graduate of Bayport/Blue Point High School, is currently an assistant varsity baseball coach at his alma mater, a perennial powerhouse in Suffolk County that won state titles in 2013 and 2014, part of his tenure as an assistant coach. He went on to play for four years at Molloy College in Rockville Centre where he roomed with Shea Spitzbarth, who ended up becoming one of his best friends. Spitzbarth, now one of the top prospects in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, helped lead the first clinic at Bridgehampton in October.
Liberatore is well aware of the history between Bridgehampton and baseball, but his reason behind starting the program back up wasn’t related to that, he said.
“Everybody knows the Carl Yastrzemski Award is given to the top player in Suffolk County and when I think of Bridgehampton I think about Carl Yastrzemski, but I wasn’t thinking about history when I started this. This was about the kids and giving them an opportunity to play and develop and get better every day, get smarter every day and bring an effort and energy. All of the players are learning the game right now and they’re very young, which is a little different for me, coming from coaching varsity players, but we’re excited. Mike Miller and Mike DeRosa have both been very helpful. We have a good formula in place.
“The kids make it exciting and that’s what it’s all about,” Liberatore continued. “We’re not just looking to fill jerseys. We’ve got enough guys right now to probably field a team but we don’t have the right guys right now. We want to field a team that’s smart and competitive. Those are all things you have to build to and that starts today. We keep it loose but there’s a purpose to everything we do. Every open gym, our goal is to fill that lack of experience and work while the other guys aren’t. We are all in on this.”