Last year was truly a magical season for East baseball as the boys made it all the way to the Sectional finals — the first time a city team had played for the title since 1980.
We were there in the press box when East won the 5th annual East Tournament.
We followed the team on its road trip to Cincinnati. And in the first round of the sectionals when East carried the day. And again when they beat Penfield. And in Congratulations East on a magical season. , we thanked them for giving their all.
And if last season wasn’t exciting enough, this year the team has begun the season with two straight no-hitters. Joel Alicia no-hit Douglass with 13 strike outs in the shortened five inning contest. And yesterday East beat SOTA 11-1 as Pablo Garcia and Sam Sheldon combined on a no-hitter with 15 Ks.
The day was chilly and drizzly. But about 50 East fans braved the light hail. Despite the chill, there was a noticeably spark in the air. Even during pre-game batting and fielding practice, we sensed the players believed they could replicate last season — if not better.
As the game began, and the runs piled up and the SOTA batters struggled, we kept getting the feeling that — like last year — the boys would make East proud.
I had the chance to ask Coach Kyle Crandall a few questions. Unlike this fan, Coach Crandall didn’t want to make any predictions for his team or even talk too much about last year. Baseball is always about the moment, one pitch at a time.
Q. Last year was a historic and magical season. And this year expectations are high. Already, in the first game, Joel Alicea pitched a no-hitter. As a coach, how do your frame the success of that year? Do you encourage this team to be even better – and risk a feeling of letdown – or tell them not to feel pressured to think they too should make the sectional finals?
A. Last year was a special year for our program and our school. I have always said that the players in our baseball program work as hard as anyone in the area. To see their hard work yield so much success was a blessing. The returning Varsity players and the JV players who have moved up seem to have the same mindset: everyone just wants to play hard, play good baseball, and leave everything on the field. The end result will take care of itself. As long as we give our best effort that is what will make me proud.
Q. The East baseball program has some unique features, including a tournament over spring break that draws teams from outside Monroe County and the annual road trip. Tell us a little about the tournament and the road trip this year. How do these features of the program help build East baseball as a community?
A. This is our 6th annual East High Baseball tournament over Spring Break. There are 2 new teams participating: Lyons and Greece Olympia. Waterloo will return. Games are tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, April 18 as follows:
12:00 – Greece Olympia vs. Waterloo
3:00 – Lyons vs. East
On Thursday, April 20 the consolation game will be at 12:00 and the championship game will be at 3:00.
The tournament is a good way to set a short-term goal over two games to play in a competitive setting. We like the fact that we have teams from three other leagues and have a competitive field.
The annual trip has been one of the best things that has happened over this era of East baseball. It has become my favorite weekend of the year. As the bus pulled back into Rochester from Cincinnati last year players were asking where we were going to go this year. We have settled on NYC the weekend of April 28-30. We will see the Yankees-Orioles game on Friday, April 28. We are scheduled to play Flushing, HS on a new turf field on Saturday, April 29 before heading to St. John’s University for a Division – I game. Getting to experience life on a college campus and interact with the players and coaches at this level has been a great experience for our teams. At the end of the weekend, the bonds are always deeper and stronger.
Q. What is the feeling on campus about this baseball season? Is there a noticeable sense of excitement among the students/faculty and staff? Last year the team grew big crowds; fans were even bussed to the sectionals game. Are you anticipating the same this year?
A. The players in the baseball program are a great group of young men. It is easy to like these kids and for the staff and students to rally behind them. The staff and students seem interested in seeing what type of season we will have this year. I have never concerned myself with how many people show up to our games. My job is to coach the team and get them to play to their highest level. Hopefully, we will put a product on the field that will make people want to watch us play.
Q. Since beginning its partnership with the University of Rochester, East has had many successes. What are some successes you are hoping to see over the next few years and where does the baseball program fit in the big picture?
A. Our ultimate goal at East is to prepare students for life beyond high school while giving them opportunities that will create memories and a foundation that will last a lifetime. We are very optimistic that our graduation rate will rise and students will be more prepared for college or the workplace. Baseball is a tool to help students stay motivated and in school. It is part of the wholistic approach in educating our student-athletes. Many of the experiences that occur on the field relate to real-life experiences.