New-look Gershkoff ready for summer

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The R.I. American Legion League this past offseason decided to take a step forward in bringing back the tradition of high quality baseball.

There are multiple organizations that have formed in the past few years, most of which are for profit. Players are torn into multiple directions. We have combined teams and formed zones in R.I., making it a more competitive league.

Examples include Cumberland, Lincoln, North Providence and Central Falls forming a new zone. Warwick and North Kingstown formed a new zone. Exeter-West Greenwich, Coventry, West Warwick and East Greenwich also created a new zone. In the past, some of these towns were divided. Now, you simply play where you live. Our zone for Gershkoff Auto Body Auburn Post 20 is now Cranston, Johnston and Scituate. We afford all players living in these communities, whether they attend private or public school. The league will also give our junior legion program the same opportunity to become stronger. We have teams in Scituate, and also Johnston and Cranston have merged in our zone.

Our particular program has taken it a step further. Due to the fact that many players have dispersed into different programs looking for showcase baseball or competitive tournaments, we decided to merge the concept of American Legion league play with both legion and showcase tournaments. In this model, players are playing in our tradition-based legion league. They are playing for a state title and a chance to play in the Final 8 R.I. State Championship, looking to advance to the American Legion Northeast Regionals as well as the possibility of the American Legion World Series. This is the major difference between legion baseball and other organizations. In addition, we will be playing this summer in multiple legion and showcase tournaments. I decided to play in showcase tournaments like Baseball Heaven because that is something players want. At the same time, we are also able to participate in American Legion baseball tournaments that are 19U and offer collegiate athletic competition, which is also a major difference. Gershkoff Auto Body Auburn Post 20 American Legion Elite Baseball will feature a 42-game schedule. We will play our league and a non-league schedule, as well as traveling to East Hartford, Long Island, Saratoga and Old Orchard Beach, Maine, and participating in the local Firecracker Tournament, which may prove to be the best tournament in the Northeast. Legion baseball is the only organization that has an exclusive contract to air the World Series on ESPN. It is also a known fact that more than half of Major League Baseball players have played American Legion baseball.

Other program highlights include our cost. We have a tremendous sponsor in Steve Gershkoff of Gershkoff Auto Body. He is able to help defray costs. We also charge one-third of what other organizations charge and if players participate in our Marchetti’s fundraiser and raffle sales, because of various donations, their out-of-pocket expenses are cut in half. Our coaches volunteer, which makes every bit of difference. This summer, John and Tyler Collins rejoin the staff and we add a new pitching coach, Andy McKeon, who has experience coaching at Roger Williams University and is currently the assistant coach at Moses Brown. The team this year is comprised of players from Cranston West, Cranston East, Johnston, Moses Brown and La Salle. We have partnered with our junior legion program to give more opportunity to the younger players in our zone. Coach Dave Hansen from Scituate leads the junior legion program and also has begun a 17U travel program, which will also be open to players in our zone. The Cranston/Johnston junior program is led by coach David Rathbun and Derek Dimeo and will travel with us to East Hartford in a junior tournament and also play in the Firecracker Tournament.

We also plan to add year-round training, as well as an academic component to the program. We plan to hopefully be playing in the New England Baseball Complex fall league as well as other area fall 18U leagues. Our potential winter workouts will be held at HOPS Athletic Performance. I also have worked with R.I. College Planning Center contacts and have a private guidance counseling service available to players if they are interested.

Rostered players for the 2016 season:

Korey Fijal – post-graduate Johnston, CCRI – P, C, OF

Alex Martinez – Cranston East – C

Emilio Rodriguez – Johnston – 3B, DH

Dan Smith – Cranston West – 3B, P

Travis Collins – post-graduate Cranston West, CCRI – 2B, SS, P

Jake Coro – Johnston – SS, 2B, P

Chris Manfredo – Cranston West – P, 3B, 2B

Connor Kiernan – Cranston West – 1B, P

Austin Alzate – Cranston West – P, 2B

Ryan Quirk – post-graduate La Salle - P

Steve Beneduce – post-graduate La Salle - P

Gianni Valentini – Moses Brown – 1B, P, OF

Mitch Carvalho – Cranston West – OF

Jake Frost – Cranston East – OF

Harold Corniel – post-graduate Cranston East – OF

Chrisdione Mendez – Cranston East – P

Luis Nunez – Johnston – 1B, DH

Jake Podmaska – Johnston – P

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