In the Media
SPORTS FACTORY IS GREAT VENUE
By Edward Townsend
April 23, 2016
WHITE MILLS, PA–Former Sullivan County Rock Hill resident and owner of the Monticello based Pro Prospects Training Center Steve Pinto has moved up into the big leagues with his opening of the Pro-Prospects Sports Factory of Northeast Pennsylvania at White Mills, Pa.
While moving his family to the Northeastern part of Pennsylvania where his wife Paige is a guidance counselor for Wayne Highlands Central School District the opportunity to expand his athletic training center business became a realty when a large building in White Mills popped up on the horizon.
All of this reality became a sports training facility in December of last year in the former Chroma Tube factory building which Pinto transformed into a state-of-the-art 30,000 square foot multi-sport training facility.
Pinto, the sole owner of the sport training complex splits his time between the Monticello baseball-softball complex and the Sports Factory but he admits, “this all would not be possible if I did not have reliable experienced and professional help at both locations.”
The White Mills sports complex provides training and treatment for athletes in a variety of sports, including specialized indoor and outdoor facilities designed for baseball, softball, soccer, football, lacrosse and field hockey.
The Sports Factory brings two of the areas’ established sports skill development services under one roof.
Pro Prospects Training Center is one of the most respected baseball and softball skill development academies in the northeast and was founded in 1997 by former minor league hitting coach Steve Pinto.
Pinto graduated from Monticello High School in 1986, played three years of professional ball, two years with the Catskill Cougars (95 & 96) and later coached them for two years as their hitting coach under former Detroit Tigers Gate Brown and bench coach Wally Backman.
Pro Prospects has helped more than 1,000 players reach the collegiate level and more than 100 of their students have gone on to play professionally. The staff of former pro and college players and coaches have a combined 175 years of coaching and training experience.
Pro Prospects is also the Greater Hudson Valley hub for Prep Baseball Report-NY, one of the top scouting services nationwide and provides area ballplayers education on the recruiting process and comprehensive national college exposure.
Pro Prospects also brings its cutting-edge strength and conditioning service, Athletic Symmetry , headed by Kansas City Royals strength coach Stephen Gamma.
Gamma, a certified CSCS, and his staff provide assessments, sports performance training , athletic training and corrective therapy and are available for private, small group and team strength and conditioning for athletes of all sports.
Pro Prospects’ space at White Mills includes four batting cages, arm-action pitching machines, two pitching mounds, long toss tunnels a regulation indoor baseball and softball infield and a 1,600 square foot state-of-the-art strength and conditioning center for athletes of all sports.
In addition to providing private, small-group and team baseball and softball ball training, this White Mills facility will be available for individual or group and team rentals.
The Sports Factory features a 150′ by 120′ indoor field that can be divided into two 120′ by 65′ fields or a regulation baseball and softball infield, indoor soccer field with indoor soccer leagues, field space also for football, lacrosse, field hockey, wrestling, indoor flag football leagues and ProCare physical therapy.
Pinto pointed out during a tour of this facility that the Sports Factory features a NFL grade turf with turf quality unequaled among indoor facilities.
Presently under construction is a cafe with guest seating area.
High schools presently using the Sports Factory facilities include Sullivan West in New York State and Wallenpaupack School District, Delaware Valley Pa. School District, Honesdale High School, Forest City School District and Western Wayne School District in Pennsylvania.
NFL Flag Football leagues is also a part of the sporting activities at The Sports Factory and Wide Receiver Coach Rocco Forgione just completed the Runco Elite Quarterback Academy.
A complete list of the 2016 camp schedule is available at www.sportsfactorynepa.com or by calling 570-352-3801.
By Ed Townsend
LOCH SHELDRAKE – January 29 — Major league baseball scout Ed Daub, representing the San Diego Padres, joined 12 college scouts Sunday morning January 20 for the 15th Annual High School Baseball Showcase Evaluation Day held in the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse at Sullivan County Community College.
Put on by Pro Prospects of Monticello, the college showcase provides important exposure and guidance for high school and junior college student athletes. For the past 15-years, the baseball/softball training facility has had over 50 different colleges and universities attend these showcase events with hundreds of players moving on to play college and professional baseball.
The day provides players with an opportunity to display their skills in front of attending coaches but also to receive feedback and projections from the Pro Prospects staff. In addition, edited video of their performances is produced and can be passed along to other coaches not in attendance.
The showcase is coordinated by Pro Prospects Director of Player Development Jared (Jed) Carrier with assistance from Steve Alhona, a member of Pro Prospects college marketing service advisory staff. Three junior college and 40 high school baseball players from as far away as Montreal Quebec, Canada and as close as Liberty attended this showcase from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sullivan County was represented by eight high school ballplayers including Dillon Taggart (Livingston Manor), Rodney Jester (Tri-Valley), John Anzano (Tri-Valley), Tyler Wood from Bloomingburg attending Pine Bush, Patrick Pierce (Sullivan West), Jon Harned (Monticello), Benjamin Kapito (Monticello) and Jack Drapkin (Monticello).
College scouts from as far away as Georgia Highlands College in Cartersville, Georgia and as close as SUNY Sullivan took part in the showcase evaluations. Other colleges in attendance included Brockport State, Dominican College, Mount St. Mary, Oneonta State, Purchase College, SUNY IT, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Orange, Utica College and Wilkes College.
Padres major league scout Ed Daub is a native of Sullivan County, raised on a farm near Cochecton Center where he attended and graduated from Narrowsburg High School. He played high school baseball and was active in both a Delaware Valley and Honesdale travel league. A graduate of Cortland State with a physical education major he played college baseball. His position of choice was catching.
Daub now makes his home in Binghamton where he still teaches several days a week. He was a former major league scout for 11 years with the Cincinnati Reds.
When asked what he was looking for in these young baseball players Daub said, “I’m looking for good athletes.”
Carrier said he has known Ed for a couple of years as the Padres scout usually attends a few SUNY Sullivan games as well as the Pro Prospects Junior College Showcase at Dutchess Stadium.
“He’s been a Binghamton area scout for a long time and is a real gentleman that gives everyone a fair look,” Jed said.
Said Tim Havas of Georgia Highlands College in Cartersville, Georgia, a fledging program coached by former SUNY Sullivan and Monticello skipper Mike Marra: “I’m looking for players with skills and tools.”
Each student-athlete was graded by the scouts in running the 60-yard dash and from home plate to first base. Outfielders were judged by their approach to ground balls and fly balls, their crowhop, release, mph/arm strength while catchers were graded for footwork, release, accuracy and pop to pop throws.
Infielders were graded in footwork, hands, release and mph/arm strength. First basemen were looked at for footwork, hands, release and bag footwork. Pitchers had to show their skills in mph with a fastball, curve ball, change up and their overall mechanics. Offensive batting skills were judged by mechanics, contact and power.
College plays host to fundraising clinic to benefit Tri-Valley Little League
Loch Sheldrake, NY (10/18/2011) – On Monday, October 10th, members of the SUNY Sullivan Generals Baseball program partnered with professionals from the Pro Prospects Training Center (Monticello, NY) to hold a baseball and softball clinic at SUNY Sullivan. The event was a fundraiser for Tri-Valley Little League of Grahamsville, New York. Home to over 300 youth athletes ever season, Tri Valley Little League sustained catastrophic damages and major losses to its entire complex and equipment when Hurricane Irene hit on August 28th.
Tri Valley parent and coach, Tammy Porter, who is also an instructor at SUNY Sullivan, wrote about the devastation she saw when she visited the complex the day after the hurricane:
“…I was in no way prepared for what I would see on Monday – only one day after the water mark was left on the concession stand at four feet high. The girls‟ field was gone past shortstop; the river [had] swallowed up the outfield.”
Flooding covered the fields in as much as five feet of water, causing extensive damage by corrosion. Flood waters also tore down fencing and destroyed entire sections of bleachers, and covered everything in its path with mud, stones, uprooted trees, and whatever other detritus the currents were carrying with them. The surging waters were so powerful, that an entire concrete dugout was demolished.
With the Grahamsville complex closed permanently, a concerned community wondered how it would find the thousands of dollars necessary to rebuild it. With plans to hold league play at a temporary location for the 2012 season in place, Tri-Valley’s goal is to be back up and running in a permanent location by Opening Day 2013. In the weeks since the hurricane, enormous community response has made that goal increasingly likely.
“I decided to help by making a video showing the damage,” said Ms. Porter. “Within a couple days it had gotten several hundred views and word of the damage had spread as fast as the water had risen.”
To view video, search YouTube for: Tri-Valley Little League Field Flooded, Grahamsville NY
Donations from private parties and local businesses alike have been coming in to supplement funds raised at events like the one put on by SUNY Sullivan and Pro Prospects Training Center.
SUNY Sullivan Head Coach, Ryan Snair, heard what happened at Grahamsville, and worked with Steve Pinto of Pro Prospects to organize the baseball and softball clinic fundraiser. Not only would they be pitching in to help the league, but they would be sharing their baseball and softball expertise with developing young players at the same time.
Designed for girls and boys, ages 7 to 17, the clinic asked for a $50 registration fee, 100% of which would go directly to the Tri-Valley Little League Relief Fund. With a promotional campaign that relied heavily on social media and word of mouth, the clinic was able to attract some 40 participants who took to the SUNY Sullivan baseball diamond on a sunny Monday, October 10th.
Staff members from Pro Prospects Training Center, as well as SUNY Sullivan’s baseball staff – including Snair and his Assistant Coaches, Tom Mattice and Jared Carrier – lead a clinic that focused on baseball and softball fundamentals. Including registration fees and private donations accepted on campus on the day of the clinic, more than $2,400 was raised.
SUNY Sullivan Generals players used their free time between classes to hit the field, lead drills, and participate in demonstrations, as well, even digging into their own pockets for the cause!
“I am especially proud to tell you that even the Generals baseball players themselves collected $50 towards the overall total,” said Coach Snair. “It [is] a great cause and I [am] proud to be a part of it.”
“It was great to see the collaboration of SUNY Sullivan, the Tri-Valley Little League & Pro Prospects Training Center in what turned out to be a fantastic day,” said Jared Carrier (who is both Asst. Coach at SUNY Sullivan and General Manager of Pro Prospects). “Not only did the participants receive outstanding instruction from the clinic staff but they had a blast while doing so.”
SUNY Sullivan’s Director of Athletics, Christopher DePew also said, “We enjoy a lot of local support for our program here in Sullivan County, and to be able to contribute in such a meaningful way – to impact the lives of so many young athletes and their families – let’s just say this event was a great way for our team to give back a little to a community that rallies for us every season.”
DePew and his staff also used this opportunity as a teaching moment with their student athletes, and addressed some of the key principles laid out in the NJCAA’s Leadership for Life program: Respect, Integrity, and Responsibility.
Designed as a program to develop character through athletics, Leadership for Life looks at these traits as foundational for discussions on sportsmanship. The program helps administrators, coaches, and athletes alike to formulate best practices for development of character in their respective programs.
The SUNY Sullivan athletics staff and team looked at the ideals of respect for the game, self and others, as well as integrity, responsibility, and more. In a class-room session for SUNY Sullivan players, held in conjunction with the fundraising event, the group more deeply examined the values that were in action leading up to and during the clinic.
“All in all,” said DePew, “I think the team’s involvement with this event, and how they really stepped up to the plate, speaks to our guys as the kind of “Classy Program” that Leadership for Life encourages and gives us the tools to be.”
Carrier adds that, “the Tri-Valley community has been nothing but appreciative in their feedback.” Tammy Porter quoted a great baseball humanitarian in her response to the event, evoking the words of Roberto Clemente: Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.
“What a great program you had today,” said Porter. “It [was] wonderful to see you all so enthusiastic and energetic. I would like to personally thank all the [Generals] baseball players and the staff at Pro Prospects for making a difference in our world.”
Thanks to the efforts and contributions of the SUNY Sullivan Generals, Pro Prospects Training Center, and an entire community of difference-making neighbors, Porter is pleased to report that “the future of baseball and softball in our community looks brighter.”
Storm damage won't shut down Little League
By Leonard Sparks
Published: 2:00 AM – 10/09/11
SUNDOWN — The bed of Tom Mitchell’s pickup truck sat loaded with plastic utility bins on a recent morning, one more step in his evacuation from three decades of work. Inside the bins are mud-stained helmets, catchers’ gear and other equipment belonging to the Tri-Valley Little League complex. Last year the complex was named for Mitchell, the league’s president. In August, its fields were erased by Hurricane Irene.
The summer home to 300 Little Leaguers is now a wreck of twisted fencing, collapsed dugouts and bleachers, and base paths buried under mud left by the receding Rondout Creek. But the destruction has sparked a vigorous community response: an outpouring of donations and fundraisers, including an upcoming baseball clinic organized by SUNY Sullivan and Monticello-based training center Pro Prospects, to fund a new complex.
“I didn’t realize until it got destroyed how much it meant to everybody,” said Mitchell, who plans to hold the league at a temporary location in 2012. About 600 people turned out for a spaghetti dinner Sept. 23. Some came armed with checks written out to the league. Proceeds from the dinner and donations came to about $11,000.
Ryan Snair, SUNY Sullivan’s baseball coach, and Steve Pinto, Pro Prospects’ owner, aim to build on that total with a baseball and softball clinic. The event will be Monday at the college.”We knew what happened with the field, and we just put our heads together and we said we had to do something to give back,” Snair said.
Pro Prospect instructors and SUNY Sullivan baseball staff and players will teach skills to two age groups: 7 to 12 and 13 to 17. All proceeds from the $50 registration will go to a relief fund set up for the league.
“It’s one of the nicest facilities in the area,” Pinto said. “I know a lot of effort has gone into building that program and growing that facility.” What started with one field grew to four fields and 25 teams, said Mitchell, a former prison guard who helped start the league in 1971 and has been president since 1992. Hundreds of boys and girls, ranging in age from 5 to 12, compete each year.
The complex survived $19,000 in damage in 2003, but Irene-related flooding from the Rondout covered it under as much as 5 feet of water, he said. The flooding destroyed most of the fencing and toppled bleachers. One dugout lay crumpled, its 8-inch-thick concrete wall snapped.”There’s people that have certainly lost a lot more than we have, but it was home to about 300 kids,” Mitchell said. “By 2013, I plan on having my same fields back.”
Manor’s Marissa Diescher signs to play softball at Penn State
By Rob Potter
Sullivan County Democrat, November 19, 2010
MONTICELLO — In August 2009, just before starting her junior year at Livingston Manor Central School, Marissa Diescher made a verbal commitment to play her college softball at Penn State University. On Monday night, she put it writing.
As a group of family members, friends and coaches looked on at Pro Prospects Training Center in Monticello, Diescher signed a national letter of intent to attend Penn State and play for the Nittany Lions softball team. She will receive a full four-year scholarship worth about $36,000 per year.
Diescher, a 17-year-old senior, became the starting pitcher for the Manor Lady Wildcats varsity softball team as an eighth-grader.
In June, Diescher helped the Lady Wildcats win the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D championship and was named the state Class D Co-Player of the Year. For the 2010 season, she had an 18-3 record with a 0.34 earned run average and 339 strikeouts. She threw seven no-hitters during the season, including one in Manor’s state semifinal win.
In her high school career, Diescher has thrown two perfect games and 18 no-hitters, recorded 1,094 strikeouts and posted a 0.49 earned run average. Diescher, who said she wants to hit in college, had a .345 batting average this past season.
More than 20 Division I schools recruited Diescher, including UConn, Boston University, Syracuse, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Marist and South Florida. Even though she verbally committed to Penn State more than a year ago, some schools kept contacting Diescher. So she was excited to sign the letter of intent.
“I can relax now and get ready for college,” she said. “When those schools contacted me, I kept saying I already verbally committed, I already verbally committed. So it’s nice that I won’t have to worry about that now.”
Although she visited about 10 schools, Penn State made an immediate impression on Diescher when she visited the University Park, Pa. campus.“I just loved the campus,” she explained. “I loved being there at a Division I school and meeting the coaches. The atmosphere is great with the football games. On my last visit, I got to go down on the football field with the other recruits and that was really cool.”
Diescher is looking forward to playing for Penn State Head Coach Robin Petrini, Assistant Coach Jen McIntyre and Assistant Coach Lisa Banse. In addition, Diescher is excited about playing at the new Nittany Lion Softball Park. The facility, which seats 1,084 people, is scheduled to open next March. Diescher said she plans to major in sports management but might switch her major to kinesiology after her freshman year. She is also grateful for the encouragement and support she has received from her family, friends and coaches.
That support starts with her family, which includes parents Mike and Tracey, brother Mike Jr. and grandparents Dick and Joan Fredenburg.“She deserves all that she gets,” Tracey Diescher said. “She really worked hard for everything.“Marissa also has a great support system around her,” Tracey added. “One of her coaches with her softball travel team, Angelo Matz, has a lot of connections with college coaches. And everyone here at Pro Prospects has been very helpful.”
“We are really proud of her,” Mike Diescher said. “She’ll get a great education at Penn State and the experience of playing Big Ten [Conference] softball.“Pro Prospects has done a great job helping Marissa,” he added. “Jed [Carrier] has helped her to improve her hitting and Darren [Rea] taught her different ways to spin the ball when she pitches. Steve [Pinto] and his staff do a great job with all of the kids who come here for lessons.”
Angelo Matz and George Rollman are coaches for the Tri-State Angels, a travel team based in Port Jervis. Marissa Diescher played for the Tri-State Angels 16- and-Under team in 2008 and for the Angels 18-and-Under team the past two years.“I’ve been coaching softball for 26 years and George has been coaching softball for 33 years and we have never seen so many coaches follow a player around like they did with Marissa,” Matz said. “At one game, there were 11 college coaches behind the backstop with radar guns focused on Marissa,” Rollman said. Matz noted that some coaches were skeptical Diescher could throw a 67 mph fastball, but once they saw her they believed it.“She has pitched against some elite teams in elite tournaments,” said Matz, noting that back in August Diescher helped the Tri-State Angels 18-and-Under team win the championship at the Triple Crown Nationals in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“She’s just a great kid,” Rollman said. “I think that sometimes she is a little embarrassed by all the attention she gets.” In addition to being coached by Matz, Rollman and Manor Co-Coaches Kevin Clifford and Charlie Hicks, this is the fifth year that Diescher is taking pitching and hitting lessons from the staff at Pro Prospects Training Center.
Pro Prospects owner Steve Pinto noted that more than 100 athletes who have taken lessons at the center have gone on to play baseball or softball in college. But Diescher is the first one to sign a national letter of intent to attend a major Division I school.“Marissa obviously has God-given ability,” Pinto said. “But her two best qualities are her outstanding work ethic and being such a fierce competitor.” Evidence of Diescher’s work ethic can be seen by looking down at the carpet in the Pro Prospects facility.“Because Marissa has thrown thousands and thousands of pitches from the same spot, she wore two holes in the carpet,” Pinto said.
Clifford and Hicks have coached Diescher on the Manor varsity softball team for the past three seasons. Coach Gail Denman guided the Lady Wildcats in Diescher’s first year.“It’s pretty exciting,” Clifford said of Diescher signing her letter of intent. “It’s nice to see all of her hard work pay off.“One of Marissa’s best qualities is her coachability,” Clifford continued. “She is always willing to listen to us and try to get even better.“I think she’ll have a great career [at Penn State],” Clifford added. For the near future, however, Clifford is hoping Diescher can help the Lady Wildcats basketball team win a Section IX Class D championship. Of course, he is also hoping Diescher and her teammates can defend their softball state title in the spring.
Christine Babich has been best friends with Marissa Diescher “since before Pre-K.” They have been teammates on Little League softball teams as well as the Manor girls’ soccer, basketball and softball teams.“It’s just an honor to be her friend and see her achieve so much,” said Babich, who was at Monday night’s signing event. “Marissa is the hardest working person I know. She has been a great friend all of these years.” It’s not surprising that Christine Babich and Marissa Diescher became best friends at an early age. Tracey and Mike Diescher attended high school with Christine’s parents, Tom and Diane Babich, and the two couples have been good friends for many years.“I’m looking forward to visiting Marissa in college and going to Penn State football games,” said Christine Babich, who plans to attend either SUNY Albany or SUNY Oneonta.
After Diescher signed her letter, everyone enjoyed some refreshments, including a cake from Flour Power Bakery & Cafe in Livingston Manor. The cake was covered with white icing and the words “Penn State, Congratulations Marissa” and the familiar Nittany Lion logo in blue icing. Sitting across from the table were some bouquets of flowers that family members and friends gave to Marissa Diescher. One bouquet of red and yellow roses was from her boyfriend, Mike Schmidt, who graduated from Sullivan West Central School in June. He was home for the weekend, but missed Monday night’s signing ceremony because he had to return to Paul Smith’s College. But Mike’s father Steve Schmidt attended the ceremony to congratulate Diescher.
Pete Gilardo Drafted by Red Sox
Pete Gilardo, a former Pro Prospects student and Dominican College senior, was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 45th round of 2007 Major League Baseball Draft. Pete finished the 2007 season with a .316 batting average to finish third on the team. He finished 27th in the CACC in hitting and was third in throwing out base runners (16). Pete finished his career at Dominican with a .328 average, 174 hits, 37 doubles, three triples and six home runs. He had a .443 slugging percentage, a .971 fielding percentage and threw out 59 base runners. “It’s awesome that I will have the opportunity to continue playing baseball on the professional level,” Gilardo said. “I was following the draft on my computer and it was just an amazing feeling when I was picked by the Boston Red Sox. I am anxious and excited to get to Florida and get started playing.”
Minor Leaguers Prepare at Pro Prospects
April 27, 2007
By Rob Potter
Sullivan County Democrat
MONTICELLO — The road to becoming a Major League Baseball player is usually filled with many stops along the way. Players who are drafted out of college by one of the 30 Major League teams often spend a least a couple of seasons improving their game in the minor leagues.
Two current minor league players who are working hard to someday achieve that goal of reaching the big leagues recently spent some time working out at Pro Prospects Training Center in Monticello. Eddie Gonzalez, who spent the 2004 and 2005 seasons playing for the Sullivan Spartans of the Collegiate Baseball League, and Travis Garcia have been working on their swings and keeping in baseball shape at Pro Prospects. Gonzalez and Garcia played for the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints of the independent Frontier League last season and will play for the Paints again this summer. Helping the teammates with their preseason training is Jared Carrier, General Manager of Pro Prospects and Head Coach/GM of the Sullivan Spartans.“We videotape their training sessions and then give them a DVD so they can see what they are doing and where they can improve,” Carrier said.
Gonzalez, who joined the Paints in the middle of last season after playing for the River City Rascals, is happy to be training with his former coach.“That’s a great man over there,” said Gonzalez, as he pointed his bat at Carrier – who was setting up a pitching machine – prior to a training session last Thursday evening at Pro Prospects. “I can call him up if I’m having a hitting problem and he can tell me how to adjust my swing without even being there.”
Gonzalez, who worked at the Swan Lake Resort & Hotel in Swan Lake and was also employed as a Pro Prospects summer camp instructor when he played for the Spartans in ’04 and ’05, and Garcia have spent the last two weeks in Sullivan County. They have been completing two-a-day workouts, training for a couple of hours with Coach Mike Marra and the Sullivan County Community College Generals baseball team and then training at Pro Prospects for a few hours later in the day. They are eager for the Paints’ new season to begin next month. The team’s first game is slated for May 23 and the 96-game season will wrap up in early September. Last season, Garcia and Gonzalez helped Chillicothe reach the Frontier League’s best-of-five-game championship series. Garcia, 25, who hails from the Bronx, played at NCAA Division I Iona College and was drafted by the New York Mets in 2003. That year and in 2004, he played for a few of the Mets’ Class A minor league teams, including the Brooklyn Cyclones, Capital City (S.C) Bombers and Port St. Lucie (Fla.) Mets. Last season, he played shortstop for the Paints and hit 11 home runs.“We are always working hard on all aspects of the game,” Garcia said. “In the winter, you think about the game a lot. So it’s great to get out now and take some swings.”
Gonzalez, who was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, played for Webber International University in Florida, an NAIA Division I school. During his time with Chillicothe last season, he batted in the .240s and hit three homers. One of those round trippers was a game-winner. Although his primarily played catcher and shortstop in his two seasons with the Sullivan Spartans, the 23-year-old Gonzalez played all four infield positions for the Paints last season.“We’re excited to begin the season,” Gonzalez said. “We are going to keep working hard and trying to improve.” Of course, Garcia and Gonzalez are hoping that their talent combined with their hard work will enable them to someday take the field wearing a Major League uniform.
School's Pitch: Baseball and Kids
December 26, 2002
By Victor Whitman
Monticello – Brandon Katz presses his fingers tightly on the baseball, takes a deep breath – a quick sigh of a breath – and hurls it at the netting at this practice facility in a downtown Monticello warehouse. He misses. Way outside. Grabbing another ball, Katz tosses a lesson over in his mind. Don’t grip too tightly. Relax. Keep the glove pointed down.”Not bad,” said coach Steve Pinto of his next effort. “It was a strike.”
Katz, 14, dreams of playing for the Mets. He pitched a no-hitter last year for his Liberty modified school team and some college coaches scouted him recently. He might make it to the majors. He might not, but he has come along since he met Pinto in 1995 – back when he was a shy, awkward 7-year-old who couldn’t get a pitch over the plate. Pinto, 34, a former minor leaguer with the Catskill Cougars and owner of Pro Prospects, also has a dream. Sure, it would be great if Katz or any student makes it to the big leagues. Not too long ago he was fine-tuning his batting swing with the precision of a scientist to follow the dream. But now he just wants to help the kids. “I don’t have a business goal,” he said. “My goal is to take an active interest in the lives of the kids and be a role model.”
Pinto, a former sportswriter for the Times Herald-Record, started the school in 1997 with three students. Really, it wasn’t much of a school. Some parents asked him to coach.”Brandon was one of his first students we have been coming here since he opened,” Katz’s mother, Colleen Kelly, said. “It’s amazing to watch. We have watched it grow …just multiply and it doesn’t stop.” The school now has three instructors. Last week, 140 kids showed up for lessons. It will get busier until April. Pinto has plans to expand to a larger facility. He recently submitted a proposal to the Town of Thompson to buy 3 acres of town land off Cold Spring and Gandy roads.”It’s become a full-time job,” he said. “When I first started I never thought it would be a full-time endeavor. It was unintentional. I pinch myself every morning when I wake up. I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
Pinto never achieved his dream of playing major league ball, and most of his kids won’t either. But a lot can be learned from baseball, he said – like teamwork, getting along with people and handling frustration. Katz isn’t ready to give up. He can see himself on the mound, Shea Stadium, Mets versus Yankees, game seven. A scout for the Anaheim Angels showed up last Sunday and watched him throw. So far, that’s been the apex of his career. Baseball – “I dream about it,” he said.
Love of Game Endures, Uncorrupted by Money
August 30, 2002
By Kevin Gleason
A cold rain wakes us up and, like greed, won’t go away. You figure if baseball is going to quit on us, yesterday marks the perfect preview. What a miserable day in the mid-Hudson, everywhere. Are they really going to do it? Are they really going to quit on us? Could the millionaires possibly be so crass? Oh, but the dreariest day has its bursts of sunlight. Grasses are greening. Farmers are smiling. And, I will realize soon enough, that baseball will thrive forever.
Not major-league baseball. No, not the big boys. Sooner or later a generation will smarten up to their game. Sooner or later kids will agree that it’s fun to play but nowhere near as much fun to watch. I just hope I’m around to see owners go broke and salaries fall. But baseball, the game, is a cloudless sky staring down youthful innocence. Baseball is kids fitting a glove for the first time. Baseball is a parent pitching to his child in the backyard.
So I high-tail it up the Quickway to Pro Prospects training facility in Monticello. The day needs light; it needs promise. Kids of all ages and sizes learn the game in the old warehouse off Broadway. A couple 10-year-olds from Brooklyn, a girl and a boy vacationing in the Catskills, take turns getting instruction on hitting and pitching. Separated by netting, a 20-year-old named Sam Turkson takes batting practice next door.”This,” Pro Prospects owner Steve Pinto announces, “is baseball. “This is the true spirit of baseball.” The students are eager. They want time to slow while absorbing every word and motion.
“I play a lot of sports,” Mara Sokol-Rubenstein says, “but my favorite is baseball.” She goes to Yankees games “to see the Yankees win,” not to get autographs. She finds softball a bit silly, and has played against boys in leagues since age 6. These are the kids big-league big-shots threaten to curse. Mara’s friend Nick Rozar listens to Yankees games on the radio – at age 10! – because he doesn’t get cable. Nick spends 10 minutes on his way out the door asking Pinto about pitch selection. The boy humbly tells of a recent change-up that made the batter lunge.
“People ask my take on the strike,” Pinto says. “I don’t have one.” Pinto once loved baseball like these kids. Now another source carries his love for the game. “This is where my love of the game comes from,” Pinto says, pointing to the kids. “I think 99.9 percent of us identify this with baseball.” Mara and Nick promise loyalty to the game whether baseball quits on them or not. Major League Baseball is lucky to have them. Baseball, the game, will always have them.
OT to reach dream
March 23, 2001
By Kevin Gleason
MONTICELLO: The 1998 Monticello graduate is trying to find the best path to a pro pitching career. There have been two Erik Lubniewskis, really. The first was Lubniewski the average baseball player. The second is Lubniewski the professional prospect.
The first was a Monticello senior right-hander who walked into Pro Prospects baseball training center three years ago, stepped to the mound and unleashed a fastball … 66 mph. The second is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound 20-year-old with a rippling-live 87-88 mph fastball. He wishes his was a tidy rags-to-riches tale. But stories are never as simple as they sound.
Lubniewski knows how he progressed to tossing professional stuff, three pitches that perform assorted tricks: hard work, mechanical and mind-set improvements, physical growth. But where he’ll find the forum to lure professional scouts remains the intriguing question.
Lubniewski, a 1998 Monticello graduate, has exhausted his two-year eligibility at SUNY Orange and is about 20 credits shy of graduating. Division I schools Iona and Marist have expressed interest, Pro Prospects owner Steve Pinto said, but Lubniewski needs the degree to play at a Division I school. Lubniewski’s second option, which he’s leaning toward, is to use his sources to get professional tryouts. Among those sources is Pinto, a former independent-league player.
“Last year I had a few people look at me (who were of) professional status or played within pro (ball) and they said I have the talent to keep going,” Lubniewski said. “I have plenty of faith in myself.” Lubniewski has already “kicked” himself “in the butt” for not mapping a more conventional route to his dream. He remembers not thinking much about college while at Monticello, at least in part because “I didn’t think about my talent.”
But Lubniewski sleeps easily knowing hard work will open doors to his future.”It’s up to me, actually,” Lubniewski said. “I have to make the call.” Pinto raves about Lubniewski’s work ethic. For the last four years, Lubniewski has spent three to four days a week almost year round at the facility. He picks up instruction easily and works overtime refining his skills.
He’s made a similar commitment to the Smallwood-Mongaup Valley Fire Department. A four-year member, Lubniewski made lieutenant last year.”I like to volunteer for the community,” said Lubniewski, who lives about 500 feet from the department in Smallwood. His passion for fighting fires has given Lubniewski another career possibility. Whether he’s throwing heat or battling it, Lubniewski likes his chances.
Dietrich takes control on mound
By Justin Rodriguez
Forget about the technical stuff. Don’t warm up. Just throw the ball. That’s the advice Monticello pitcher Analey Dietrich gets from her father, Dennis. His approach might sound unconventional, but it works. Dietrich is 11-2 with a 1.75 ERA for the Panthers this season. She has already matched her win total from 2000. And Monticello still has six games remaining on its schedule.”If I’m just throwing the ball, I’m not worrying about anything else,” said Dietrich, a senior. “That’s the way I was taught. It’s worked pretty good. I just try to have a good time out there.”
That’s not hard for Dietrich. She practically grew up on a softball field, watching her father pitch. Dennis Dietrich is regarded as one of the best modified pitchers in the area. His heyday came in the early 1990s when he played for Roche’s Garage in various local leagues. Dietrich said she remembers watching her father playing from her baby carriage. She still watches him play. Dietrich began pitching as a freshman on the jayvee team. She threw in three varsity games as a sophomore, but earned the starting job last season. As a junior, Dietrich went 11-8. But Dietrich wanted an edge. So she began taking lessons at Pro Prospects Training Center in Monticello.
With her father at her side, Dietrich improved her control during sessions this winter. Now she is regarded as one of the top hurlers in the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association.”I knew the other day when I was pitching against Monticello I would be facing a real good pitcher,” said 2000 Times Herald-Record Player of the Year Jess Donohue of Cornwall. Donohue tossed a four-hitter against Monticello on April 30, leading the Green Dragons to a 6-0 OCIAA Division III win.”She was good last year, I was kind of surprised,” Donohue added. “But I think she is even better this season.”
Like her father, Dietrich comes at batters with an awkward delivery. Her body twists as she releases the ball toward the plate, distracting the hitter. That makes things tough on the opposition. Combine that with improved control, and Dietrich is a formidable pitcher.”This has been a long time coming,” Dietrich said. “I’ve worked so hard. It feels pretty good for all this to be happening.”
By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO — December 20, 2002
The Pro Prospects Baseball/Softball Training School has been very active since it opened in 1997.Pro Prospects founder Steve Pinto started the school slowly, training three children. Now the school teaches over 200 kids a year.
For the last three years, Pinto has been looking for property to try and expand his school. The current school on North Lakewood Avenue is just not large enough to suit the facility’s needs .Pinto has been working with the Town of Thompson and Supervisor Tony Cellini to purchase some property on Cold Spring Road. The property is the former facility for the Town’s Department of Public Works (DPW).
The current facility has two batting cages and a pitching tunnel, which allows three lessons to be taught at once. The proposed facility would have four batting cages, allowing for four lessons at a time. The building would be 60 ft. by 115 ft. with a 20-foot ceiling.During the last few months, baseball and softball scouts from colleges and professional leagues have come down to look at the students. Last year, one student was signed by the Boston Red Sox.
Earlier this year, a scout from the 2002 World Series Champion Anaheim Angels was there to see the students.Cellini discussed the school’s plans with the other Town of Thompson board members at their meeting on Tuesday night. The board members were very supportive of the project.They had Town Assessor Thomas Frey give an estimate on the property’s value. Before agreeing to sell the property, the board wants exact estimates on how large the school will be, how much property is needed and the impacts. They requested that Pinto have some site plans drawn up in the near future and meet with Town of Thompson Code Enforcement Officer TJ Brawley.”I feel great about the town’s support,” Pinto said. “Tony Cellini has gone above and beyond with his assistance and guidance. I grew up in Sullivan County. My heart is here and I wanted to commit to the kids in the area.”The plans for the school are still in the very early stages. If the Town of Thompson sells Pinto the property, the project still needs Planning and Zoning Board approvals.
Pinto is hopeful to have the new facility open, if all goes well, by the end of next year.
Pro Prospects Brings Home A Win From Florida
By Frank Rizzo
MONTICELLO — February 27, 2001
The Monticello Pro Prospects softball team won an American Softball Association (ASA) 18-and-under national tournament over the Presidents’ Day weekend at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla.
The tourney was part of Disney’s Fast Pitch Festival. Pro Prospects beat the New Jersey Silver Starz 4-1 behind Analey Dietrich of Smallwood and Monticello High School.Dietrich yielded one hit and struck out five while walking nine.“It was a real small strike zone,” the hurler commented.Analey shared the game’s MVP with her sister Shannon, who went 2-for-3 with a double and triple and one RBI and even stole home.
Kristie Beamer of Monticello drove in a couple of runs.Shannon also made a diving catch behind second base with runners on second and third for the game’s final out.Monticello HS softball teammate Kim Donohue, the catcher, had two pickoffs.Pro Prospects began the tourney with a 5-4 loss to the Jersey Silver Starz, with Dietrich taking the loss.
The Prospects then underwent what coach Dennis Dietrich called a couple of “Mickey Mouse” situations. First, their next opponent, the Dutch national team, showed up and they were all over 18 years of age and were wearing steel spikes — both violations.“They wanted us to sign a waiver releasing them from responsibility in case of injury, but we said no,” Dennis related.As a result, Prospects won by forfeit.
The Maitland Sting of the Orlando area then showed up an hour late for the 1:15 game, and also had to forfeit. According to Dennis Dietrich, the local squad arrived scant minutes after the umpires had already called the game.Prospects did agree to play a scrimmage against Maitland, however, and won 2-1 behind Michelle Olsen of Liberty. Crystal Forget of Monticello copped this game’s MVP.Dennis Dietrich said the facilities at the Wide World of Sports Complex were first class. He gave his thanks on behalf of the team and the other coaches — Kristi Dean, Pat Shuart, and Charlie Beamer — for all the people whose contributions helped make the trip possible.
The Prospects hope to travel to another national-caliber tourney later this year.
They're Going to Disney World
by Rob Potter
SULLIVAN COUNTY — February 12, 2002
The Pro Prospects softball team is going to DisneyWorld.
While they are planning to enjoy their time in Orlando, the team members are also on a mission.
That mission is to defend the championship they won at last year’s Disney’s Wide World of Sports Fast Pitch Festival. The team members and coaches will leave the county tomorrow afternoon for the festival, which begins Friday and ends on Sunday.
Pro Prospects begins its quest to repeat at 5 p.m. Friday with a game versus Finesse, a team from Michigan. After playing Finesse, Pro Prospects will meet each of the other teams in its 18-and-Under Fast Pitch pool.After those four opening-round games have been played, Pro Prospects will be seeded for the single elimination tournament based on its pool performance. There, they will play teams from the other division – which features another Michigan team as well as squads from Kentucky and the state of Washington.Obviously, the Pro Prospects players and coaches hope to be in the championship game on Sunday afternoon.“We’re the defending champs and we’re going down there to win again,” Manager Dennis Dietrich said.
For the past two months, the team has been practicing in the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse at Sullivan County Communty College. And they even worked out outside once during a reacent spell of unseasonably warm weather.“We want to thank everyone who has helped us,” Dietrich said. “Of course, Steve Pinto and his business, Pro Prospects, is our sponsor. We thank Chris Depew, Kyle Walter and everyone here at SCCC for letting us use the facilities. And we thank all the businesses and people who have donated money.”Those who donated include: Candy Cone, Karl Colberg, Monticello PBA, Monticello Bagel Bakery and Deli, Tim Yaun Plumbing & Heating, First National Bank of Jeffersonville, Lakewood Estates, Gala Sand & Gravel, Inc., John Thayer (Freihofers), International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825, Gary Schmidt, Smallwood-Mongaup Valley Fire Department, Wyde Lumber, Pat Sarsfield, Arthur Trovei & Son, Inc., Mary and Raymond O’Kane, Nora Manzolillo, Middletown Honda, Kauneonga Lake Fire Department, Unstitch, Inc., Jo’s Groundskeeping, Inc., Hillside Nursery & Landscape Corp., Steve and Susan White, Bob Whipple, Mr. Willy’s and Pete Rossiter.The team also held a 50/50 raffle to help raise the needed funds to travel to Florida. Charles Travis of Cortlandt Manor won first prize in the raffle, while Sheryl Manz of Monticello won second prize.
All of the members of last year’s team, except for three players, are back for 2002. (Those three are Kristi Beamer, Cindy Jessup and Jessica Konefal, all of whom are 2001 Monticello Central School graduates and are now either too old to play on the team and/or away at college.)
While this year’s squad consists mostly of Monticello student-athletes, there are team members from Chapel Field, Liberty and Port Jervis high schools.During their time in the Sunshine State, the Pro Prospects players and coaches will spend some time sight seeing and visiting the beach. But, of course, softball remains the main focus of the weekend.
“We’re going to have a good time, but we’re also going there to win,” Assistant Coach Pat Shuart said. “It should be a very competitive tournament.”Kim Donohue, a Monticello senior, was a member of the winning Pro Prospects team last year and is eager to capture the crown again.
“We’re going (down there) to win,” she said.
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