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The Long Island Collegians and Mike Caulfield’s Positive Endeavors


The city of Long Island, also dubbed “ Strong Island” by the highly respected hip hop group De La Soul, has been involved with baseball for as long as bats and balls have clashed on these fields of dreams. In modern time, the game runs deep and strong as blood through human veins from the little league level, high school, colleges, summer leagues, and independent professionals. Players like Carl Yastrzemski, Craig Biggio, Frank Viola, have hailed from this, the largest island of the continental United States. This is where the story of a wood bat summer league team in the Atlantic Baseball League called the Long Island Collegians begins, and this also the story of the people who help nurture both its survival and its success. The Collegians were founded in 1985 and have been through names like the Stars, and the Mustangs, but in 2010, it’s a proud organization that’s been standing firm as Collegians for the past 7 years. The Collegians have a concentrated connection with the New York Institute of Technology so rooted at its core, that when you take a simple glance below the surface, you notice a decorous touch of many generations that seem to firmly marry the two programs.


Coach Rojas & Coach Thomas

The Vice President and General Manager of the Collegians Michael “Butch” Caulfield not only attended NYIT and graduated from there with a bachelor in Psychology; he’s been their hitting coach for the past 11 years. This past spring at NYIT, Caulfield helped coach his alma mater to a .313 team batting average and to the most hits in a single season (620). It’s no coincidence that the senior advisor with the Long Island Collegians is none other than his mentor at NYIT Bob Hirschfield. Hirschfield has been the head coach at NYIT for 29 years, and when you hear Caulfield talk about him you can’t help feel that there is a real baseball story there. “I look at him like a college baseball legend and I try to model myself after him”, Caulfield explains, “When you mention his name eyes open up.” The job of a GM is to produce the best possible team on the field, and Caulfield began that task by composing the Collegians coaching staff. For starters, Chris Rojas is their head coach. Also a graduate of NYIT, Rojas was named All-Conference in both his junior and senior year before being signed as a free agent by the Pittsburg Pirates in 1998. He spent 10 praiseworthy seasons in all levels of minor league baseball with the Pirates, Padres, and the Phillies organizations. He was a minor league All-Star and a member of the 2006 Team Puerto Rico in the first version of the World Baseball Classic, and experienced 2 Caribbean World Series with the Puerto Rican Winter League Mayquez Indios.

Below Rojas are three other coaches that must make the everyday grind for everyone much easier. Mike MacMillan, a former infielder at NYIT, and Mike Gaffney, also a former NYIT athlete and a baseball player that at one time reached the AA level with the Kansas City Royals from 2003-2008, further deepen the link between school and summer team. Rounding out the coaching staff for the Collegians is Greg Thomas. Thomas was drafted in the 15th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks and played 5 years in their system. I asked Caulfield what were the biggest selling points when recruiting potential players for the Collegians and his answer was returned quicker than John Wayne twirling a pistol and firing 3 rounds through the hat of an unprepared rival. He said with all confidence, “Without a doubt, it’s the coaching staff here. My coaching staff is the best in the nation.” Aside from coaches, I wanted to know about some of the Collegian players that were so instrumental in clinching the 2010 Kaiser Division’s 1st place spot. From any angle, it was easy to see how much of an effect Brett Roeske had on the teams’ success. The freshman, who leads the team in three of the four most important individual stats, is described by Caulfield with strong passion in his voice. “He has pro speed,” Caulfield raved, “Roeske is one the better kids I’ve seen in the outfield. His intensity is hard to match day in and day out and in every at bat. He can run, he can hit, and he can throw. He’s a good 5 tool player.” My curiosity about Richard McCarren was enlarged when Caulfield told me that McCarren currently plays all 9 positions and plays them well. “Yes, he plays all 9 positions and he’s a constant pro at the college level. I’ve known him since he was 9 years old, and he never changes his demeanor. When you want a big hit or simply someone to put the ball in play, Richard is the guy for you,” and as an exclamation point, Caulfield added, “He’s a very tough out.”

 

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Kevin Chenicek fires a pitch during Atlantic Coast League play

On the pitching side, I was most drawn to Michael Scudero. This summer the senior pitcher from Adelphi University has picked up amazing numbers as a Collegian. He has 3 complete games and 2 shut outs, he has an ERA of 0.27, a record of 4-0, in 33.1 innings of work. I wanted to know what makes this kid so impressive. “It’s his pinpoint control,” Caulfield continued, “Scudero has a positive mound presence, good body action, and he knows how to maintain a game. He looks like a big leaguer.” Of course we all love baseball stories, stats, and the funky characters that make the game special, but there are other stories of the game that can humble the hardest of people. Digging deeper into the Long Island Collegians, I discovered an inspirational piece of humanity. Within the world of those that know, there is a foundation called the Ryan T. Caulfield Foundation. It’s a non-profit organization designed to provide funds for the medical research and treatment of Lupus. But, who is Ryan T. Caulfield? Well, Ryan was Mike Caulfield’s brother, who at the age of 23 in 2000, died from complications related to a tormented five year battle with the disease. He was diagnosed with Lupus during his freshman year at NYIT, instead of cowering behind the mind altering news; Ryan never quit and played till he graduated college.

Today, Mike is the president of the foundation, and is dedicated to uplifting his brothers’ name with special annual events like the RTC Grand Slam All-Star Challenge. “We take the best players of Nassau and Suffolk Counties high school seniors, and also the catholic league. And they play against each other right now for bragging rights,” Caulfield proudly explains, “It’s a great event where everything is donated, including uniforms. We have about 50 vendors that come showing their products, concessions, prizes, and awards.” All of us could only wish that if something like this were to occur to us, that there would be people with enough vision, and heart to build such an honorable foundation in our honor. The Long Island Collegians won their last game of 2010 season against Lehigh Valley by the score of 12-10. Brett Roeske went 5 for 6; he scored 2 runs, and had 4 RBI’s. They will begin their Divisional Championships on August 4th against the Torrington Titans. You can follow the Collegians on www.licollegians.com, as they attempt to lock down the Atlantic Baseball Collegiate League, and you can learn more about the RTC Foundation at www.rtcfoundation.com.

 

 

By Adrian Nevarez
DFN Sports Staff Writer

 

 


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