George Washington southpaw Nestor Bautista and John Adams right-hander Rafael Guerrero. FDR catcher Melvin Rios, Bishop Ford catcher Mike Molbury, and Telecommunications outfielder Stan Simmons.
What do all these local baseball standouts have in common?
Three words: Long Island University.
They are future Blackbirds, part of the LIU coaching staff’s continuing dedication to building a baseball program from within the five boroughs.
“We really try to do our best to keep as many local players as possible,” said assistant coach Craig Noto, LIU’s recruiting coordinator. “We think with the local guys we got, they are gonna make an immediate impact for us.”
This, of course, is nothing new. Coach Don Maines’ program produced James Jones, a standout outfielder/left-handed pitcher out of Telecom, who was taken in the fourth round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Seattle Mariners. Last spring’s club, in fact, had seven locals — such as former Archbishop Molloy right-hander Chris Franzese, Moore Catholic infielder Gerard Tingos and Beacon southpaw Paul Lopez.
“It proves they are scouting their backyard,” Guerrero said.
These five prospects all had different reasons for choosing LIU.
One of the top catchers in the Catholic league, Molbury was initially all set at Stony Brook, but didn’t get the necessary SAT score and found a welcoming suitor in LIU. Bautista was in search of a four-year school he could blossom at, perhaps becoming a pro prospect, and LIU was the right fit. Guerrero was more interested in his education than his baseball career and liked the sports management program at the Brooklyn school.
Simmons loved the school for its facilities and academics, because he got to know it so well being located just two blocks at Telecom; and Rios was sold by Simmons, his friend and teammate with the Brooklyn Bonnies.
“It’s gonna be a fun couple of years at LIU,” Rios said.
Noto is particularly intrigued by the two pitchers, Bautista and Guerrero, a pair of 6-foot-3 hard-throwers with plenty of upside. Neither was taken in the First-Year Player Draft, although that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the years to come.
Both of the lanky pitchers throw in the mid-to-high 80s and have yet to fill out.
“Nestor and Rafael are pro guys down the line,” Noto said. “When these guys are juniors in college, they are gonna get a lot of attention.”
LIU has struggled recently, going 14-42 last year, and managing a 10-40 campaign despite the prolific Jones the year before that. But the program is filled with talented youngsters. Beyond the incoming recruits, more than half of the players on the 27-man roster — 16 of them in fact — were underclassmen, who lost 12 one-run games in conference play and 19 overall.
“From a talent standpoint, we are very good,” Noto said. “The winning will come.”
The locals are coming for that reason. Sure, they all would like to get drafted one day, enjoy a professional career, and someday reach the major leagues. But all five of the city players that have committed to LIU have won in high school.
Molbury, a power-hitting catcher with a rocket for a right arm was integral to Bishop Ford’s resurgence the last two years under coach Mike Hanrahan, helping the Falcons reach the CHSAA Class A quarterfinals. Bautista pitched George Washington to the PSAL Class A semifinals. Simmons and Rios were part of winning ball clubs at Telecom and FDR, respectively, while Guerrero’s right arm keyed John Adams to the Queens A Mid-West division title by going 8-0 with a 0.47 ERA during the regular season and 91 strikeouts in 51-1/3 innings pitched.
“We definitely can be an NCAA tournament team,” Guerrero said. “We have what it takes.”