When team leaders Daniel Mendez, Franciel Campusano, Franklyn Perez, and Johnny Faison Jr. gathered for offseason workouts, the four didn’t talk about goals for the upcoming season. They didn’t discuss hitting techniques or how to attack opposing hitters.
They concentrated on the bench.
“We had a plan to be loud and get everybody up and have good team chemistry,” Campusano said.
The quartet figured the tighter the Tigers were off the field, the more noise they made during at-bats, the closer they became to sounding like a softball team, and more they encouraged one another, the better the results.
With an 11-1 record and sole lead of Brooklyn A West, they were clearly on to something.
The rest of the borough is paying for it — as is coach Al Casciani — with their eardrums.
“I tell them the chanting annoys me, so annoy me,” Casciani joked. “It keeps them in the game.”
New Utrecht was the latest victim as Fort Hamilton blanked the Utes, 8-0, on May 10, expanding its division lead. Campusano went the distance for his team-leading fifth win, allowing just one infield hit and striking out five, and Perez and catcher Tamel Galan each drove in two runs. Faison, a speedy second baseman, and Mendez, the first baseman each had two hits and drove in a run and centerfielder Jonathan Maldonado scored three runs.
The Tigers were typically loud for every at-bat. Each player stood – even Campusano, the starting pitcher – and chanted in English, Spanish, and sometimes a combination of the two.
“Everybody has their own chant on the team,” Campusano said. “Everybody has a nickname. We always have fun. We love each other. It’s like a second family.”
The bond has grown over several years, the current crop teaming together for three seasons. They went 6-10 two years ago, 12-4 last spring and now have established themselves as a possible dark horse in the upcoming playoffs.
Fort Hamilton is a lot more than rhythmic songs and chants. Its also pretty talented. Casciani calls this his deepest pitching staff. Campusano and Maldonado are his two aces, but Perez is a solid No. 3, and the longtime coach also has the luxury of using reliable relievers John Dinoris and Jhon Matias out of the bullpen.
Campusano threw a no-hitter in the Tigers’ lone league loss — a 1-0 defeat to perennial power James Madison, which reached the PSAL Class A semifinals last year. The Tigers’ lineup, comprised of speedy singles hitters that put pressure on the opposition’s defense, has produced 42 runs since the loss to Madison.
“When you get that first loss, you can break down,” Campusano said. “Our plan was to go hard the next day in practice and make sure we don’t lose again.”
Casciani and his players are optimistic, for good reason, of their chances in the postseason. They’ve heard plenty about how weak Brooklyn is. They go on chanting nevertheless.
“When the playoffs comes,” Faison said of Brooklyn’s perceived inferiority, “it will be a different story.”
It will be nearly impossible for them not to be heard.