Vinny Caiazza has been described as the White Knight of Brooklyn baseball. Caiazaa defending the borough’s reputation is as much a spring tradition as halter tops and sandals.
With Grand Street Campus moving to Brooklyn A East and his Madison team, along with Brooklyn Tech and Midwood coming off second-round finishes, he doesn’t have to sell Brooklyn like he once has.
There is a downside to that — the Knights, undefeated in Brooklyn A East two of the last three years, won’t have it so easy this spring.
“It’s not gonna be a given this year,” he said of finishing first. “I already told the kids if they win the division, I’ll take them to dinner.”
Complicating matters, Madison graduated its ace (Eddie Lenahan), closer (Matt Ecock), and 3-4-5 hitters in center fielder Joe Calascione, Lenahan and John Yuksekol. As was the case two years, Madison will be depending somewhat on freshmen, Kenny Gonzalez somewhere in the infield and outfield, Dylan Kirsch and Sean Moore in the outfield and Christian Capellan and Moore on the mound.
“I’m still feeling them out,” the coach said. “When you got young kids, you don’t know. This is a two-year team. All these kids are going to come back next year. I’m trying to be patient. I don’t know how well we’re going to hit. These kids are still developing.”
The freshmen who shined in 2009, helping Madison reach the PSAL Class A semifinals, are now juniors and ready to lead.
Junior Joseph Cali and Mike Fitzpatrick, who combined for eight regular-season wins last spring, are two of Caiaza’s tri-aces along with Xaverian transfer Chris Vasquez, a sophomore. “1A, 1B and 1C,” is how Caiazza described the troika. Cali is a control specialist who mixes his four pitches well while Fitzpatrick relies on a mid 80s fastball that can be overpowering. Vasquez is a combination of the two.
“They throw strikes and with the pitch-count rules this year, I think that’s gonna help us a lot,” Caiazza said. “They’ll keep us in every game.”
The question mark for Madison is how it will produce offensively. The core of last year’s group has moved on to college and last year’s club wasn’t exactly an offensive powerhouse. Caiazza doesn’t have mammoth expectations for his four freshmen, who will all either see time on the mound or in the field. He’s counting on shortstop and leadoff man Joe Abadia to excel in his second year after transferring from Canarsie, Fitzpatrick, Vasquez and junior Matthew Zalon.
“He could do it all,” Caiazza said of Abadia, who scored 26 runs and batted .409 last season. “Even if he doesn’t hit, he can do a lot things with his legs and his glove.”
Unlike past seasons, Caiazza will have a good idea what kind of team he is dealing with early in the season. The division, as he said, is improved, and for once he won’t be the favorite. That would be Grand Street Campus and its top-notch talent. Not that Caiazza is necessarily worried.
“They’re big, they’re powerful, but we match up well with them,” he said. “We match up well with a lot of teams and it’s because of the pitching.”