2022 Glastonbury 13U American Legion Team State Champions: Back row (l-r): Coach Jeff Bernabeo, MGR Ian Race, Camden Sadak, Adin Goldberg, Zachary Bernabeo, Jayden Korber, Derick Li, EJ Ross, Bryce Gregor, Coach Derrick Gregor, Coach Steve Fischer; front row: Zachary Rafferty, Cameron Morosky, Colin Gaudet, Cooper Saunders, Bennett Race, Paul DiSanto III, Jack Fischer, Ian Assante
Glastonbury Amateur Baseball (GAB) had a summer to remember. All four of Glastonbury’s American Legion teams (13U/15U/17U/19U) qualified for the state tournament, and the 13-and-under team won the first state championship in the history of the GAB.
GAB President Brian Suriner said the championship was a result of the strong relationship with the town’s little league program, led by Glastonbury Little League (GLL) president Don Longtin.
After finishing 23-3 in the regular season and earning the No. 1 seed in the state tournament, the 13U team swept through the state tournament with five straight wins, including a 7-0 shutout of Torrington in the championship game at Riverfront Park on July 30.
In the handful of tourney wins, Glastonbury outscored their opponents 39-12 and connected on 35 more hits than the opposition.
Zachary Bernabeo was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament after starring from both the plate and mound, and Derick Li was named the tourney’s Most Valuable Hitter after reaching base on 70% of his plate appearances, along with leading the team in hit and runs scored this summer.
Bernabeo, Li, Jack Fisher, and Cooper Saunders all made All-Stars.
The group was coached by Ian Race, who was assisted by Jeff Bernabeo, Steve Fischer, Derrick Gregor, and Matt Hill.
Suriner said what made the championship group special was they had chemistry from playing together throughout little league and were coming off an impressive showing in the spring.
“They had some unfinished business.” Suriner said of the team. “They had a target on their back and they knew that going into the season.”
GAB’s youngest team provided the fireworks and the three other teams held their own in what turned out to be a banner summer.
15U, coached by Mark Woodworth, finished the regular season 18-10 and added two tourney wins. Jacoby Crawford, Jacob Jablonowski, Bennett Bedard, and Danny Wallace were the team’s four All-Stars.
17U, coached by Dan Cantafi, won 13 regular season games and two more in the tourney, producing four All-Stars in Anthony Michaud, Chris Heap, Connor Cantafi, Cooper Pierro (honorable mention).
19U, led by Suriner, won 10 games and had five players make All-Stars: Drew Curto, Jayden Sgro, Danny Cantafi, Luke Rafferty (honorable mention), Jarrod Cosalan (honorable mention).
It marked the most successful season in the history of the GAB, which was started in 1995 to provide a local and competitive travel baseball league for summer and fall competition.
Suriner added that the number of players has continued to rise consistently over the past decade. He attributes the growth to the program’s “secret sauce”, which takes place as the little league level where no cuts are made and everybody gets a chance to play.
“GAB’s mission is parallel with the little league’s mission,” added Suriner. “We want to develop kids not only on the baseball field, but also in life.”
Longtin added that the idea is to “create baseball fans” and said that player’s paths through the system are not always the same.
“We see it every year, high school stars are not always the same as the stars from when they were in little league,” added Longtin. “A lot of people develop later on.”
Suriner said that the relationships with the town’s Parks and Recreation is also crucial, calling them “the third team in town”
“They have been great. They help us and they allow us to help,” stated Suriner. “We contribute money every year to a fund that goes into the fields for resodding and resurfacing, putting in new bases, and maintenance of fences.”
Suriner added that there is no offseason for the GAB. The organization is working on projects throughout the year, as well as thinking ahead to what needs to be accomplished five years from now.
They are currently working on redoing the softball field at the high school, which will include putting up new fences and constructing a press box behind home plate. They are hoping that phase one for the softball project will be completed by the spring with phase two wrapping up sometime next year. So far they have raised around $60,000 through grants and other sources, which is about halfway to their target goal of $125,000.
For more information about the GAB visit www.gburybaseball.com or www.glastonburylittleleague.org for additional details about the Glastonbury Little League.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin