Lyndhurst hosts annual baseball camp for 65 youngsters

It’s the third year that Pat Auteri hosted the Lyndhurst Baseball Camp down at the township’s recreational facility and the head coach at Lyndhurst High believes that this was the biggest to date.

“We had 65 kids and that’s the most we ever had,” said Auteri, who just finished his second year as the Lyndhurst head coach. “For the most part, we got out to the schools and handed out fliers. Every year, the number has been going up. Hopefully, we’ll get 75 next year.”

The camp was held last week, with Auteri running the show, but getting assistance from a lot of different sources.

“We got a lot of support from the town,” Auteri said. “The (Lyndhurst) Recreation department let us use the field and gave me whatever I needed. We even had use of the softball field (which is adjacent to the main baseball field), so that was good for the younger kids. We had use of the entire complex. The town likes to show off the facilities and this was a good opportunity to do so. The town is so proud of it.”
Auteri thanked Thomas DiMaggio, the Commissioner of Parks; Rich Gress, the Superintendent of Parks/DPW; and Paul Passamano, the Recreation Coordinator for their help in getting the facility ready.

“Everyone chips in,” Auteri said. “We want the kids in town to be familiar with me before they get to high school. Maybe in the future, we can do two weeks, because this one week went by so quickly. We’re going to try to put that together for next year. No doubt about the fact that Lyndhurst kids love their baseball.”

Auteri said that the week-long activities were broken into two sessions.

“In the morning session, it was strictly instruction,” Auteri said. “For the most part, the kids are here to learn and we give them plenty to learn.”

But then after lunch, the camp becomes fun.

“We have games all afternoon,” Auteri said. “The kids really enjoy that. They take a few things that they learn in the morning sessions and bring them to use in the games.”

Last Wednesday, the campers had contests to compete in.

“We timed them in base running and accuracy throwing,” Auteri said.

On Thursday, the highlight of the camp took place with the Home Run Derby.

“We have a good time with that,” Auteri said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun. Kids are out of school for a reason. Sure, they learn some, but we want them to have fun as well. I love seeing the kids’ faces during the week. They’re all playing the game of baseball because they love it. I see that energy and I think it’s just great.”

Auteri said that he gets a special kick out of working with the younger campers.

“Teaching the little ones gives me the biggest thrill,” Auteri said. “To see them doing things right makes me smile. It means that they’re learning and listening, which is a key. They also get familiar with me and my coaching staff, so they know what to expect down the road from us. It really is a great week.”

One of the personal thrills that Auteri received came from teaching his 13-year-old nephew Vinnie during the camp.

Vinnie Auteri will be an eighth grader at Roosevelt School in September.

“I really like baseball,” Vinnie Auteri said. “I’ve been playing since I was five years old, back when I played T-ball. I guess I like to keep it in the family.”

But during the week, Pat Auteri wasn’t Uncle Pat.

“Nope, I called him, ‘Coach,’” Vinnie Auteri said. “He’s the coach and I’m going to play for him at Lyndhurst High School.”

Vinnie was asked what he learned during camp.

“I learned how to stay low and go low on the infield,” Vinnie Auteri said. “I’m a second baseman and I learned if I stay low, I can field a ground ball better.”

So what was it like to be taught and coached by an uncle?
“It was awesome,” Vinnie Auteri said. “I was learning and having fun at the same time.”

The Nowinski brothers, Ben and Jack, also participated in the camp.

Ben is a 13-year-old eighth grader at Jefferson School.

“I worked on my bunting,” Ben Nowinski said. “I learned how to position my bat and where to put the ball. I learned how much power I should put on the ball when I bunt it.”

Jack is an 11-year-old sixth grader at Jefferson. He plays all sports _ football, basketball and baseball _ but likes baseball best.

“I learned about fielding the ball and leading the throw to first base,” Jack Nowinski said. “I had so much fun with my friends. I was learning stuff, but having fun made it better. It was pretty good to be there with my friends. It’s the fourth time I went to this camp. I was learning new stuff every day.”

Ben Nowinski’s highlight of the week was the Home Run Derby.

“I made it to the finals,” Ben Nowinski said. “I was on the field with all my friends and it was great. If there wasn’t a camp, I would be just hanging out, but this way, I was able to keep playing baseball. That makes me better and encourages me to play more. I’m lucky to have all the stuff that Lyndhurst has to offer.”

Vinnie Auteri’s summer of baseball hasn’t ended. He still plays on the Lyndhurst Recreation travel team.

“I highly recommend it,” Auteri said of the camp. “If I wasn’t there, I’d probably be home playing video games.”

Baseball is always a healthier alternative.

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer