LYNDHURST – Matteo Morelli is a 13-year-old Lyndhurst resident and eighth grader at Lincoln School. He’s a New York Yankees fan, with of course, Aaron Judge as his favorite player. And there’s no question that Morelli loves baseball.
“It’s a great sport,” Morelli said. “There’s nothing like it.”
So that’s the reason why Matteo was a participant for the fifth straight year at the Lyndhurst Golden Bears baseball camp last week.
“I need to work on my fielding,” said Morelli, a first baseman. “I could possibly be a better fielder.”
Morelli said that he loves coming to the camp.
“I like the coaches,” Morelli said. “And all my friends are here. It’s a lot of fun.”
Ryan Lemanowicz is a 10-year-old Roosevelt School student and fifth grader. He likes the Mets and his favorite player is Wilson Ramos.
“I could hit a little better,” Lemanowicz said. “I’ve been here four or five times. I like the coaches here.”
Nicholas Musto is also a 10-year-old Roosevelt School fifth grader, but he’s a big Philadelphia Phillies fan and likes Rhys Hoskins. Musto went to a Phillies game and received a ball that was autographed by Hoskins, so he was a fan of the “Fighting Phils” for life.
“I feel like I need to hit better,” said Musto, a third baseman. “I want to hit better. I want to learn. It’s good to play baseball.”
Derek Chaves is only seven years old, but he likes the Yankees and Judge as well.
“I want to get better at baseball,” young Derek said. “I feel like I’m getting better.”
Benjamin Morrison is eight years old and also likes the Yankees and Judge.
“I’m a shortstop,” said young Benjamin, a second grader at Washington School. “I’m going to be a good shortstop.”
Xavier Mieles is a 14-year-old incoming freshman at Lyndhurst High School.
“I’m very excited to be here,” said Mieles, a first and third baseman. “I want to become a better hitter. I’m getting the chance to get a lot of batting practice here, so that helps.”
The camp wasn’t only for boys.
Gianna Naviello is a 10-year-old fifth grader at Sacred Heart School in Lyndhurst.
“My Mom just signed me up for this,” Naviello said. “I really didn’t know much about it. Being here makes me try harder. There’s a lot to learn about baseball.”
Olivia Glasser is an eager 8-year-old third grader at Sacred Heart. She also likes the Yankees.
“I like all of them,” Olivia said about the Yankees. “They’re fun to watch.”
And Olivia was also happy to be a part of the camp.
“I like playing baseball,” Olivia said. “I play second base. I don’t like playing softball. I would rather play baseball. I learned how to get ready in the outfield. I don’t play the outfield a lot, but when I do, I’ll be ready. I had a lot of fun here playing with the boys. They’re not used to me being here, but that makes me play harder.”
That was just a sampling of the 60 or so youngsters who attended the annual camp at the Lyndhurst Recreation complex. Three different fields were active with youngsters learning about the sport, under the guidance of Lyndhurst High School head coach Pat Auteri.
“I love it,” Auteri said. “We had a lot of young kids this time, like the 8-to-10 age group. Our Little League does a great job of getting the kids ready. We did a free camp during spring break and we had a great turnout. I think that spring camp got a lot of kids familiar with us.”
Auteri said that his coaches go over an assortment of drills to help teach the kids about the national pastime.
“I’m encouraged by the turnout,” Auteri said. “It’s good to see that there’s still an interest in baseball. We will try to build on that. We want to keep the game as fun as possible and that will make them all want to come back. It’s great to hear the kids say what they’ve learned and say that they’re having fun.”
Auteri said that he’s received several calls and text messages from parents showing their support.
“They’re saying how much they love baseball,” Auteri said. “That’s all I want to hear. We’re giving the kids the strong fundamentals that they can take with them to their respective teams.”
Auteri has been able to keep the tradition of the summer camp that was established by long-time coach and Lyndhurst baseball legend Butch Servideo.
“I’m just keeping it going,” Auteri said. “As long as the kids are having fun, then we’re doing our job. If the kids can take one or two things from this camp, then that’s where you see the difference. They also get familiar with us at this age and that’s perhaps the most important thing.”
Because who knows? Maybe one of these campers could turn out to be one of Auteri’s stars of tomorrow.
More than 60 youngsters participated in the annual Lyndhurst Golden Bears baseball camp, headed by Lyndhurst High School head baseball coach Pat Auteri (center). Photo by Jim Hague