Lyndhurst ace Venezia fires no-hitter in opener against Leonia

Growing up, Lyndhurst High School junior pitcher Frankie Venezia didn’t have to look far to find the expert knowledge about the game of baseball.

In fact, Venezia found that expertise sitting in his own living room in the form of his father, Frank, the long-time respected coach and school administrator.

“I wanted to learn a lot from him,” the younger Venezia said. “He pushed me to work hard, first and foremost. I loved baseball from the minute I stepped on the field and I have my Dad to thank for that. He pushed me toward baseball.”
Although he was never a baseball coach, the elder Venezia was a long-time softball coach at St. Mary’s in Rutherford, where he won close to 400 games. Frank Venezia was also the athletic director at St. Mary’s for 20 years and is a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Frank Venezia has been the vice principal at Lyndhurst High School for the past decade. He was also an assistant football coach at Lyndhurst.

“I always accepted his knowledge,” the younger Venezia said. “He always preached hard work. Everything he said incredibly was the right thing. He would say something and I might have been a little pigheaded and turn away from him. But later on, I would say to myself, ‘Wow, maybe he does know everything. That’s what I thought was awesome about him. He knew so much.”

The Venezias _ father and son, as well as Frankie’s younger brother Adam (a current freshman and teammate of Frankie’s on the Golden Bears’ roster) _ would all gather in the family living room to watch baseball.

“We always watched together,” Frankie Venezia said. “I was always looking to get better, to learn more about the game. Sitting there with my Dad, always watching the game, always paying attention to every detail. I think I watched more than the normal guy, but that was because of my Dad.”

Frankie Venezia has been a member of the Lyndhurst varsity baseball team from almost the minute he strolled into the school. There was no doubt he was playing varsity baseball as a freshman and no question he was going to be a freshman of impact.

“He was with us right away,” said Lyndhurst head baseball coach Pat Auteri. “He has it all. I experienced it in the past with guys like (Glenn) Flora and (Nolan) Kelly. You could see it right away. And you could see the example his father set. His father is a great coach. He comes from a great family. Frank was an assistant coach ”

“Going in as a freshman, I was a little nervous, but the seniors on the team were very welcoming to me,” Venezia said. “That gave me a lot of confidence.”

The right-handed Venezia won three games as a freshman, but developed into the ace of the Golden Bears’ pitching staff a year ago, posting a 7-1 record with a 2.18 earned run average as a sophomore.

“It just gave me so much experience,” Venezia said.

But that wasn’t enough for Venezia. He wanted to continue to improve.

So he took private pitching lessons with one of the greatest coaches in Bergen County history and a premier pitching coach in former New York Yankee prospect Tim Byron, the long-time coach at Northern Valley-Old Tappan, a winner of 500 games in his brilliant career. Byron is one of only eight coaches in Bergen County history to reach the 500-win milestone.

“Coach Byron taught me how to use my body more, how to drive with my legs,” Venezia said. “I had to use my height to my advantage. I grew a lot. I’m lucky that I have a tall Dad.”

And Venezia learned to become more of a pitcher than a thrower.

“Even when I was younger, I was taught accuracy over velocity,” Venezia said. “Every pitching coach has told me that I should worry about hitting my spots and don’t worry about throwing it by kids. I should put it where I want it. Coach Byron tells me to get a good strike, a pitcher’s strike. He’s a great pitching coach. He taught me a lot.”

“He has that big body and shoulders,” Auteri said. “He’s becoming a man now. That’s the biggest thing you can see as he moved from sophomore to junior year. You can notice that he’s bigger.”
Auteri noticed another thing.

“Frankie is a contact pitcher, pitching to contact,” Auteri said. “He’s able to take a little off pitches and hit his spots. He’s still able to blow it by guys.”

In the offseason, Venezia also was a regular at FASST, the prestigious Lyndhurst training center. Venezia went to FASST three times a week.

“Coach (Ryan) Marshall and Coach (Paul) Johnson worked with me on my lower body, doing explosive drills,” Venezia said. “It got my legs going. It got me ready.”

Venezia also had to make a sacrifice to give up playing football.

“It was tough for me to walk away from football,” Venezia said. “But it got me ready to play baseball.”

Not done with the rigorous training, Venezia also took batting lessons at Complete Performance Baseball Academy in Fairfield, working with renowned batting instructors Charlie Giachetti and Joe Gambardella, two long-time head coaches like Byron, who is the pitching coordinator at Complete. Giachetti was the head baseball coach at St. Mary’s of Rutherford and Northern Valley/Demarest and Gambardella was at Ridgefield.

“I still have to be able to hit and produce runs,” Venezia said. “Hitting is so important. I want to be a pitcher who hits. I worry about hitting as well. It’s important to me. I try to get the same amount of work in hitting as I do pitching.”

Needless to say, Venezia was certainly well prepared and schooled for the 2018 high school baseball campaign.

And Venezia was at the top of his game in the season opener against Leonia.

Venezia fired a no-hitter, striking out 12 and walking just one.

“I just wanted to go out and keep my team in the game,” Venezia said. “I had no idea I was going to throw a no-hitter. I actually didn’t think I had a no-hitter until someone told me after the game. I never thought I’d go out there and throw a no-hitter.”

In his second start, Venezia struck out eight and walked just one in a 3-2 loss to Dwight-Englewood. He’s struck out 21 batters and walked just two all season while allowing just two earned runs, posting a 1.02 earned run average.

At the plate, Venezia has enjoyed three hit games against Bergen Charter and Garfield. Venezia had three runs scored and two RBI against Bergen Charter and two runs and an RBI against Garfield.

For his efforts, Venezia has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

“He’s the whole package,” Auteri said. “He wants it. He works his tail off to get it. It’s embedded into his head that he needs to work and how much he wants to be the guy. He has that swagger you like. He’s not cocky at all. He has a great personality. He’s happy go-lucky. He just has that presence. When he gets on the mound, he has an air about him. He’s a bulldog.”

Venezia already has his future mapped out, verbally committing to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, an NCAA Division I program.

“There’s a lot of stress off my shoulders, knowing where I’m going,” Venezia said. “But I still want to get better. I want to be one of the best.”
No worries there. Venezia already is an elite player, one of Lyndhurst’s greatest players ever.


Lyndhurst junior pitcher/first baseman Frankie Venezia. Photo by Jim Hague

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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”