Youngsters get chance to learn baseball in Lyndhurst

Abigail Venezia is only five years old, but the precocious and adorable little girl knows exactly what she wants.

“I want to play baseball,” young Abigail says without even a hint of a whisper.

Most girls her age are quiet and shy and reluctant to say two words about their hopes and dreams, but Abigail comes from good baseball stock. Her father is Lyndhurst High School assistant principal Frank Venezia and her two older brothers, Frankie and Adam, are already standout pitchers on the Lyndhurst High School varsity baseball team.

So when given the opportunity to stay home for the first week of summer or go with her brothers to the Golden Bears Baseball Camp at the Lyndhurst Recreation complex, Abigail knew which way she was headed.

“I love baseball,” Abigail said. “My brothers play and I like watching them play, but I’d much rather play myself.”

Not bad for a first grader.

So when asked what position Abigail likes to play, she responded with another high hard one.

“Mostly, I like going all around the field,” Abigail said. “But I guess I’m a second baseman.”

Young Abigail was among 40 aspiring baseball stars who braved the high humidity and thunderstorms last week to receive proper tutelage under the guidance of Lyndhurst head baseball coach Patrick Auteri.

Auteri said that enrollment at the Golden Bears camp was a little down from years past, but he attributed that to the early start of summer vacation, combined with travel baseball and Little League tournaments ongoing in the town.

“The numbers may be a little down this year, but the attitude of the kids has been tremendous,” Auteri said. “We have a good group of kids here. They’re eager to learn.”

Auteri had his assistant coaches, as well as several members of his current team to help with the youngsters, including Abigail’s two older brothers.

“The interaction with the kids has been tremendous,” Auteri said. “A lot of them have been with us for so long that they know the daily routine. The kids love it, especially after we’re done with instruction and we play games.”
Auteri said that he loves the way the campers pick up things during the course of the week.

“It’s the little things that they do,” Auteri said. “It’s what baseball is all about. It’s the fundamentals of the game. They are getting a little glimpse of what we do on the high school level.”

Auteri also believes the week helps the youngsters prepare for the future.

“In a small town like Lyndhurst, the kids all get to know each other,” Auteri said. “Lyndhurst is a baseball town. I know all the coaches in town and I try to get everyone on the same page. What we’re teaching and what the kids are learning, I try to use the same terminology so they know what to expect. It’s the simplicity of the game, just taking it to the next level.”

Auteri and his staff spent the first portion of each day with basic baseball instruction, but by the early afternoon, the kids were broken up into different age groups for different games.

“There was a good competitive attitude with the kids,” Auteri said. “You can see that when we break up (into the age groups) for the games.”

Needless to say, the youngsters had a blast.

“I have a lot of fun here,” said 7-year-old Liam Doffont. “I have a million fun.”

Doffont is an aspiring shortstop.

“I think the key is being active and being friendly,” Doffont said. “You have to be friendly with the guys you’re playing with. That’s important.”
And what was the most important baseball tip that Doffont learned during the week?

“I learned how to catch the ball in a certain way,” Doffont said.

That’s important, of course.

Olivia Glasser was another girl at the camp. Olivia is seven-and-a-half. Remember, that half is vital when you’re that age.

“I like playing either second base or third base,” Olivia said. “Usually, I’m the only girl who plays baseball, so I’m kind of used to this. But this has been so much fun for me.”

And what was the most important thing Olivia learned?
“I learned about bunting,” Glasser said. “And you can’t let the other team know that you’re bunting.”

Well said.

Rocco Scerbo is also just seven years old.

“I play the infield, mostly second base,” Scerbo said. “I learned how to try my best all the time. That’s important. This encourages me to want to play more baseball and that’s good, because I really like baseball.”

Evan Foley is a shy 7-year-old who also likes playing second base. There were a lot of future Gleyber Torreses and Asdrubal Cabreras in attendance at the camp.

“I learned about bunting,” Foley said. “And I’m a good bunter. I showed everyone that I’m a good bunter.”

Foley said that he roots for the Yankees, so this has been a summer of fun for him.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Foley said.

And the summer has just begun. Just ask the littlest Venezia.

“This is super fun,” Abigail said. “I wish we had this (camp) all year.”




The Golden Bears Baseball Camp was held last week at the Lyndhurst Recreation facility, with approximately 40 boys and girls in attendance. 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.”