Lyndhurst High School head baseball coach Patrick Auteri has been either involved or was the chief organizer for the Lyndhurst Youth Baseball Camp for over a decade, going back to the days when the immortal Butch Servideo was then the head baseball coach and the school’s athletic director.
When Servideo retired a few years back, Auteri stepped into Butch’s shoes, both as head coach of the Golden Bears and the chief instructor in the youth camp.
Over the years, Auteri would welcome anywhere between 50 to say 75 youngsters for the week-long instructional session, giving youngsters a chance to learn about the national pastime the right way – and have a little fun along the way.
Last year, when the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic was rearing its angry head throughout the world, the Lyndhurst baseball camp, much like every other activity, was a casualty. The area’s youngsters were forced to stay mostly at home, with no organized activities at all, including Little League baseball, a long time staple in the town.
So with the cloud of COVID lifting in the area, it was time for aspiring ballplayers to play ball.
Auteri sent out fliers promoting the camp, but in no way shape or form did the veteran coach ever expect the response he would receive.
“The town approached me and asked me if I wanted to run the camp,” Auteri said. “I had parents asking me, ‘Are you running the camp this year?’ I realized that kids need to play.”
The result was the largest turnout in the camp’s history, so powerful of a participation number at the Lyndhurst Recreation Complex that the town representatives asked Auteri to actually hold the camp for a second week. All totaled, more than 120 youngsters – both boys and girls – participated in the camp and had a blast doing so.
“I always hear from people that baseball is dying and no one wants to play,” Auteri said. “But that’s obviously not the case. A lot of these kids’ (Little League) seasons ended, but they wanted to be here. The interest in baseball is here. It’s good for the future of baseball in Lyndhurst. You see the interest and see the passion.”
And it was a turnout that absolutely floored Auteri.
“I never could have imagined this,” Auteri said. “It was better than I could have ever dreamed.”
Landon Bonilla is a 12-year-old youngster who will enter the seventh grade at the new Lyndhurst Middle School in a few weeks. Bonilla is a veteran of the camp, having attended the last six times the camp was held.
“I had nothing to do last summer,” Bonilla said. “I was kind of stuck in my house, playing video games. So when I heard that there was going to be a camp this year, I was really happy and excited.”
Bonilla said that he plays a multitude of positions, manning second base, left field and centerfield during his season that ended. But Bonilla would love to be a pitcher someday like his favorite player, Jacob deGrom of the Mets.
“I learned a lot of stuff about pitching,” Bonilla said. “I learned important tips. I like pitching. It was fun to be here.”
Thomas Caffaro is a 9-year-old fourth grader at Jefferson School. He’s a first baseman and pitcher when he takes the field. Caffaro’s favorite player is also deGrom. Winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards makes deGrom a very popular player with the youngsters.
“I like him because he resembles me,” Caffaro said. “I can throw it hard and fast and over the plate. I’m getting a lot better.”
Thomas’ younger brother Anthony is only six years old, but he wants to play baseball as well.
Anthony Caffaro will be a second grader at Columbus School who plays first base and shortstop. His favorite player is Aaron Judge of the Yankees.
“I was really looking forward to this,” Anthony Caffaro said. “I learned how to catch the ball better. It was a lot of fun.”
Cole Castrovinci is an 8-year-old third grader at Roosevelt School.
“I feel like I can catch the ball better now,” Castrovinci said. “I learned how to catch it regularly. It really helped me a lot.”
The camp was beneficial to the young ladies who attended and participated.
Giovanna Gugliuzza is a 9-year-old fourth grader at Roosevelt School. She plays both baseball and softball right now, but really doesn’t have a favorite player, but she loves the Yankees. She also loves to play. She learned a lot about softball during the week.
“I learned how to pitch the right way,” Gugliuzza said, mentioning the windmill motion. “It was a lot of fun.”
Giovanna is also a dutiful big sister to her younger brothers Rocco and Joseph, twins who are six years old.
“They keep me busy,” Giovanna said. “They’re not too bad.”
Auteri credited the assistance he received from Lyndhurst Recreation coordinator Tom Caffaro, Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Rich Gress and Parks and Recreation Commissioner John Montillo.
“They really do everything for us,” Auteri said. “They all are the best.”
Auteri also had the benefit of having his entire family present. His wife Melissa handled all the administrative duties, older daughter Olivia served as a counselor to the girls who attended and Patrick and Melissa’s three children were all campers.
“It was a family affair,” Auteri said. “My wife has a calming presence about her. She’s really great with the kids.”
Of course, their own and as well as the overflowing group of eager baseball players, who all learned a lot about fundamentals, but also had a ton of fun.
The Lyndhurst Recreation center was the home for 120 kids who participated in the annual Golden Bears baseball camp. Photo by Jim Hague.
The Auteri family was well represented at the Golden Bears Baseball camp, namely Patrick (back) and twin sisters Callie and Lillie. Photo by Jim Hague.
Learn more about the writer ...
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.”