Kids flock back to Lyndhurst for Auteri’s annual baseball camp

Tyler Lopez displays his sweet swing during the Lyndhurst Baseball Camp.

Olivia Glasser is an 11-year-old young lady who will enter sixth grade at the Lyndhurst Middle School in a few weeks, although there are few in town who call her by her given first name outside of the Glasser family home.

Outside, Olivia is recognized by one of two distinctive nicknames, either “Blue Hair,” or “Sonic,” take your pick. Although these days, the summer sun and shampoo has turned the blue hair she had in April to a St. Patrick’s Day shade of green.

There’s another distinctive quality that young Olivia embraces dearly. She’s a baseball player, through and through. Don’t dare try to sell Glasser on the softball stuff that most girls her age participate in.

“I love baseball,” Olivia proudly says. “My family has always loved baseball. When I got old enough, I decided to play baseball as well.”

So as Olivia roamed the grounds at the Lyndhurst Recreation complex last week for the annual Lyndhurst Baseball Camp, she was surrounded by 80 or so boys — and just a handful of girls.

“I do feel a little pressure playing with the boys, but I’ve learned to handle it,” Glasser said. “I have a few of my friends here.”

Glasser said that she was motivated a bit by Lyndhurst High graduate Alexia Jorge, who last spring became the first female to ever play college baseball at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morris County.

“She got me into being a catcher,” Glasser said of Jorge, who works with Glasser on occasion.

Glasser said that she learned a lot being a pupil at the camp, under the guidance of Lyndhurst High head baseball coach Pat Auteri.

“I’ve been playing baseball for a long time,” said Glasser, whose favorite team is the New York Yankees and her favorite player is Aaron Judge. “So I’m used to everything.”

Chloe Blair is a 7-year-old who will enter third grade at Roosevelt School in Lyndhurst in a few weeks. She’s also an aspiring baseball player, who is a Mets fan, but whose favorite player like everyone else in town is American League All-Star Judge, who leads the majors in home runs.

Blair is still learning, but she’s a first baseman by trade. She came to the camp because her older brother Dylan, who is nine, also attended.

“It feels fine being here with the boys,” young Chloe said. “I have friends here.”

Chloe was a good student at the camp, which had two week-long sessions that concluded last Friday.

“I learned how to pitch,” Blair said. “I learned about bunting.”

Legendary Lyndhurst baseball coach/athletic director Butch Servideo would be happy to know that the bunt still exists in Lyndhurst. Servideo, retired now for over a decade, was the proponent of the bunt and used it proficiently to capture the NJSIAA Group II baseball championship in 2008.

“It was a lot of fun learning,” Blair said. “I like playing with the boys. It was very, very fun.”

It’s safe to say that the male participants in the camp were enjoying themselves as well.

Sam Signa is an 11-year-old who will enter the sixth grade at the Lyndhurst Middle School this fall. Signa is a rising star in the town who played shortstop and pitcher for the Lyndhurst Little League All-Stars. Signa is a veteran of the camp, having attended his sixth this summer.

“I learned how to field the right way,” Signa said. “I learned how to catch it right and throw it right. I also learned how to hit the right way. It means a lot to me because I love baseball. This is my favorite camp, so I had to be here.”

Needless to say, two years ago, when everything in the world was shut down because of the pandemic, Signa was extremely disappointed.

“I missed it a lot, because I just love learning about the game,” said Signa, who also said that he learned how to pitch properly and how to land. “I had bad form. I had to learn how to finish. It helped me a lot.”

Silverio Martinelli is a 10-year-old who will begin fifth grade at Washington School in Nutley. He attended the camp because his mother, Tracy, was once the superintendent of schools in Lyndhurst while residing in Nutley.

“This is my first year here and I like it a lot,” Martinelli said. “It’s very organized and I was able to learn a lot of good things. I learned how to catch the ball with the back hand and then how to throw. I also learned what you should do after you pitch the ball. I also learned some hitting things in the batting cages. It really helped me a lot.”

Young Silverio is also a Yankee fan whose favorite players are the now retired Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner, but he also said that he knew a lot about the legendary Joe DiMaggio.

“When I was a second grader, I learned a lot about his life by reading a book about him,” Martinelli said of DiMaggio. “I had a lot of fun at this camp. I’m glad I came.”

Dominick Volpe is a 10-year-old from North Arlington who is a third baseman, catcher and outfield in his hometown Little League.

“I came to this camp last year and I feel like I’ve become a much better hitter,” Volpe said. “I wasn’t that good at hitting this year, so I needed help.”

Volpe is another Yankee fan who roots for All-Star Giancarlo Stanton and the versatile D.J. LeMahieu.

“I also got better at catching ground balls,” Volpe said. “I feel like it’s going to be more of a challenge for me as I get older. This will only help me get better.”

Dante Rizzolo is a 10-year-old Lyndhurst resident who will enter the fifth grade at Roosevelt School in a few weeks. He’s also a Yankee fan whose favorite player is Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres.

“Last year, I only played the outfield in Little League,” Rizzolo said. “This year, I hope I can play the infield. I learned to throw with more power this year so that will help. I learned how to transfer my body weight.”

There aren’t many 10-year-olds who recall a transfer of body weight. Pretty remarkable.

“It was a lot of fun,” Rizzolo said. “I plan to be back next year.”

Jack DePalma is a 9-year-old fifth grader at Lyndhurst’s Jefferson School. He plays Little League and plays all over.

“I play catcher, pitcher, first base and third base,” DePalma said. “I have to learn to play the outfield. I learned how to track the ball when it’s hit.”

DePalma is another Yankee fan (aren’t they all these days?) and his favorite player is Anthony Rizzo, who has a lot of family members who reside in Lyndhurst.

“I feel like I’m a better player,” DePalma said.

Vincent DiToto is a 10-year-old fifth grader from Lyndhurst’s Jefferson School. He plays shortstop and pitches in Little League.

“I learned the proper way for a pitcher to warm up and stretch,” DiToto said, displaying the warmup band that pitchers use. “It’s going to help me a lot. I had a lot of fun, a lot of fun.”

Two years ago, in the midst of the pandemic, it was unknown whether kids who were kept inside would ever return to the Lyndhurst Baseball Camp.

“It was a real concern,” Auteri said. “We really didn’t know. But it’s great to see the numbers back up. A lot of people say that baseball is dying. Obviously, that’s not the case. It’s good to see so many kids wanting to play baseball. This is what it’s all about. Hopefully, we will be able to keep these kids in Lyndhurst and keep them interested in baseball.”

After all, it’s the first taste the youngsters get of Auteri and his coaching staff.

“I just hope that the pandemic is past us,” Auteri said. “It really was a tough time for all of us. I’m very encouraged by the turnout. I can see the potential of some of these kids, from the first and second graders all the way up to the seventh and eighth graders. It’s almost like a good scouting evaluation for us. It was a great camp.”

And if she elects to play baseball in a few years, there will always be room for the girl they call “Blue Hair” or “Sonic.”

“I think it’s because I’m really fast,” Olivia Glasser said.

Just like the famous hedgehog – who doesn’t play baseball.

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