Batter up! N.Y.U. fields a baseball team again | East Villager & Lower East Sider

Batter up! N.Y.U. fields a baseball team again

Shortstop Jonathan Iaione channeled his inner Jeter as he threw while off his feet against University of Rochester on March 10.

Shortstop Jonathan Iaione channeled his inner Jeter as he threw while off his feet against University of Rochester on March 10.

BY ROBERT ELKIN  |  Baseball returns to New York University!

The last time that the N.Y.U. Violets fielded an intercollegiate baseball program was back in 1974. After that season was over, the college dropped the sport.

Last fall, the Village university fielded a club team in preparation for what was to come, as the athletic department worked to build back the sport.

The N.Y.U. team is in NCAA Division III and part of the United Athletic Association. The athletic department wants the new baseball squad to achieve the level of play that the university’s teams used to have back in the 1970s.

Under head coach Doug Kimbler and assistant coaches Aaron Walsh, Jeff Kamrath and Ray Kim, the fledgling program went out last year and started the recruiting process of high school athletes, and prepared to put together a team to compete in the U.A.A.

The coaches and athletic directors decided to try to practice and play their home games at MCU Stadium in Coney Island, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor league team for the Mets.

The ballpark by the beach is about a one-hour subway ride from the Village. Like most colleges in Manhattan, N.Y.U. lacks a home field for games and practices. MCU Stadium sports inside facilities for practices when the main field is unavailable because of weather conditions.

According to the coaches, the league’s teams are balanced in all aspects of the game — offense, defense, speed and pitching.

“We have a young group competing in the U.A.A.,” said Walsh, the pitching coach. “We carry a 30-man roster.”

Michael Vokulich was the starting pitcher against Rochester. N.Y.U. went on to win in a slugfest, 14-13.   PHOTOS BY N.Y.U. ATHLETICS

Michael Vokulich was the starting pitcher against Rochester. N.Y.U. went on to win in a slugfest, 14-13. PHOTOS BY N.Y.U. ATHLETICS

The student athletes are trying to show that they can hang with the conference’s established teams. And the U.A.A. offers tough competition. N.Y.U.’s record after its first 14 games was five wins and nine losses. At one point in their schedule, they played eight games in eight days, all of them against strong teams.

Adrian Spitz, left, and C.J. Picerni celebrated after scoring a run.

Adrian Spitz, left, and C.J. Picerni celebrated after scoring a run.

“It’s exciting to have a baseball team right here in Manhattan,” head coach Kimbler said. “New York City is a baseball town with the Yankees and Mets. In the good old days, we had three teams,” he said, referring to the pre-Mets era, when the Giants and Dodgers still played in Gotham.

“We like this baseball facility,” he said of MCU Stadium. “We couldn’t ask for anything better. When it stops raining, we can go outside because the fall field here is all artificial turf.”

The ace of the pitching staff is Chase Denison. Other key hurlers include Cameron Serapilio-Frank and Michael Vokulich, both freshmen.

“The pitchers are getting better every day,” Walsh said. “They work hard all the time.”

So are the infielders, outfielders and batters.

“We started recruiting 18 months ago,” Kimbler added. “I’m glad that we play. It’s a perfect place. We also play some of our nonleague games here.

“The idea for us is to try to play as clean as possible — throw strikes, catch balls and get timely hits. Right now we do a good job of hitting.”

The offense is led by Christian Bloom, a freshman who plays third base, and C.J. Picerni, a sophomore catcher. Bloom recently received U.U.A. Player of Week honors.

“The field here is beautiful and you can’t get anything better than this,” said Picemi, who at this writing is hitting very well, batting .319.

“It’s a team thing where we are starting to put all of our strengths and weaknesses into a really clean game,” Kimbler said. “We are starting slowly to figure it out. We are working it through with these young men to get them to be better players, and to come into their own and turn themselves into a pretty good team.”