Greenwich Cal 10’s Having a Summer Full of Memories
By Paul R. Silverfarb
The Greenwich Cal Ripken 10-year-old All-Star team has been quite busy this summer. And that’s perfectly fine for head coach Ray Bartoszek and the rest of the roster.
After dominating the District 1 tournament, beating Stratford 3-0 to win the district title, Greenwich traveled to Milford and earned the state title by blanking New Fairfield 2-0. This past week, the Greenwich Cal Ripken team represented Connecticut and traveled to Massachusetts for competition in the New England regional tournament, with a spot in the Cal Ripken World Series on the line.
In their first game, they were defeated for the first time this tournament season by Chelmsford, Mass., 6-5. Greenwich used that game as a wake-up call and crushed Rhode Island (16-1) and Uxbridge, Mass. (10-0) over the weekend to earn the No. 1 seed after round robin play.
After a bye on Monday, Greenwich was back in action on Tuesday and came away with the 7-0 over Chelmsford, Mass. in the semifinals. On Thursday night, Greenwich battled Windham, N.H. in the championship game of the 10-year-old New England Tournament, with the winner advancing to the Cal Ripken World Series. However, it was the squad from New Hampshire that came away with the 13-7 victory and ended Greenwich’s season.
Despite the loss in Regionals, Bartoszek couldn’t be more proud of his team.
“We have gone from being good baseball players to showing that they are a true team,” said Bartoszek. “They have learned from some of the best coaches in Johnny Montanez, Mike Mora and Todd Johnson. The kids have been absorbing all the practices and all the fundamentals of baseball and how to be good teammates to each other. We are very proud of how far the kids have come.”
And having those assistants on his coaching staff is a dream-come-true for Bartoszek. Montanez is the head coach for the Brunswick School baseball team, while Mora is in charge of the Greenwich High School baseball program. Both head coaches have had great success at their respective schools and are using that to better the Cal Ripken kids.
“It’s the best staff that I could possibly have,” Bartoszek said. “These guys are professionals and are intelligent baseball coaches and managers. What I have learned is that they are incredible fathers, as well as coaches. Mike and Johnny do their job with teenagers and high school players, but they found ways to adapt what they do to 10-year-olds. They are nurturing and share their knowledge. They also have amazing energy that they are putting in to developing this team to becoming what they are today.”
To say that the team puts in the work would be considered an understatement. In May, this team competed against a really strong field of 10-year-old boys in the Cal Ripken program. The team picked was selected to represent Greenwich. Since their selection, the head coach said that the team has been together at least six days a week, whether it’s a practice or games.
“Even when we are on the road we practice, and before games we practice,” Bartoszek said. “If we have off-days during tournaments, we practice. We want to stay sharp. We take batting practice and stick with the fundamentals. This is their summer of 2019. It’s a baseball summer and the kids are loving every second of it. It’s a lot of fun.”
While the Greenwich Cal Ripken 10-year-old All-Star team has been lights out this summer, it wasn’t until the team cruised through Districts that Bartoszek and his coaching staff thought there was something special taking place.
“You could never expect the type of results that these boys have generated,” Bartoszek said. “You just don’t know. We have gone up against some really strong competition. We played three hard-fought games against New Canaan and Stratford twice. We gave up zero runs in three games. That’s when we looked at each other and joked around when we said that if we don’t give up any runs, I like our chances. We noticed that we have some boys that are exceptional baseball players and we paired that talent with hard work during practices, and that’s what helped us go through states undefeated.”
In States, Greenwich dominated. They cruised through all four games without a loss.
The crowning moment was when starting pitcher James Mora threw a no-hitter in the championship game of the state tournament in Milford, as Greenwich won 2-0.
“We battled and found a way to beat a tremendous pitcher from New Fairfield,” Bartoszek said. “He was named Michael Hernandez and he was probably 5-08. He was a strong and big pitcher, but we found a way to scratch and claw our way to push across two runs and come away with the victory.
And this year’s team has been all about pitching and defense. Leading Greenwich on the mound has been two stellar hurlers in James Mora and Luke Tocci. Bartoszek said that his two pitchers are so strong because of their ability to pound the strike zone and throw strikes.
“Statistics show that these boys are throwing 70% to 80% of their pitches for strikes,” Bartoszek said. “That’s how you win ballgames. They throw the ball in the strike zone so our tremendous defense can make plays. Little League is different than the next levels because you have to worry about pitch counts. As well as being talented, you have to be efficient. Our two boys do, by far, the most work on the mound and are just that. They are dominating and efficient, and that’s boded well for us.”
In addition to Mora and Tocci, David Gittes and Gavin Botoff, when called upon in very clutch situations, have come in and closed the door.
While winning is always a good thing, the best part of the summer for Bartoszek has been how much the team has grown since they first got together in May.
Defensively, Bartoszek’s son, Owen Bartoszek, is the catcher on the team and has been key, both in his ability to call a game and his stellar defense behind the plate.
“He’s been a spark plug for us,” Bartoszek said. “In one of our games in Districts, Owen threw out three runners at second base trying to steal. You don’t see that often in Little League and those are moments that change the whole dimension of the game. They take the air completely out of another team. It’s great for us because we don’t have to worry about the catcher position like other teams do. He’s fun to watch as a catcher.”
Jack Bylow is the team’s first baseman has been a strong throughout the summer. Not only can Bylow play first, but he can patrol the outfield when called upon. At second is Jayden Montanez, and the head coach said that he has been a rock at the base.
“When we have hard-throwing fireballers like Tocci and Mora on the mound and most of the hitters are right-handed hitters, the second baseman gets a lot of action. Jayden has held his ground, day in and day out.”
The combo of David Gittes at the hot corner, and either Mora or Tocci at shortstop has been impressive.
In the outfield, Greenwich is paced by Ryan Johnson centerfield. Bartoszek said that position is one of the more important positions in Little League, and Johnson has lived up to the high expectations. At right field is Liam Vanderslice, and Bartoszek said that he has been flawless.
“While Mora pitched that no-hitter, we will all remember the final out of the game,” Bartoszek said. “It was won with Liam making an outstanding play in right field with the bases loaded for the other team to preserve our 3-0 victory over Stratford. Anything that Liam can get to, he catches.”
In addition, Philip Martone, Luke Langhorne and Robbie Levien have played valuable minutes and have been key contributors to the team’s success.
“We are a 12-man team,” Bartoszek said. “We call ourselves a family because we are. Everybody has been a big contributor on this team in one way or another.
And whether or not Greenwich represents the New England region at the Cal Ripken World Series in August, Bartoszek said that coaching this team has been a pure joy.
“There’s nothing but smiles,” Bartoszek said. “We have had so many memorable moments and highlights. It’s been so enjoyable.”