Joe Vas, the East Hampton School District’s athletic director, was sanguine regarding spring during a preseason talk at his office Monday.
“Sunny days from here on in,” he said. “It’s supposed to be in the 40s all this week. Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of the storms.”
There was still snow on East Hampton’s turf field when the boys and girls lacrosse teams practiced there Saturday morning, and when Rich King and Don McGovern conducted a soccer clinic there for kindergartners through eighth graders on Sunday.
The baseball and softball teams practiced in the school’s gymnasium Saturday morning. When Lou Reale, the veteran softball coach, was encountered, he shook his head and smiled. “Things are going to be interesting. Casey [Waleko, his all-state pitcher] is having an M.R.I. on her back, and Sam Mathews [Waleko’s backup last year] quit.”
Ali Harden, the team’s shortstop, was pitching that day, and didn’t look bad, although she last pitched, she said in reply to a question, as an eighth grader. Given that Jessie Stavola, one of the best pitchers ever to come out of Long Island, is Reale’s assistant this season (replacing Erin Abran, who’s taking some time off), Harned won’t lack for expert instruction.
The numbers are down this year for softball and for boys lacrosse — neither program is fielding a junior varsity this spring — though Vas said that about 60 other schools on the Island are in similar sagging numbers situations in various sports. “But that’s the way it is in sports,” he said, “interest and talent run in cycles.”
The good news numbers-wise is that 100 have turned out for boys and girls track, 48 are out for baseball, and 30-plus are out for boys tennis.
With 38 hopefuls, it’s been decided that boys lacrosse, whose head coach is Mike Vitulli, will be varsity-only, “to keep the kids together.” Neil Falkenhan, an East Hampton alum who played the sport at Quinnipiac, is assisting Vitulli.
Ed Bahns and Will Collins continue to coach varsity baseball, and Mike Ritsi, who manages Sportime’s multisport arena in Amagansett, is back coaching the jayvee.
Shani Cuesta has taken over as the head coach of the girls track team, assisted by Jenn Reich, a first-timer, whose brother, Chris, coaches the boys team along with Luis Morales.
“I think girls lacrosse [Matt Maloney returns as the varsity coach, assisted by Rich King] will have a shot at making the playoffs again,” said Vas, when asked if he’d seen any of Bonac’s team in action. “They’ve been playing all winter at Calverton. Boys lacrosse will be decent, softball is young, though Lou is a terrific coach. They’ll be going to Florida again during the spring break. Baseball’s been out every day working out. Track’s sheer numbers alone will overwhelm people.”
He added that the holes in the rubberized track would be patched soon, and that the worn high jump and pole vault pads would be replaced.
“The weather’s been okay,” Vas continued. “We’ve only missed a little time outside. Having a turf field helps, and our grounds crew [Dave Fioriello, Lou Russo, Dale Greene, and Dexter Grady] has been great.”