The Manhattan Jaspers won their last four games of the 2014 season to be a part of the MAAC Championships, a place they have appeared in 11 out of the last 12 years and won it the in ’11 and ’12.
In ’14, they came close but fell to No. 5 Monmouth Hawks 8-7 in 15 innings before they were given the chance to try again.
According to Manhattan’s overall record (17-33, MAAC 11-13), it was another lost season two years removed from the program’s last title.
“It certainly [was] a rebuilding season,” Manhattan Jaspers head coach Jim Duffy said late last season. “We’re retooling for the immediate future.”
When a team is in a rebuilding situation it can go one of two ways:
1. Start over with new personnel and tank. 2. Trust in the people already in place and hope for the best from in house talent. Duffy and his Jaspers decided on No. 2.
For half the season, the Jaspers were a mess. Some of the freshmen did not fit in just yet. Outgoing seniors were not playing at the levels expected and not every player had a defined role. Both the offensive and defensive part of the game was played too inconsistent to compete in the MAAC. Then, everything started to turn around in early April.
Lefty slugger, Christian Santisteban, and power arm, Joey Rocchietti, showed the way forward for a team that seemed to have no identity for a time. Heading into the 2015 season, they have more talent and, more importantly, more leadership than in ’14.
Last year, Duffy named two captains: all-around outfielder Chris Kalousdian and reliever Mike Scarinci. Both of who are returning to the same role.
Scarinci is not only returning to the role, he’s also making a comeback from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent on June 12, 2013.
“[That was] my first season ever of missing anything,” he said at the start of the ’14 season.
Planning to join Kalousdian and Scarinci as captains are the spark plug Jose Carrera, fifth year veteran pitcher Scott McClennan and Santisteban. The idea behind naming five captains is that each player is planned to lead at their respective positions: Kalousdian (outfielders), McClennan and Scarinci (pitchers) and Carrera and Santisteban (infielders).
The interesting choice of the three new captains is Carrera, who has taken to his new role on the team.
“I was honored. As soon as I heard the news I got excited,” he said. “I was like ‘wow, this is going to be an amazing year.’ I was pumped up and ready. I was coming ready no matter what and then as soon as I heard I was captain I said, ‘That’s even better. Even more hopes up for me to succeed.’ I put too much pressure on myself for the better of the team, and I know that’s bad in a way but I prefer the pressure on me and hopefully they play relaxed. And I just go out there and have fun with them.”
Duffy thinks Carrera has most the ability to kick start the offense. He said that this step up is going to help further his on field play.
“He’s kind of a catalyst, a spark plug. If he goes, we go type of thing,” Duffy said. “We have a lot of other good players around him, but the one thing that I thought would really help ‘Cheeky’ [Carrera] is by me naming him captain I’m demanding that he leads now not hoping that he does because I think he has those qualities.”
If Carrera as captain is interesting, then McClennan is nothing short of an inspirational pick.
On April 7 2013, he threw a 91 pitch complete game shutout against the Marist Red Foxes. After the game he was out for the remainder of the season with a blood clot in his right arm. It did not get any better for him the following year when working toward his return he tore up his left knee and later underwent micro-fracture knee surgery sidelining him again for the whole season.
“It means a lot knowing that coach has trust in me to lead this team.” McClennan said. “It’s been a while. It’s been a long time coming for me. I’ve been hurt over the past two years, so for him to put the team in my spot it feels pretty good. It’s basically learning to throw again. I had to learn to walk again, pitch again. But with time it will come back naturally. It’s just a long process.”
Duffy sees him as needed experience to feed off of for the young pitchers and also his fellow captain pitcher Scarinci.
“I think he’s going to be one of the better pitchers in the league,” Duffy said. “Now everything has to fall into place because it’s tough. He hasn’t pitched in a year and a half. But he has worked so hard off the field, away from the spotlight and from where people are watching. And what he has done for this program already and then his work ethic leading up. It takes a little pressure off of Scarinci. And he is such a veteran presence. He knows the program. He knows what our goals are. So I want him to lead the pitching staff. Those younger pitchers, they’re talented. [Matt] Simonetti. Rocchietti. [Tom] Cosgrove as a freshman. There’s some young, talented pitchers in that group and I want them to follow what Scott McClennan is doing.”
The final new addition to captaincy is Santisteban. What’s not to like about him?
“When we recruit players or even our players that we have, whether they are pitchers or position players, he [Santisteban] is the example we want our guys to be like,” Duffy said. “He’s a good student off the field. He works really hard off the field and away from the coaches. On his own in the weight room and working extra on his skills if he needs to outside of practice. He’s a very respectful kid and he does good job on the field. He’s probably our best hitter.”
Duffy is pleased with his selections of Kalousdian, Scarinci, Carrera, McClennan and Santisteban because he knows what he is going to get from each of them regardless of the title.
“They’re just really awesome leaders. But I don’t expect anything different then if I didn’t name any captains. I think they would act the same,” Duffy said. “It gives them a little extra notoriety I guess and a little bit of an extra title which all five of them deserve. And I do expect them to kind of be up in the front, act as an example for the other guys in their own ways. Those guys just have to do what they do and make people around them play better. What they do naturally the result was the head coach naming them captain.”
“With everyone together, leading each position, I think the coaches really don’t even have to do anything,” McClennan said, “because they know we have it under control.”