by VICTORIA L. HERNANDEZ & JACK MELANSON, Senior Writer & Editor
The Manhattan College baseball program welcomed a new head coach this season, as Mike Cole has taken charge of the storied Jasper team.
Cole is assisted by Vincent Redmond and Chris Cody. Cody is a Jasper baseball alumnus and is a newly inducted member of the college’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
With new leadership also came new priorities for the Jaspers. Despite winning, the team also placed fan support in their hierarchy of needs this season. This task is not an easy one, as the team plays their home games in a land rather far from Riverdale.
Dutchess Stadium in Wappinger Falls, N.Y. houses the Jaspers, which is roughly 64 miles from campus. The drive takes just over one hour in duration.
To combat the team’s fan attendance issue, fan busses will begin transporting interested students to and from games according to the Jasper baseball official Instagram account.
The Instagram post provided that on Sunday, Apr. 22., fan busses will depart from Gaelic Park at 10:30 a.m., and will return to campus directly after the game.
First pitch is set for 12:00 p.m., and for the first time since the team’s home games were hosted at Van Cortlandt Park, fan support will be in abundance.
No charge, either.
“Reserve your free student ticket at the student engagement office starting on Monday, April 9., at 1 p.m.,” read jaspersbaseball on Instagram.
For pitcher Matthew Simonetti, fan support will provide the Jaspers with fuel.
“We used to play at Van Cortlandt Park, and just having your family around, your friends coming to the games and supporting you makes you try harder,” Simonetti said. “You really want to show off your hard work. It brings more energy out of you.”
Like Simonetti, coach Cole emphasized a spike in work-ethic when fan attendance is higher.
“[Attendance] definitely helps,” said Cole. “It affects our kids, they play a little bit harder. Our goal is to bring the students, we’ve talked about bus trips. Students would enjoy baseball games, it’s just difficult to get there.”
This issue is now vanishing and making it easier for players like Matt Forlow to step up to the plate.
“You’re focusing and involved in the game but you’re definitely seeing who’s in the stands,” Forlow said. “Having people you associate with on a daily basis watch you perform what you’ve been working on for years is a big motivator.”
While craving support from their fellow Jaspers, the team has kicked off the 2018 season in strong fashion as of Saturday, Apr. 7. During conference play, the Jaspers have only been topped in one of five outings. Overall, their record is 15-13.
The team is comprised of four graduate students, six seniors, 10 juniors, nine sophomores, and nine freshmen, making the Jaspers a hopeful force for this year and years to come.
In March, Richie Barrella posted a .365 batting average while driving in 16 runs. That included a four-game stretch in which he went 9-for-16 (.562) with nine hits, nine RBIs and a .688 slugging percentage which earned him MAAC Player of the Week honors.
In addition, Will Trochiano was awarded MAAC Rookie of the Week honors recently as he hit for an impressive .444 average, with eight hits, eight runs scored and an on-base percentage of .565.
While Barella and Trochiano were performing at the plate, pitcher T.J. Stewart was preventing other teams from having similar success in the box.
Tallying five saves and an overall ERA of 1.02, Stewart was just another Jasper to show up early in March.
With added fan support at their home games throughout the season, the Jaspers look to win their first MAAC championship since 2012.