By Kevin Halton Jr.
Every February Anthony Passalacqua of Long Island Baseball in Bellmore takes between 15-18 high school players to the Dominican Republic, where they play against professional MLB teams. “It gives the boys a chance to see how they stack up at the next level, and discover why proper training is so important to be able to play at the next level.”
Local Bellmore JFK varsity player, George Savas, was on the trip this year. He was a member of the team that defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in an exhibition game, 11-4. “George did great down there, he really elevated his game. He has a bright future,” said Passalacqua.
Along with George, other notable baseball players Passalacqua has also worked with include top MLB prospects Ramon Laureano and Michael Chavis. Laureano is a 16th round draft pick of the Houston Astros in 2014. He played high school ball for Tony Passalacqua, Anthony’s father, and trained with Anthony all four years of high school.
Michael Chavis was a first-round draft pick this year of the Boston Red Sox. Passalacqua said, “We have had 10 players drafted or sign professional contracts and countless college placements from our events…We have been and will continue to be legitimate in developing all players that walk through our doors and giving them every chance to be seen and placed.” This will be good news for George.
Summer Showcase Presents Baseball Talent
Long before LIB was formed, Passalacqua started a Summer Showcase in 2011, which featured a few select few high school players – by invitation only, and showcased them for college and Major League Baseball scouts and head coaches. “I saw that there was a genuine need for our locals to have the chance to truly showcase their abilities in an environment that favors the player,” added Passalacqua.
The Summer Showcase has gained in popularity around the baseball world. Anywhere from 40 to 60 colleges and universities attend the annual showcase held in August, including local institutions such as Hofstra, Adelphi and St. Johns. Aside from the colleges, all MLB teams are represented by scouts to take a look at the talent. Unlike most showcases, the players aren’t charged to be in the program. Passalacqua says, “It’s a great way to give back to the community.” In previous years, the showcase was held at John Burns Park. This summer, the event will take place at Mitchell Field in Uniondale.
Called Long Island Baseball, the 5,000 square-foot property, at 2549 Merrick Road, is an indoor, state-of-the-art baseball training facility designed to help players prepare both physically and mentally toward the next levels in their careers – if they wish to. Whether a player is on a travel, high school or college team, or at the professional level, LIB’s teaching methods and techniques are said to excel at providing players with the knowledge and skills needed to help them achieve successful results, and carry them to the next level.
Passalacqua – who, along with his father Tony, created LIB – is cousin of Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio, and has played at all levels of the game. The East Islip native played high school ball at Stony Brook Prep, four years at Erskine College and then spent time in the Italian League overseas, making the national team.
Before the 2007 season Passalacqua underwent his second and third shoulder surgeries, forcing him to retire from his professional baseball career. Although his career had ended, his love for baseball never faded, and he decided at the end of that final season to focus on helping kids back home. After retiring, the 33-year old moved to Seaford.
After arriving back in the U.S., Passalacqua built a baseball clinic in his father’s backyard. “I had no real intentions of getting to the point we are at today,” Passalacqua remarked. Intended or not, the backyard clinic led to the blueprint of what would eventually become LIB.
Long Island Baseball has one-on-one training sessions, private lessons and practices led by three trainers who have played baseball at the college or pro level. Kennedy High School uses the facility often during the season, and Passalacqua says he hopes to get more schools and Little Leagues involved in training at the facility.
The LIB facility, Summer Showcase, and the Dominican Experience are helping to give local Long Island kids the opportunities and exposure they deserve to succeed. With professionals running the programs and a passion to help ball players excel in all aspects of life, LIB is a second home for passionate baseball fans.
For information about Long Island Baseball, go to www.mylibaseball.com or call 590-7075.