"We're looking for revenge this year."
Those are the words of Kennedy High School's ace pitcher Kevin Archbold, who is hoping to lead his team to a better fate than the first round playoff elimination it suffered against the Mepham Pirates last season.
Archbold, who has already been looked at by major league teams, including the Mets, Yankees, Phillies and Reds, gave a lot of credit to his catcher, Joe Gallitto.
"Me and him are on the same page," Archbold said. "We need to be so we can get things done."
In head coach Eric Passman's 10 years at Kennedy, there has not been a Cougar drafted by a big league team.
Kennedy was 6-11 in 2009, and Archbold knows that there's room for improvement.
"We definitely need to play as more of a unit," he said. "If we do, we are going to have great success this year."
Archibold features a 90 mph fastball, but he considers his slider to be his bread and butter. He also throws a change up and a splitter.
Gallitto, who is the Cougar's general on the field, knows that the team will face some tough competition this year.
"Massapequa and McCarthur have always had a great reputation," Gallitto said. "But I think we really are going to scare them this year."
Massapequa won the county and Long Island championships last year.
"The most important thing for us is attacking the batters," Gallitto said. "We need to go after them and get them out with the power stuff."
Another major part of the job for Gallitto is helping pitchers keep their composure. When things aren't going well for the pitcher, the catcher will often go to the mound and remind the pitcher that he is going to get the batter out. Confidence is everything.
"Communication is huge," Gallitto said. "If you miss a sign or don't talk with your teammates, then something bad is going to happen. That could make the difference in whether you win or lose."
Passman ran a number of drills throughout the first day of tryouts Monday that stressed communication. There are different levels of communication. It goes between players, from base coaches and from the manager himself.
"The most important is communication between me and the players," Passman said. "It's important to know that they are buying what I sell."
One guy to watch this year is sophomore Noah Shulman, who is starting at shortstop for the Cougars. He has one date already circled on the schedule that he cannot wait for.
"I can't wait to play our rivals Calhoun," Shulman said. "I think they have a great team, and they have great potential this year, just like every other year."
Shulman is making a position switch this year from one side of the infield to the other. He played second base for the Cougars last season, and Passman has high expectations for him.
"I think he's one of the best players around," Passman said of Shulman. "I think he is a hitting machine. I think he has a shot at being one of the leaders in the county in hitting."
Another person that the coach is going to be counting on is Michael Crispino, who will be starting at second base this year. Crispino praised leadership on the field, and he mentioned himself, Shulman and Gallitto as the three guys who really set the example. He said the coaching has been superb as well.
"The coaching has been awesome," Crispino said. "I have built more than just a player-coach relationship. It's more like a friendship. He [Passman] has always been there for me."
Crispino stressed that the Cougars need improvement from the bench, and people need to keep their heads in the game.
"Well, it's vital sometimes when you need a pinch runner or if someone is sick," Passman said. "The people who are non-starters need to be ready to step up."
Kennedy lost eight of their games by two runs or less last year, and six of those were by just one run.
Another pitcher Kennedy will be relying heavily on is Robert Stalzer, who hits about 85 mph on the gun. He knows that keeping his composure is important.
"I think it's the most important thing," Stalzer said. "Everyone else is going to feed off of what is happening with the pitcher."
Passman was all smiles on Monday as he said it was his favorite day of the year as he got back into his baseball groove.
"I think we're going to compete very well," Passman said. "The returners we have are very good, and with the addition of the guys from JV, we should be solid this year."
Passman sees some early potential at the plate that the Cougars may have been missing in 2009.
"Last year, we just couldn't score runs," Passman said. "This year, we seem to have a lot of kids that are able to hit the ball very well."
One tough part of the job for Passman is when he has to make cuts and tell kids that they have not made the roster.
"In 40 years, this has always been the most distasteful part of coaching," Passman said. "It keeps me up at night."
According to Passman, the key to success this year is pretty simple.
"In high school baseball, for us to be successful, we just need to play good fundamental baseball," Passman said. "We need to make sure that we make all of the routine plays."