As Shoreham-Wading River baseball players arrived to the season’s first practice Monday, two noticeable faces from last year were gone.
Nick Bottari, who in 2010 became the first eighth-grader to ever play varsity at Shoreham, and Keven Pimentel, a hard-throwing pitcher who transfered to Shoreham as a junior, were both more than 1,000 miles to the south in Florida. The two close friends, both Division I players signed to the University of Miami, decided at the end of last year to transfer out of Shoreham for their senior year.
Bottari and Pimentel currently attend Montverde Academy, a college prep school in Montverde, Fla.
Shoreham coach Sal Mignano said he learned after last season that both players would not be coming back for their senior years. And while the Wildcats are losing one of the top players in program history in Bottari, they’re not exactly dwelling on it.
“To me it’s like two kids who left for graduation,” Mignano said.
The Wildcats return a large core of last year’s team even without the two players who have aspirations of playing Major League Baseball. Mignano said the returning players have known for some time that Bottari and Pimentel would not be back, so there was no surprise once practices started.
“It hasn’t been talked about or said amongst any of the guys,” Mignano said. “We’ve known for a while now, so it’s just business as usual.”
Bottari missed most of last season with an injury, only playing in six games. A versatile player whose primary position is catcher, Bottari would have entered this season as a candidate for the Carl Yastrzemski Award as the top player in Suffolk County.
When Mike O’Reilly won the award as a senior for Shoreham in 2012, he spoke about how Bottari would be a likely candidate to follow his footsteps. As a sophomore that season, Bottari was a second-team All-Long Island selection. He scored 88 career runs in 225 at-bats through his sophomore season.
In an interview posted on the school website at mvasports.com, Bottari said he and Pimentel were in Florida for a baseball tournament last year and were looking for new schools.
“I knew going to my local public school, for my senior year, wouldn’t prepare me for college — both in a baseball and academic sense — the way I personally needed to be prepared,” Bottari said in the interview.
Pimentel was an all-county player for Shoreham last year in his lone season with the Wildcats.
For the returning players, it’s been a busy offseason as they prepare to extend Shoreham’s playoff streak of 28 straight years.
“They trained for eight weeks, once a week, at Keith [Osik's] indoor facility plus what they do in addition on their own with their own private lessons,” Mignano said. “The majority of them, and I don’t necessarily love this, are pure baseball kids.”
While there aren’t too many questions at the start of the season as to finalizing the varsity roster, the JV team, coached by Bill Denniston, had a large turnout for tryouts.
Mignano said about 35 kids came out for JV and the roster will need to be trimmed to 20. The poor weather has kept the team indoors so far, which makes it that much harder for the coaches to evaluate all the players.
In the past Shoreham used to have two JV teams, but it was trimmed to one several years ago during budget cuts.
Mignano said he hopes to get the team outside Saturday, whether its at Shoreham’s field or anywhere else.