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Even for coaches, the summer league presents a learning curve

(Credit: Robert O'Rourk)

Like the players, Riverhead Tomcats bench coach Rob Maccone needs to adjust to the speed of play at the start of each HCBL season. That is because Maccone is also the Riverhead High School coach. The high school game is slower and players are more prone to make errors than in the HCBL.

Maccone recalls waving a Tomcats runner home from second base on a fly ball off the fence while he was coaching third base several years ago. “I sent him and he got thrown out by about 25 feet,” Maccone said. “It was the most embarrasing thing I could do.”

Maccone had served on the Tomcats’ staff from 2010-13 before his son, Dylan, was born in 2014 and he took two years off. He was originally hired to be the pitching coach for former manager Randy Caden before Caden stepped down before this season and Alex Nikolic became the manager. Now Maccone, a former catcher for St. Joseph’s College (Patchogue), throws batting practice and works with hitters on their swings.

He noted that it is a different type of coaching than what he does for his high school team. Because it is a summer league, it is more laid-back and he is dealing with more mature young adults. “You’re not really changing too much stuff,” he said. “These kids all come from good programs. They know what they’re supposed to be doing.”

In previous years, Maccone enjoyed the experience of coaching former players from the Blue Waves, such as Bryan Palermo, Kevin Curtis, Jimmy Powers and Steve Kimmelman, on the Tomcats. For the most part, though, HCBL managers and coaches have to deal with a learning curve each year, with a new slate of players they have never seen before.

“Coaching in high school, you’ve seen the kids in ninth and 10th grade,” Maccone said. “You got to have an idea when they get to you. Here you don’t know any of the kids from a hole in the wall.”

The deal with doubleheaders

Doubleheaders, for the most part, are a thing of the past in Major League Baseball, but not in the HCBL.

Prior to their doubleheader on Sunday, the managers for the North Fork Ospreys and the Tomcats expressed their dislike for twinbills.

“I don’t like doubleheaders, period,” said Ospreys manager Bill Ianniciello.

For one thing, he frowns on playing seven-inning games, which are employed in college doubleheaders, and because so many doubleheaders are split, he doesn’t believe they benefit the better team.

Alex Nikolic said: “I generally dislike them, but I’m looking at it from this perspective: If this wind keeps up and the sun is behind the clouds, it’s not going to be that hot and there’s four less innings of pitchers to worry about.”

Ianniciello looks at doubleheaders differently than he did when he was a player. “As a player I loved doubleheaders because I loved getting eight or 10 at-bats and trying to get yourself six hits,” he said.

Ianniciello’s opinion of doubleheaders as a manager may have taken an about-face, though, as the Ospreys won both games Sunday. Wearing a sheepish grin after the second game, he said, “I love doubleheaders.”

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Photo: Rob Maccone serves as the bench coach for the Tomcats. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)