Brooklyn’s Bonnie Rams college all-star baseball team had one goal this summer: to win the nearly seven-decade-old All-American Amateur Baseball Association tournament in Johnstown, Pa.
“We are always talking about Johnstown,” said Jonathan Pineiro, a former Bishop Ford standout now playing at Long Island University. “We need to clinch Johnstown. We look forward to it. If we don’t clinch we see the season as a failure.”
He and the Bonnie Rams will be heading back to the national tournament from August 6–11 after wining the Parade Grounds League’s senior divison with a 10–1 record. Getting there this season meant even more after the Brooklyn-based club lost a heartbreaker in the championship game of the Altoona Regional last season, and five of it players earned second chance at a storybook finish when the league increased the age limit to 22.
“We get another chance to show our skills and we get another chance to represent Brooklyn,” said former Sheepshead Bay standout Angel Vidal.
It is the Bonnie Rams’ second appearance in the last three years in the 16-team tournament made up of clubs from New Orleans, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago among other places. The crowd reaches up to 6,000 people for tournament game, which only adds to the experience.
“We come from Brooklyn and we usually get 10, 15 people out here,” Vidal said. “There we get more excited. We get more into the game just because of the fans.”
The people in Johnstown with see a Bonnie Rams team that features sparkling defense and mashing line up. They don’t feature a lights-out starter outside of ace Sandro Ferreira, but Robert Perez of Pace and Donnie Pagano of St. Joseph College (Brooklyn) have been steady on the hill and have gotten good run support.
“We hit a lot,” Vidal said. “If we win 10–8, I’m happy. It’s a win.”
The switch-hitting Vidal, former Telecommunications star Sam Simmons, and former Bishop Ford standout Anderson Mateo lead a powerful lineup. Mateo hit a three-run walk-off homer to clinch the Bonnies the Parade Ground League title. The team’s experience has coach Jerry Katzke believing his club has a chance to make some noise in Johnstown.
“We know the change in age made us better,” said Katzke, who is in his 47th year with the Bonnies organization. “We don’t know how much it made the other teams better as well. We feel we have a very experienced team. We played together for two years. We are a very sound defense team and we have some guys who can hit the ball very well.”
The players understand they will be representing more than just themselves and their team in the tournament. The Parade Ground league, which has been around for more than 60 years, has a rich history. Baseball greats like Joe Torre, Manny Ramirez and Willie Randolph all played in it growing up.
“It shows you that baseball is not just down south or other places,” Pineiro said. “There is good baseball in New York — not just in high school, but the college level too.”Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewsk
©2013 Community News Group
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