School board: Minor league baseball headed to Island

PETER BOODY PHOTO | Brett Mauser of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League makes the pitch to the School Board last month for a deal allowing the league to base a team on Shelter Island and use the varsity baseball field.

It’s official: Shelter Island will sponsor a minor league baseball team this summer.

In a unanimous vote, the School Board on Monday, December 19 approved the creation of a Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League team on the Island and agreed to let it use the varsity baseball field for games and practices.

The addition of Shelter Island will add a seventh team to the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, which last month added team number six, the Center Moriches Battlecats. Other teams are the Sag Harbor Whalers, the North Fork Ospreys, Westhampton Aviators, Southampton Breakers and the Riverhead Tomcats.

HCBL representative Brett Mauser said Tuesday morning in a phone interview, “Whenever expansion has been discussed, Shelter Island has always been one of the first locales we’ve talked about. We’re thrilled that the board has allowed us to put a team there. We’re excited to provide free family entertainment and high level baseball to the community; we couldn’t be more pleased.”

School Superintendent Dr. Michael Hynes announced that the school will hold a contest for students to recommend a team name and colors.

Board President Stephen Gessner asked Student Liasion Megan Mundy if students were talking about the prospect of a team. “A lot of people are excited,” Ms. Mundy said.

An hour after the vote, a statement was posted on the HCBL website, saying the organization was “pleased to welcome Shelter Island to the mix for the 2012 season.”

“I think it’s an absolutely incredible opportunity,” board member Elizabeth Melichar said.

At last month’s School Board meeting, HCBL representatives explained Islanders would be asked to host 25 college baseball players from across the country between June and August. The team would provide free entertainment and fundraising opportunities for school organizations. The HCBL has promised to improve the fields and hold seminars and clinics for young local athletes.

Last year, the league had about 125 student athletes from 80 universities including Stanford, Duke and Notre Dame, according to Mr. Mauser. They play over the summer to keep their baseball skills sharp and, they hope, catch the attention of minor league scouts.

The program requires use of the varsity baseball field for 20 to 25 home games that will be free to spectators. It’s “not only good for college players to improve their game, it’s free low-cost entertainment for families to see elite college baseball in a fun, family-friendly atmosphere,” said Mr. Mauser at last month’s meeting.

Beginning in June, the HCBL season will continue through the first week of August, at which time the league championship will be decided.

Shelter Island will be managed by Joe Burke, who starred at St. John’s University before playing seven seasons professionally, including two in the New York Yankees farm system.

HCBL alumni include former UConn shortstop Nick Ahmed, a 2011 second-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves; former Texas State third baseman Kyle Kubitza, a 2011 third-round draft pick of the Braves; and former Stony Brook right-handed pitcher Nick Tropeano, a 2011 fifth-round draft pick of the Houston Astros. In 2011, a dozen HCBL alumni played at the professional level, including in the Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations, as well as the independent Can-Am League.


Wayne Vitale has resigned as the district’s third business leader since last spring. His resignation was announced at Monday’s board meeting, less than three months after he was appointed to replace Jessica Mack, who remained in the job about four months. Asked why Mr. Vitale had quit, Dr. Hynes and board members declined comment, calling it a personnel matter; they also declined comment when Ms. Mack quit.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, asked to address questions that might arise about the business office, Dr. Hynes commented only, “There is nothing wrong with the business office. Vinnie Cullen, who just completed the [school’s] audit, showed that our business office is healthy and functioning.”

Dr. Hynes said that until someone is appointed to fill the post he will assume the business office responsibilities himself.

A budgetary increase to a line of salary “not to exceed $5,145.79, to be offset by the Reserve for Employee Benefit Accrued Liability Reserve,” was authorized by the board Monday as a “contractual pay-out” to Ms. Mack, the previous business leader hired in June after Sam Schneider left to work for the Riverhead School District. Ms. Mack’s resignation was tendered at a special meeting on October 5 for undisclosed reasons and Mr. Vitale of Center Moriches was chosen for the position at the same meeting.

Mr. Vitale’s said after his October 5 appointment that he hoped to remain in the position “for a long time.” and he was given a position as “purchasing agent” at last month’s meeting with no salary indicated.


Also on Monday, Vince Cullen of Cullen & Danowski delivered the board’s annual audit report. He said the school district was in good shape. Because the district “has the history of showing it has fiscal stability,” it is “in a much better position” in challenging times than other districts that have “squandered” their funds.

“It was a sparkling audit,” board member Linda Eklund said.

Also at the meeting, a vacancy on the board was discussed. A seat has been vacant since October when member Kim Reilly resigned to focus on her job at the Mashomack Preserve. Board President Steven Gessner said the board had three options: it could wait for the position to be filled during the May election, advertise the vacancy to the public and appoint someone to complete the term, which expires in June, or hold a special election. The board seemed content to leave the seat vacant until May when three seats will be up for election. Petitions from candidates applications are due at the district office by 5 p.m. on April 16.

The board discussed the idea of reducing the membership from seven to five seats. Mr. Gessner reminded members that, if they wanted to see the number reduced, voters would have to approve the move in a referendum in May and it would take another year with seven people on the board before it would take effect.

In other business, the board:

• Accepted a tenure recommendation for teacher assistant Jacqueline Brewer, effective January 5, 2012. Dr. Hynes said she has been “exceptional.”

• Named Christine Gallagher to substitute for a kindergarten teacher on medical leave from December 20 through March 1, or whenever the teacher returns from leave.

• Named two additional substitute teachers: Cristina Vecchio and Cara Cass, both at $100 a day.

• Changed the date of the senior class trip to Williamsburg, Virginia from April 25-29 to April 18-22 because the house the students want to rent was booked.

• Heard a presentation by teacher Keith Brace and two eighth grade students about a trip to see “The Nutcracker.”