New Britain City Journal

New Britain's Weekly Online Newspaper

The Sports Journal

Annual New Britain Baseball Social Set for Jan. 24

For over 110 years, the New Britain High School Baseball program has had a rich tradition that includes two state championships and countless conference titles. They have seen thousands of players come through with hundreds of them racking up individual and team awards. Most recently, in 2011, under the direction of head coach Roberto Mercado, they won their first conference championship since 1984.

Since 2011, the program has had two all-state players, three academic all-state players, and ten all-conference players. Mercado and the rest of this coaching staff within the program would like to see this success continue and are working hard to make it happen. To help their players achieve success, they have created several goals for this coming season.

“Our first goal is to be eligible for the state tournament. Our second would be to win the conference and our third would be to win the state tournament. Our fourth and final goal is to have all our players graduate from high school and continue their education even if they aren’t playing baseball in college,” Mercado said.

This season, the team will be bringing back a number of talented seniors including all-state catcher Kevin Dukes. On the mound, the Canes will have four seniors who can dominate at any time: Danny Annear, Kevin Fazio, Malcom McCloud, and Toby Taradeina. They will have two returning starting outfielders in Miguel Ortiz and Elvin Silva. They will also have two returning starting infielders in Toby Taradeina and Hugh Crundwell. The rest of the positions are up for grabs and Mercado expects it to be a competitive atmosphere once practices get underway.

In order to continue the success of the NBHS baseball program for years to come, Mercado understands how important the community is in playing a role within the program. When he took over as head coach four years ago, he held a baseball social and it has been a yearly tradition ever since. This year, it will take place on Friday, Jan. 24 at the VFW, located at 41 Veterans Dr. The social, which is $25 per person, runs from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. and includes a buffet dinner catered by Salute Restaurant, adult beverages provided by Roma Sports Bar and Grill, and a huge raffle and silent auction. Over the past three years, the attendance has been great, averaging 350 people per year.

“The baseball program truly relies on donations from alumni and local supporters. For our program to run, we have to raise over $15,000 a year. We have been fortunate enough to have a great support from alumni and the New Britain Community,” Mercado said. “All donations are given directly to the baseball program and the student athletes. If a family is unable to supply cleats or other baseball equipment, we will pay for it from the baseball fund.”

The team plans to purchase new away jerseys, which will be maroon and gold and made by Nike. They will also purchase the equipment that is needed on a year to year basis, such as hats, baseballs, new gear to replace old gear, and so forth. Besides equipment, the money will also be used for players to attend college prospect camps. In the past, several players have attended Boston College camps, Under Armour camps, and other local camps in an effort to gain national exposure from college and pro scouts.

Mercado also takes some of the money and puts it toward a yearly trip. This year, the program will be going to Philadelphia in April to attend a Phillies game and to also visit historical sites. The trip not only allows the kids to have fun and see a ball game, but it also gives them an opportunity of a lifetime that they may have not been able to have without the support of the community. Mercado understands how important it is to the kids.

“In the past 3 years that I have been coaching, we have been able to go to Baltimore, the Baseball Hall of Fame, Washington DC, and visit three ball parks and meet a couple of major league baseball players like Wilson Ramos from the Nationals (thanks to Bill Dowling from the Rock Cats) and Brandon Phillips from the Cincinnati Reds. Trips like these give our inner city student athletes an opportunity to travel and experience new things. It also builds team chemistry,” he said.

Mercado knows that the hard work and dedication by the coaches and players will result in successful 2014 spring baseball season. It is truly his hope, along with the rest of the program, to get support from the community in order to help make their goals a reality. You can do just that on January 24 at the VFW on Veterans Drive at the baseball social. If you would like to purchase a ticket, you may approach any baseball player or coach. They will also be sold at the door for the same price.