The day after a snowstorm, most folks are thinking about curling up on their couch with a cup of hot cocoa.
But not Anthony Iapoce.
No matter how much snow is on the ground, Iapoce – the hitting coach of the Texas Rangers – has his mind focused on one thing: baseball, which to him is a year-round activity.
Iapoce hosted the inaugural New York Baseball Coaches Clinic Dec. 10 at Division Avenue H.S., Levittown, L.I. The full-day event included information sessions and demonstrations geared toward local baseball coaches, parents and players.
“I think this came together from myself going around and being asked to speak at different clinics around the country and trying to figure out why there was never one on Long Island or in the city,” said Iapoce, whose baseball past traces to Catholic Youth Organization ball at St. Joseph’s parish, Astoria.
From there, it was on to Msgr. McClancy H.S., East Elmhurst, as the baseball team’s star center fielder. Upon graduating in 1992, his baseball career continued at Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas. In 1994, he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and wound up playing 11 professional seasons in the minor leagues for the Brewers and Florida Marlins.
Iapoce has spent the past two years as hitting coach for the Rangers – a franchise known throughout its history as having some of the top hitters in the game. Prior to that, he spent three years as the special assistant to the general manager of the Chicago Cubs.
Having gained extensive experience through his nearly 25 years of professional baseball, the 1996 McClancy Hall of Fame inductee has set out to give back what he has learned to the next crop of talented young baseball players.
The recent clinic featured some of the New York area’s top professional and college baseball coaches. Iapoce presented on hitting and baserunning; catching development was led by Jimmy Gonzalez, manager of the South Bend Cubs, the Class-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs; Lou Bernardi, pitching coach at Iona College, New Rochelle, taught the fundamentals of pitching; former New York Yankees third base coach Joe Espada discussed the principles of defense and run prevention; and University of Maine, Orono, head coach Nick Derba shed light on college baseball recruiting.
Espada, who spent the last three seasons with the Bronx Bombers and is set to be the bench coach in 2018 for the reigning American League champion Houston Astros, said scouting reports and analytical information play a larger role in defensive positioning than ever before.
“I like to call it run prevention because it goes beyond the fundamentals and the mechanical things about fielding a ground ball,” Espada said. “I think nowadays we talk about defense more as how to put guys in positions to where you try to shield certain parts of the field.”
Derba, a 2003 graduate of Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, who played as a catcher for the legendary coach Jack Curran, said there is great baseball coming out of the Northeast, despite the notion that warm weather climates produce the best ballplayers.
“I think this convention can be one of the most important things for New York baseball,” he said. “It shows that there are people that are successful coming out of the Northeast as coaches and former players. Parents and coaches can learn some skills from people who have done it at the highest levels.”
Also on hand at the clinic were current and former professional ballplayers Lou Lopez, Frank Rodriguez, Rob Delaney, Nick Fanti and Alex Katz, who all of whom participated in a Q-and-A session to conclude the day.
As Iapoce would agree, baseball is a sport that must be practiced and perfected all year long. So for him, baseball in December is simply the norm.
With the holidays approaching, a great gift for Iapoce would be to see the players – no matter what age or skill level – employ what he has taught them into their game.
“The message is that you can get to where you want to go,” Iapoce said. “We’re trying to show the parents and the coaches and the players how to get where they need to go, whether it’s college or to maybe get into professional ball if they’re good enough.
The spring baseball season is fast approaching, so putting in the time now and throughout the winter will get these players ready to compete at a high level.
That’s all Iapoce is asking: Put in the time behind the scenes, and that hard work will pay off when the time comes between the white lines on the diamond.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.