Baseball: Storm’s first season produced three titles

A few short months after starting up an amateur baseball program — the MDE Storm Baseball Clubs — pr

A few short months after starting up an amateur baseball program — the MDE Storm Baseball Clubs — president Mike Eplite can take a deep breath and take in the immediate success the organization had this fall.

The 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U teams combined to go 49-17-1 this fall. The 15U team was second in the Eastern New York Travel Baseball fall league to the South Troy Dodgers, and the three other teams each won their age division in the ENYTB.

“I was extraordinarily pleased,” Eplite said. “It was almost like a fairy-tale story. I thought we were going to be competitive, but I didn’t expect this. We’re trying to play the best competition we can, and if we lose, we lose, it doesn’t matter. We want to get these kids better. We want to position ourselves to be the top organization, teaching and preparing these kids.”

Eplite is a Schenectady native who has worked for nearly three decades promoting local baseball players to college scouts and coaches. This past summer, he took his involvement one step further, creating the MDE Storm.

He went out and recruited coaches he knows and trusts to help players develop into college prospects. The staff includes a lot of local high school coaches.

Ballston Spa coach Curtis Nobles heads the 18U team with new Schalmont coach Chris Teta as his assistant. The other programs are coached as follows, listed with head coach first: 16U — Matt Cater, Josh Colafemina; 15U — Dan Cook, Rob Murawski and Dave Booker; 14U — Dan Sausville, Jesse Braverman. Ed Smith has come on as the general manager.

“I’ve got a great assortment of coaches and people in the organization who give their soul to this for a purpose,” Eplite said. “We want to compete with the South Troy Dodgers and all the local programs. We want to bring a good brand of baseball, compete, and win or lose, to focus on enhancing our players’ skills and getting better. The end result will be promoting them to colleges around the country.”

Some of the first names that came to mind when talking about the players he is now shopping around to colleges are Justin Decker, Lorenzo Horvath and Jon Sell, all of whom had good fall seasons with the 18U team.

Decker hit .406 in 32 at-bats this fall, scoring 16 runs and driving in 10. Horvath, a catcher with Christian Brothers Academy, hit .375 in 48 at-bats, scoring seven runs and driving in 14.

On the mound, Sell threw 27 2⁄3 innings, striking out 36 and walking 15 with a 1.01 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. He finished 2-2 with two complete games and a no-hitter.

They are just a few of the success stories in the fledgling program. The program, by the way, was meant to be half the size it ended up.

“I only wanted two teams — I wanted to start off, then inch it up — all of a sudden, it was four,” Eplite said. “We almost had five. And in the ENYTB, three of our teams finished in first place, and one was second. That’s in our very first year, with only two months together, and it’s the guys who are in the organization who have made us successful.”

The word is out, and the MDE Storm has caught the interest of other Section II baseball players. Regardless of how good they are or have been for their respective schools, though, Eplite said he won’t play favorites. Everyone will have to try out for roster spots for the summer season.

“Now that we’ve been successful, we’re hearing from other good players around the Section II area,” Eplite said. “They’re going to have to try out and show what they’ve got. There’s no politics.”

In the meantime, the MDE Storm will work out this winter in a new 6,400-square-foot facility at 828 State St., which will be run by Sausville, who is also the pitching coordinator for the organization. The facility will have a video room, a conference room, batting cages and pitching mounds.

Once the spring scholastic season ends, the MDE Storm teams will be back out on their home fields at Schalmont High School. Eplite said with two fields at their disposal next summer, he expects to have tournaments for each age division, and there will be a showcase for players to put their talents on display for a number of college scouts and coaches.

That remains Eplite’s end game for these players. He wants to bring in players with the dedication to their craft that can lift them to the next level, then help give them the tools to do it. These coaches, the site on State Street, these are those tools.

Speaking to him about it now, his pride in what these players have already done is apparent. So is his pride in having this talent suiting up in Schenectady County.

“Bob Godlewski [now head coach for College of St. Joseph] started this with the Schenectady Blue Jays years ago,” Eplite said. “I’m just carrying on where he left off.”

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