Nametags may be in order when the Manhattan College baseball program begins practice in about a month as 16 newcomers are making their way to Riverdale to join head coach Mike Cole’s program.
“With our seniors and fifth-year guys, plus losing Fabian (Peña) to the draft, we lost 14 guys off last year’s team,” Cole said. “It looks like we’re over-recruiting, but we’re not. We’re just trying to replace what we had.”
So Cole and assistant coaches Chris Cody and Vincent Redmond cast a wide net, covering the metro area as well as Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida, to haul in the newest set of Jaspers. And one of the headliners of this class already has ties to Manhattan, even before he steps on campus.
“We got a 6-foot, 10-inch left-handed pitcher that transferred here from Lafayette named John Cain,” Cole said. “His dad is Tim Cain, who played basketball at Manhattan (in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s). I think his dad played a huge role in us being able to get him.”
And Cole has big plans next season for his big lefty.
“John was a weekend starter for four years at Lafayette and he pitched in the Cape Cod League this summer,” Cole said.
Cain became available for a fifth year of eligibility because of Tommy John surgery after his sophomore year.
“He’s a graduate student in mechanical engineering, and I’m counting on him as being a weekend starter,” Cole said.
In college baseball, weekend starters are traditionally a program’s best pitchers.
Replacing the departed Peña, who was drafted by the San Francisco Giants last June, also was a priority, and Cole thinks he has a winner in incoming freshman catcher/outfielder Nick Cimillo.
“He’s a big, strong, physical kid,” Cole said of the 6-foot-3, 220 pounder. “He definitely has some big shoes to fill with Fabian gone. But he and (sophomore) Matt Padre will split time behind the plate, and both of them will also split time at DH. Nick was the player of the year in his conference as a junior. He’s a very good player.”
Cole also got another veteran in infielder Shawn Blake, a graduate transfer who comes to Manhattan after previously playing at Elon University in North Carolina.
“He a left-handed hitter and another big kid,” Cole said of the 6-foot, 2-inch, 245-pounder. “One of the things we set out to do, because we lost three left-handed hitters, was to get another left-handed hitter in the middle of the order. The big thing with bringing in fifth-year guys is that they have played at this level before and have contributed at this level before.
“You get a 22-, 23-year-old kid, and it’s helpful because he knows how Division I baseball works. Plus I think the younger guys will look up to those guys because they have done it already.”
Cole also kept the Florida-to-Manhattan recruiting pipeline active, grabbing a pair of middle infielders from Miami — Johnny Barditch and Matt Alfonso.
“They both played second base and shortstop in high school,” Cole said. “They are both very skilled defensively, and offensively they can run. They both play hard and they play the game the right way.”
Since 2005, Manhattan has brought 25 kids from Florida into its program.
Others in the recruiting class include:
• Keury Abreu, from St. Raymond’s High School in the Bronx
• Lewi Clarke from Saratoga Springs
• Jacob Radziewicz out of Middletown
• Luke Walter from Guiderland
• Cam Crabbe from White Plains
• Carson Coon of Meriden, Connecticut
• Samuel Franco of Clarkstown South High School
• David Moffett from Verona
• Howard Sewell of Middletown
• Mason Vaughn from Binghamton
And Jose De La Cruz, who played at George Washington High School before suiting up for Westchester Community College the past two seasons.
“We were looking to get a little more physical and a little more athletic, and I think we have brought some bigger, physical kids into the program,” Cole said. “It’s a big class, and you’re always excited when you bring in a big class. You want to get them acclimated to how we do things.
“We have 11 freshmen coming in with this class, so there will be a lot more teaching this fall.”