By David Yarger
Summer is here, and that means the return of Niagara Power baseball.
On Monday, the team held its media day to discuss the upcoming season. The roster, which has several Division I NCAA players, will see some familiar and recognizable names from the Western New York region. On hand, Dennis Gagliardo (St. John Fisher) of Lewiston, and Vinny Chiarenza (Niagara County Community College) of Grand Island said it’s surreal to be playing for the hometown team.
“It’s pretty remarkable,” Gagliardo said. “It’s been two or three years since I’ve had Niagara on the front (of my jersey). It means a lot to represent where I live and where I’m from. It’s a good change of pace.”
Chiarenza, who led the NCCC Thunderwolves with seven home runs, said, “It feels good. It’s a pretty outstanding opportunity for me to come and play for this organization. I’m very excited to get started and hopefully help this team win some games.”
Also a part of this summer’s roster is former Niagara-Wheatfield standout pitcher James Filippelli. The Mercyhurst University right-hander was not in attendance at media day, as the Lakers are currently in the NCAA Division II College World Series.
The Tribune reached out to Filippelli, who said, “When I was asked about where I might want to play summer ball, the Power was the first team to come to mind. It was the perfect fit from the get go, and I’m super excited to be able to live at home and represent my city and play the sport I love in front of the people I love.”
The Power, who finished 23-19 in the New York Collegiate Baseball League last season, will be led by head coach Ted Stenberg. Coming in to a roster full of fresh faces could be a challenge, but Stenberg said he had everyone’s name memorized in the matter of 20 minutes.
Coming off a season with varied success, Stenberg said it will be interesting to see how the talented roster performs in 2019, but he didn’t want to put too much pressure on his team.
“If I tell you my expectations now, obviously we talk about guys getting tired, inning limits, pitch limits, hamstring pulls. I don’t want to put my expectations on these guys just yet. We’ve had a conversation as a team that I do have expectations for them to show up, work hard, have a great attitude being here, and bring some energy to the ballpark and be coachable. If they do that, they’ll get better; and if they get better, they’ll meet my expectations,” Stenberg said.
Gagliardo said, “My expectations beforehand were ‘Summer ball, you have to get back into that competitive aspect and work hard.’ Ever since day one meeting these guys, it seems like we’re on the right track and getting after what we want to get after.”
Chiarenza added, “We have a good group of guys here. We get along really well, so it’ll be a good summer. Hopefully we get a lot of wins and just keep it going.”
Filippelli noted, “My expectations for this season are to just have fun, get a lot of innings in-game and use this season to prepare myself for success next year back at school.”
After playing a full spring with a different roster at their respective schools, the trio said it could be challenging to move on to a new team with fresh faces. Regardless of the chemistry, though, the three agreed it should be an interesting and fun summer.
“It’s a little overwhelming at first, but once you realize that everyone is in the same shoes, and we’re all expecting the same thing, I think it makes us come together quicker and have the same expectations,” Gagliardo said.
Chiarenza added, “The team goal is to win as many games as we possibly can and come out with a championship in this league. From the standpoint of everyone coming together, it’s pretty cool just to see different guys from different colleges just come in and compete together and put up as many wins as we can.”
Filippelli remarked, “It’s definitely going to be interesting, especially after spending the last 10 months with this team (Mercyhurst) and then coming home and immediately playing in games with a bunch of guys I don’t really know all that well yet. But I’m sure we have a fantastic group of players and I’m excited to come home and get to work.”
The summer league also provides Niagara University students an opportunity to gain professional experience with a sports organization. The majority of the work done at Power games is done by students of the university – everything from ticket sales to concessions and media is student driven.
The Niagara Power begins the regular season at 10 a.m. Thursday. Director Patrick Tutka said the opening day game is Kids Day and will likely garner a Power attendance record at Sal Maglie Stadium.
For more information on the team, visit https://www.niagarapowerbaseball.com/.