By Gavin Menu
Officials from the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, which brings players and coaches from across the country to the East End every summer, talk a lot about building community. Players and coaches from the league’s seven teams, they say, become like family after two months of bonding.
That dynamic is especially strong with the Sag Harbor Whalers this summer, and it begins at the top. Manager Geno DeAngelis, in his second year at the helm of the program, and his pitching coach, Jayson Huett, go way back, meaning all the way back to Little League.
“We were 6 years old playing Little League together in Los Alamitos, California,” said DeAngelis, now a graduate assistant at Long Beach State, one of the top Division I programs in the country. “We were on the same all-star team by the age of 8 and instantly became best friends.”
DeAngelis and Huett, who coaches at Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach, California, attended high school together and went on to play college ball together at Golden West Junior College. They both transferred to Northwest Missouri State, where they excelled. And now their bond formed through baseball continues unbroken.
“We’ve known each other going on 20 years now, same Little League, same high school, same college,” Huett said. “Growing up playing ball together, we know each other, we’re familiar with each other. And now coaching together, we’re growing up a lot.”
DeAngelis, 26, and Huett, 27, are the youngest coaches in the HCBL and as of Tuesday had the Whalers in fourth place with a 10-11 record at the midway point of the regular season. Westhampton, at 15-7, leads the league, followed by Shelter Island (13-8) and the North Fork (12-10).
The top four teams will qualify for the postseason, where a league champion will be crowned, and fans of the Whalers can be assured that their coaching staff is as competitive as can be.
“A lot of people think I’m too young, but to me that’s an advantage,” said DeAngelis. “I think I relate to the players really well. I’m fresh out of baseball, but when you consider the people I’m around throughout the year, I’ve learned so much.”
The people he speaks of are his fellow coaches from Long Beach State, which has sent more players to the Major Leagues than any program in the country, according to DeAngelis. Adding to the close-knit vibe on the Whalers is the fact that four players—Vaughn Berberet, Tyler Radcliffe, Nico Maida and Joey Sanchez—also hail from Long Beach State.
“It’s an honor and a pleasure to be part of that program,” DeAngelis said.
As for their future, both DeAngelis and Huett would like to continue their coaching careers and dedicate their lives to baseball. When DeAngelis needed a pitching coach this season, there was no question who he was going to call first.
“We always had a deal that whoever got the head job we would hire the other as an assistant,” DeAngelis said. “So when I got this job, he was the first person I called.”
“Our dads coached our Little League all-star team together,” Huett added. “Growing up together they were best friends, and they’ve stayed friends until this day. So we have an almost family-like bond.”
The Whalers will face the North Fork in Peconic today, July 2, at 11 a.m. before their annual July 4 game against Shelter Island on Saturday, also at 11 a.m. Riverhead will travel to Sag Harbor for a game at Mashashimuet Park on Sunday at 2 p.m.