Sam Abdelwahab – First County Bank Athlete of the Month

Sam Abdelwahab

Our September, First County Bank Athlete of the Month is 10 year old Sammy Abdelwahab. Abdelwahab who is our youngest athlete to be recognized for this honor to date is easily one of the most deserving we have had. The young standout puts in the time and effort in like very few. Abdelwahab is either at the academy with Abate Training, with his team through NC Select, or on his own at home constantly working to be a better baseball player. What should not go understated though is the swag he walks through life with. Abdelwahab is easily noticed with matching attire for his favorite team, repping New Canaan, or any combination of loud colors which is reminiscent of a young Zack Ramppen (August FCB Athlete of the Month) at the old academy. Abdelwahab’s swag, confidence, and awareness to name a few, are qualities that help separate him from other players his age.  

Abdelwahab is predominantly an infielder (shortstop specifically) who is also a solid option on the mound as well for his teams. He can get the job done no matter where you put him or how intense the game situation might be. This is only helped by the fact that Abdelwahab has been playing baseball since he could stand up. The game is in his blood! New Canaan Travel has been the beneficiary to this point of Abdelwahab’s abilities on the field, as a teammate, and as an example to other players around him. However, those skills are only improving as he moves into his third year of working with Abate Training. The results are becoming more and more noticeable. Recently Abdelwahab played in a Perfect Game tournament in New Jersey and lit up the competition. At the plate he went 7-9 (.778) with 2 home runs and 9 runs batted in and on the mound he was 2-0 helping his team reach the championship game. A stellar run of games that only help solidify what we can all see coming in his future.

Mike Abate had this to say, “​​Extremely proud of this young man. Just a young kid playing the game the right way. With addition to his MVPs and player of the month awards, to leading his team to both a state and regional championship. What you don’t see is all the hard work he puts in not only on the field but off. He plays the game with heart and a great deal of passion. This is the way it’s suppose to be played at any level! Keep working hard Sammy and these Home-runs will be the first of many!

Success is something that Abdelwahab is very familiar with so far in his young life. He has already been a part of two Cal Ripken state championship wins and regional title where he was recognized with the MVP award. He and his team will be headed to the Cal Ripken 10U World Series this coming summer, which is another chance for more to see his incredible skill set. With all this success though Abdelwahab is just like most other kids his age. When he is playing or working for baseball he is playing football and basketball with his friends. He is a mega sports fan – watching his Mets and Giants any chance he gets! Abdelwahab also enjoys fishing, video games, and playing with his younger brother. He is a good student who loves to read short stories but best to make them about sports, those are his favorites! When he grows up he wants to play baseball in Florida and then ultimately professionally but additionally wants to be a team doctor.

We here at BVSA want to congratulate Abdelwahab once more on earning this honor of FCB Athlete of the Month! The hours of hard work and success on the field do not go unnoticed. We are excited to see what the future has in store because it is only going to get better from here on out!

Saturday Morning

Joe Wanderlingh

Easy Like Saturday Morning

On a Saturday morning, everyone at the field is excited to be a part of the team’s doubleheader, even if it takes a few innings for you to wake up. The coaches, parents, and players are all ready for five hours of straight baseball.  Parents have the coolers packed and chairs out, the coaches have coffee in hand and lineup cards written out, and the kids have their eye black on, pants rolled up, and they take the field. There is nothing better than just watching the kids, no matter how old, just go out and play the game they love.
 
The key word there is PLAY, remember that word. Yes, everyone would like to win and one can certainly argue baseball is more fun when you win, but the reality is that the competitiveness and emotions of the outcome should not go past the field. Once you get in your car, or once you get home at the latest, the W or the L in the standings should be the least of your concern by then. Anyways, not the point of this story. 
 
This image can be ruined rather quickly by one or a few in attendance.  How is it ruined? “Just throw strikes!” “You have to visualize!” “Get your elbow up, we just worked on this!” I can go on and on. These statements are made by both coaches and parents, and it usually goes on all day long. The intent is always in the best interest of the kid, I get that completely. I am not arguing that in the slightest. But these kids are out there and they want to just play, so let them PLAY.
 
It doesn’t matter what happened in between the lines, the kids are kids and they want to have fun, so let them! The competitiveness and intensity is a key part of baseball and what makes it so great, but our kids have become more and more frightened that they are going to make mistakes, which just leads to more mistakes followed by a loss of interest in playing the game next week or wanting to play again next season. 

I challenge you as the parent or as the coach to allow and almost encourage mistakes. Mistakes give us coaches something to talk about after the game down the left field line. They give us a focus point in practice the following Tuesday. It helps each and every player LEARN and grow as a player and as a young man, whether they were a direct cause of the mistake or not. It helps them understand how and why this is a team game. These mistakes can be both physical or mental.

It does not matter if the team is eight years old or fourteen years old, let these kids have fun, enjoy their experiences, maybe even watch them figure it out for themselves and adjust right in front of your eyes without you saying a word, and then break everything down after the last out with them.  We all want to be a part of what really is a special Saturday week in and week out, so let’s all play our part and enjoy the piece that makes the day so special, our kids with smiles on their faces competing, learning, and working together as a team.

Zack Ramppen – First County Bank Athlete of the Month

Zack Ramppen – First County Bank Athlete of the Month

Zack has always been different. Anytime you evaluate talent, the great ones have the ability to make the game look slow. In a world full of “size matters“ Zack makes those comparisons mute. This kid just knows how to play the game of baseball. He’s special and has the “it” we all look for in players. I have a great deal of confidence in Zack on being the best he can be. West Virgina is getting a great player and I wish him luck!

BV’s First County Bank Athlete of the month for August is Zack Ramppen, a senior at New Canaan High.  Ramppen is one of the most athletically gifted members of the BV Community.  He is also unequivocally one of the most unique personalities we have at the academy.  There is no other individual who is similar to Ramppen in his approach to baseball, his relationships with teammates, coaches, people in general, and life as a whole.  For those who have known Zack for the entirety of his time back state side since Japan, have had the pleasure of seeing him go from the little guy over at Camp Ave to the mature future Mountaineer headed off to West Virginia roughly a year from now.  His drive, determination, instinct and relaxed outlook on baseball allow him to not just compete but stand out amongst his peers and opponents.  Headed into his Senior year as a captain of the baseball team at NCHS, this being his 4th year on Varsity – Zack is ready to make an impact on the field with his play, and more importantly as a leader of this Rams squad.

Ramppen is pretty synonymous with baseball in this area, so it isn’t too much of a surprise how in his blood baseball has been from the beginning. Ramppen spent his developing years in Japan while his father Frank coached with none other than Bobby Valentine.  So his second home was a stadium – not much more need to ingrain baseball into you.  Ramppen spent so much time in the stands, in the dugout and out on the field soaking up what it took to be a top level athlete.  Satozaki was Ramppen’s favorite player in Japan and the reason he wanted to start catching (an amazing decision that was).  It didn’t take long for Ramppen to display some unbelievable talent even at such a young age.  Between the fun had at the field and the seriousness of Japan’s little league baseball it gave the perfect opportunity for Ramppen to start developing.  Once the Ramppens came home he picked up right where he left off, New Canaan baseball and the academy didn’t know what hit them!  Everything about him was different; the little things clicked so much faster and with ease then for others.  This was clear for everyone he was exposed to, including long time BVSA employee Tim Giuliano, who had this to say:

“Zack is one of those players who clearly makes a physical difference on the field. But the beauty of his ability is not realized until the car ride home. As you reflect on all the little events that influenced the game it’s obvious that not only is Zack involved in every moment, he creates the pulse of the game.“ 

As Ramppen got to the high levels of Ripken in New Canaan and even in his early years on the big field his play never skipped a beat.  Ramppen always found a way to affect the game – offensively, defensively, on the bases, or simply as a teammate (and is still the same to this day).

It didn’t take long for heads to turn once Ramppen walked into New Canaan High.  His impact much like his older brothers was going to be felt on the baseball team from year 1 as a freshman.  That is exactly what happened, Ramppen made Varsity as a freshman and started the first three games at third base until he took over behind the plate.  Ramppen showed out and brought an energy to the team, one of youthful exuberance along with leadership that would go a long way for future years.  Unfortunately, there was no Sophomore year due to COVID but the comeback Junior season was definitely one to write home about.  Ramppen lit up the field, leading his team in nearly all offensive categories (if not all of them) and was an exemplary leader amongst a relatively inexperienced Varsity squad.  What separated Ramppen throughout the entirety of the FCIAC though, was his stellar play behind the plate.  Controlling the pitch staff, limited past balls, and a non-existent running game against it was clear the level he was playing at.  This led to being named to the All-FCIAC East team and being drafted in the CT Fantasy Baseball draft. 

The momentum steamed rolled into the summer as Ramppen, in his first summer playing Time To Sign, continued to stand out and garner recognition.  Between his coaches, his teammates, opposing coaches, and opposing players it was clear to all Ramppen came to play.  Play he did. Ramppen during his first tournament in Georgia got noticed by the right eye.  For four straight days the West Virginia scout came back to see how Ramppen was going to not just impress but top his performance from the previous day.  It was not too long after the offer was extended and accepted to commit to playing at West Virginia University.  Founder of Time  To Sign, Berg Ohanian had this to say, “How lucky are we as coaches to have a player like Ramppen – plays it the right way 100% all the time. From a good baseball family, and we can see why Zack is so good. It was a pleasure being around and having this kid with us. Bright future ahead.” It has all come together for the once little guy who used to be running all over the academy having a blast and now will get to pursue his dream of playing Division One college baseball in the Big 12 Conference. Taking him one step closer to reaching professional baseball.

Outside of baseball Ramppen is a dedicated student and has been able to achieve making honor roll every quarter of his high school career except for one.  It’s this commitment that makes it so clear that when Ramppen sets his mind to what he wants anything is possible.  His ability to stay cool, calm, and relaxed under pressure only allows for the game or whatever endeavor he takes on to slow down so he can reach the highest.  We are proud to have such a great person (more than an athlete) representing B.V.S.A.  The future is so bright and we cannot wait to see what he is able to accomplish!

Jake Benner – First County Bank Athlete of the Month

Jake Benner – First County Bank Athlete of the Month

Jake “The Terminator” Benner is a coach's dream. He started training at about 165lbs, through his hard work he’s transformed himself into a 210 lbs powerhouse in about 2 years. He’s one the most determined and hardest working athletes I’ve ever come across.

For the month of May, our First County Bank Athlete of the Month is 17 year old Jake Benner. Benner is easily a stand out amongst his peers, both in stature and what the young athlete has accomplished on and off the field. He earned this recognition long before the month of May but after a solid season for the Vikings the timing couldn’t have been better. We at B.V.S.A. were fortunate to see Benner develop over the past couple off-seasons, spending countless hours with B.V.T. Lab working hard with Renick and Mike. It was in the Lab where you could see the different motor in Benner and the effort he is willing to give to make even the most minor improvement day to day. Those “minor improvements” have been gaining forty pounds and getting not just stronger but faster and more agile. 

“Jake is one of our hardest working athletes. Ask Jake to jump and he says “how high coach”?! He’s the type of guy that comes in, puts his head down, and gets to work every single day with no questions asked. He always puts 110 percent effort into everything he does and it really showed not only in his progression in the weight room, but also on the field this spring. We could not be happier for Jake and his accomplishments and we are excited to see what comes next for this amazingly hard working athlete.”

This is apparent on the ball field if it be for practice or in the heat of a game. The infielder and pitcher is an exemplary leader no matter his performance and a player that his teammates can lean on throughout the season.

Benner is a player that can be relied upon on all sides of the ball; a big bat, with a solid glove and a strong arm on the mound. However it is his calm presence in any moment on the field at the plate, out in the field, or on the mound that raises his value to any of his coaches and teammates. This has been something that he has developed over a long period of time being a ball player. Benner has been playing since the age of 5 and fell in love with the game immediately. It was a perfect fit that was apparent and anybody in Stamford American could easily see as he played through Little League. Benner played for their 11U and 12U All-Star teams with early signs of being a dominant force. He then went on to play Stamford Legion for three years before finding his home with the Clubhouse in Fairfield. The now Junior Captain of the Westhill Vikings has also played basketball for the school in previous years as well but the diamond is where he excels the most. 

“Jake is one of the most talented, hardest working student-athletes to come through our program in years. He is 110% dedicated to everything he does regardless of what it is. In the class-room (4.5 GPA), the weight-room, or on the diamond you will not find a harder worker. Do not be fooled by his quiet and calm demeanor. On the field, he is a fierce competitor who will do whatever he can do to help us win. In my opinion, Jake is one of the best two-way players in the State. I am beyond thankful that he is on our team and we don't have to play against him!"

This made him an easy choice for the Ruden Report to nominate him for Player of the Week, which Benner ultimately won. However, it is with all this behind him as a ball player that will help him excel at the next level in the coming years.

The recognition is not just for his on-field or in the weight room work ethic because it doesn’t stop there for him. As stated above he has a 4.0 GPA and 4.5 weighted GPA. Benner also finds time to be involved with the Academy of Finance at Westhill with future plans to pursue a degree in business at a high academic institution. You can also see him spending a lot of his free time volunteering if it be with Stamford American for their winter workouts, Stamford North in their Challenger League, at the St. Leo’s Church or at Kids Helping Kids. It is simply impressive what he has been able to accomplish and do not just for himself but so many others in such a short period of time. 

We were happy and excited to be able to recognize Benner with this honor of FCB Athlete of the Month. Looking forward to seeing another year of hard work in BVT and what he will be able to achieve on the field but in his personal life as well. 

Congratulations and keep striving to best yourself each and every day because few are as hardworking, dedicated, and determined as you are. It will be a fun ride the next few years to see it all unfold.

2021 Statistics:

Offensive – .510 AVG, .576 OBP, 1.059 SLG, 25H, 8 2B, 1 #B, 5 HR, 18 R, 22 RBI, 5 SB,  

Pitching – 17.1 IP, 2 W, 2L, 2Saves, 7ER, 2.82 ERA, 4 BB, 34K

Resume:

      • Academy of Finance Member – 2019 to present
      • Extracurricular Activities:
      • Westhill High School Varsity Baseball – 2020-present, named Captain Spring 2021
      • The Clubhouse Baseball – Elite baseball club providing top notch baseball instruction to aid in player development and college recruitment – National Team (2019-2020), Prospect Team (2020-Present)
      • Westhill High School Bee Club Member – Present (2021-2022) – Provide bees with shelter and harvest honey to be sold for funding school-based programs
      • Westhill High School Kids Helping Kids Club Member – Present (2021-2022)
      • Westhill High School Freshman Baseball Captain – 2019
      • Stamford Recreational Basketball League – 2019 Season
      • Westhill High School Freshman Basketball – 2018 Season – Coaches Award Recipient
      • Stamford Legion Baseball – 2017-2019 – MVP Award Recipient 2018, Coaches Award Recipient 2017
      • Stamford American Little League – 2009-2016

Volunteer Work:

      • Stamford Challenger Little League – Spring 2021 – Provide baseball instruction to players with special needs and assist with coaching games.
      • Stamford American Little League – Volunteered at winter work out clinics to aid in the development of young baseball players – Winter 2020
      • St. Leo’s Annual Church Fair – Summers 2016-2018 – Assisted with Fair set-up and breakdown; worked various game booths.
      • St. Leo’s Annual Clothing Drive – 2017 – Organized clothes to be provided to the Covenant House for under privileged families.
      • Clothes to Kids of Fairfield County – 2017-2018 – Organized and stocked the store floor to help ensure that the clothing needs of students visiting the store are met and to make the shop a welcoming place for families.
      • Still Meadow Elementary School – Volunteered at family fundraising events – organized events and assisted children with various sport competitions – Spring 2017 & 2018
      • The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County – Volunteered throughout 2017 & 2018 – Sorted donated food items and stocked shelves

Work Experience:

      • Peak Performance Sports Camp CIT – Summer 2019 – Taught young children various sports such as soccer, basketball, and baseball
      • Stamford American Little League Junior Umpire – 2018 & 2019 Seasons & hopefully 2021!
      • Awards/Accomplishments:
      • The Ruden Report Player of the Week for outstanding baseball performance – April 2021
      • Westhill Varsity Baseball Captain – Spring 2021 to present

Clete Wheeler – First County Bank Athlete of the Month

Clete Wheeler

Clete Wheeler – First County Bank Athlete of the Month

Clete Wheeler

Our April, First County Bank Athlete of the Month is 18 year old Clete Wheeler. Wheeler is a true standout amongst his peers. A genuinely nice person,  with an unmatched motor, and a player every coach dreams of having lead his team.  A member of the BVSA community since his family moved to New Canaan many years ago. Wheeler became even more rooted into BVSA when this past year he started as instructor on top of his busy schedule. Wheeler’s daily routine would consist of church, school, baseball, work for the academy, and then school work. He does all of it with a positive, fun loving attitude.  This makes each endeavor that much more worthwhile because it serves a greater purpose.

Wheeler is currently a senior at New Canaan High School and a Captain of the Varsity Baseball team. Serving as their starting Shortstop, Wheeler can play every other position on the field, as well as pitcher. This dynamic and versatile ability makes him so valuable to the Rams roster.  Clete can do it all above the level of an average high school player.  His Head Coach, Anthony Bloss has this to say, “Clete is one of our 4 captains and has been a leader both on and off the field. He leads by example and takes ownership of his performances. His teammates respond to him in a positive way, and he is always smiling and encouraging.” 

Wheeler started this journey back in Utah as a first grader when he initially picked up the glove and bat for the first time. His development and passion for baseball has only grown with each passing year no matter the state he was in. Wheeler joined the NC Select Rams when the family moved to CT and immediately integrated himself into the program. The then 11 year old Wheeler would become a main stead of New Canaan baseball as well as our own Fury baseball program for many years.

Wheeler has trained with Coach Frank Ramppen of Ramp3 Baseball at the Academy, on top of all the teams through the years.  He credits a great deal of his development to the years spent in the cages with Frank honing in and making the adjustments necessary to improve his game. Frank had this to say, “Clete is so deserving to have been chosen as athlete of the month.  He has been my hardest working student over the last 6 years and has developed into a great player. He trained 2-3 times a week throughout the year, regardless of his busy schedule but that is such a small part of the big picture.  Clete is one of the greatest young men I have ever had the pleasure to meet. He has accomplished so many things in his young life but most importantly exemplifies how a young man should behave.  I have never seen Clete in a bad mood.  His infectious smile and kind, energetic personality are so consistent, so uplifting and so present. I can’t wait to see how many more great things he does in his life and how many people he will make better around him along the way.  Congrats Clete!!!”

Wheeler has and continues to be multi dimensional as an athlete and as a person. His athletic endeavors prior to his junior year was that of being a football player and a wrestler as well. Two sports that take unwavering commitment, breed a brotherhood mentality and build your character as an individual. Wheeler is a 3-time state champion for football, twice in Utah and once here in Connecticut with New Canaan. He is just as dominant in the classroom as he is on the wrestling mat, on the football field or on the diamond. Wheeler maintains a 3.7 GPA and plans to major in finance at Brigham Young University in Utah this upcoming fall. But, what is likely the most defining part of who Wheeler is an athlete, a student, and as a person is his religious backing as a devout Mormon. It is such an integral part of his everyday life but he plans on serving a church mission for The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints after his freshman year of college to help spread the word of Mormonism.

If you have the pleasure of having Clete Wheeler in your life in any capacity, you are likely better off for it. There is some impact and lasting mark from your interactions with Wheeler.  He embodies what we hope all of our athletes can and will be in whatever endeavor they choose to put time and effort into.  We couldn’t be more proud and excited to be able to award him this honor and recognize Clete Wheeler as not just an athlete but as an individual. Looking forward to seeing what he can accomplish in the future as we know great things are on the horizon.

Gametime CT – Zack Ramppen

Zack Ramppen

Gametime CT – Zack Ramppen

Zack Ramppen

The article below was written by Scott Ericson at Gametime CT.  At BVSA we have had the privilege to watch Zack grow up into the person he is.  We are excited for the community to read Zack’s story and understand what makes him tick!  Thank you Scott and Gametime CT for this awesome write up.  Zack, keep it up and good luck the rest of this season!!

Gametime CT

Scott Ericson

The earliest memories Zack Ramppen has are frequent family trips to Japan to see his father Frank, who was an assistant coach for Bobby Valentine in the Japanese Professional League.  There, Ramppen got to be around baseball on a daily basis and the seeds that would grow into an undeniable love of the game were planted.

“My family would travel to Japan all the time. My dad was basically living out there coaching with Bobby Valentine,” Ramppen said. “I was out there visiting from two-months old, my first plane ride, to six years old. I was always traveling back and forth and was at a baseball game probably every day.”

Ramppen credits those early days in Japan around the Chiba Lotte Marines managed by Valentine with Frank Ramppen serving as the infield/bench coach as crucial to his development.

“He and his brother grew up around the ballpark and had a ball and glove in their hands every day, they watched 1,000 games as little kids, were around someone who was involved with baseball his entire life and they called Bobby Valentine ‘Uncle Bob,’” Frank Ramppen said. “He watched so many games from the stands and that makes a big difference. So many kids play video games and don’t watch baseball games. I think watching baseball makes them become better baseball players. “

Ramppen picked up his batting stance and uniform number from Japan.

“When Zach was over there we had a catcher with a very unique stance and as soon as we put a bat in Zack’s hands, he emulated his stance. Zack is also a catcher because of him. It was a big influence on their lives,” Frank Ramppen said. “Coaches in Japan have to wear number 79 and above and I was 83. Zack wore 83 on any team that would possibly make that jersey. He always wore my number which is really cool.”

Unfortunately, New Canaan did not have a number 83 to issue Ramppen and he settled on No. 5.

Ramppen said he has never stopped learning from his father or ‘Uncle Bob.’

“My dad has made the biggest impact on my baseball career by far,” Ramppen said. “I grew up with him and Bobby Valentine. My dad is his right-hand man. They both helped me out and developed my game to a level I didn’t think I could get to.”

That level he has reached is a high one with room left to grow.

Ramppen was named as one of GameTimeCT’s 25 Players to Watch this preseason and early on, has been producing at an all-state level both offensively and defensively as a catcher.

He is throwing 82 mph down to second base with a pop time of 1.81, according to Prep Baseball Report.

The junior is hitting above .500 with two home runs through five games, helping New Canaan to a 3-2 record.

“He is our No. 3 hitter, he will be our No. 3 hitter all year and probably next year,” New Canaan coach Anthony Bloss said. “He gets good swings. No at bat is taken off, no at bat is sacrificed. He goes up there and he has a plan. We teach it and we practice it but most kids in certain counts don’t know what to do. Zack knows what to do. He has that all down.”

While he has been hot to start, Ramppen feels he has a ways to go to be where he would like to be at the plate.

“I am feeling good at bat right now,” he said. “Still having some tough at bats but hopefully I get into a hot streak soon. I am feeling good but hopefully can do a little better in the next couple of games.”

His offensive production alone would make people take notice, but he is even more valuable behind the plate, handling the pitching staff, blocking balls and throwing runners out on the bases.

“He is a field general. He’s incredible. Not only does he block every ball and have a great arm but he commands everything. He’s running the whole show. As a coach it makes life a lot easier knowing you have a kid like that behind the plate,” Bloss said. “Teams are starting to learn they may not want to run on him in certain spots. He has a very strong and accurate arm. He gets up and gets the ball out very quickly.”

“It changes the whole complexion of the game. Pitchers are less worried about guys running on them and can focus more on the batter. When you have a kid, not just with the arm, but the fact he blocks everything gives our pitchers so much more freedom with two strikes knowing he’s not going to let the ball get by him.”

By all accounts the New Canaan pitchers love him.

“You know he is going to catch everything and stop everything. That lets you be a little more experimental, especially with hitting your spots outside,” New Canaan senior pitcher Matt Balkun said. “With a runner on first I am more comfortable in taking a little longer with my windup knowing Zack is back there. You notice the difference. Going from pitchers and catchers week to having Zack catch for you all the time is a big difference. Your overall confidence in pitching goes up when he is catching for you.”

Ramppen made the varsity as a freshman in 2019, starting all 20 games though he played some third base because the Rams needed him there, before playing 12 games at catcher.

He was able to play a season with his brother, Frank IV, who was a junior in 2019.

Frank pitched a few games, getting to throw to his younger brother.

Zack stood out right away to coaches who knew he needed to be in the varsity lineup one way or another his first season.

His father is impressed with his skills, but it is the intangibles that stand out.

“Zack has all the tools. He has a great arm, his pop time is ridiculous and he can hit for power for a small guy. His baseball IQ is through the roof,” Frank Ramppen said. “You have to see him play. He plays the game the way it is meant to be played. I’ve never seen a spot too big for him.”

Since that first varsity season, Ramppen has continued to improve.

“Freshman year I was a little more conservative and was playing to get the job done and nothing more. Now I am stepping up and being able to make an impact,” Ramppen said. “I have always been a pretty good thrower. The place I worked the most on my game this offseason was blocking. If I can’t block then the man on first is getting to third in two pitches. I want to make sure they have faith in me that I can block a ball in the dirt, fastball, curveball, any pitch they throw so they can feel more comfortable throwing that pitch.”

And though his father helps run Bobby Valentine Sports Academy and Ramppen spent more time around coaches than most players, his father felt less was more when it came to Zack’s development.

“For Zack, he was at the academy every day, at all of his brothers practices and at his own practices,” Frank Ramppen said. “He got so much time in and so much extra work just being around the game. He has been so good his whole career, I have almost been afraid to give him advice because I don’t want him to overthink. He naturally does things that we teach.”

Hannah Murray – First County Bank Athlete of the Month

Hannah Murray – First County Bank Athlete of the Month

 

Our First County Bank Athlete of the Month for March 2021 is Hannah Murray.  Murray is a fourteen year old 8th grader who attends Greenwich Academy. A veteran of Bobby Valentine’s, she is a hard working and dedicated athlete.  Hannah is constantly working to improve her craft as well as her athleticism. Her diligence to being her best is not limited to the cage or the field as she excels in the classroom as well. Murray is well on her way to becoming an impressive student-athlete at the high school level. Which only helps exemplify and confirm her selection as FCB Athlete of the Month.

“A coach’s dream!!!” – Danielle Simoneau

Her long time instructor Danielle Simoneau, is the director of our Lady Titans program.  Danielle had this to say of Hannah, “Hard working, enthusiastic, and always with a smile! A coach’s dream!!!” This can truly be felt as a spectator outside any of her lessons, practices, or games.

Murray’s desire and interest in softball came from the time spent at her brother Zach’s baseball games. She started off playing baseball as early as 4 years old and fell in love with the game. Murray picked up the game very quickly and her talents shined through. At 8 years old she played for Norwalk’s 8U Cal Ripken All-Star team, where she got to travel the state competing. She was the only girl on the team, which did not intimidate her at all, and even at the young age she was confident in her skills on the field.  Shortly after, Murray made the transition to the softball diamond, playing her first season with a Greenwich Parks and Recreation team. This is where she focused on mastering the fundamentals of the game and began her journey to be a great softball player.

“She puts in the work and always has her team’s back.” – Quianna Diaz Patterson


The next stop in her path was a stint with Tucci Lumber Elite. Here she continued to grow and develop as a player. The smaller details of the game became much more important. This only helped narrow her focus. Her most recent home is here with our Lady Titans. Her coach Quianna Diaz Patterson had this to say about her player, “Hannah’s hardworking, easily coachable, and an enthusiastic leader for her team. She puts in the work and always has her team’s back. You’ll never see her without a smile and her team can count on her fully. Totally deserving of player of the month!”

Entering her second season Murray continues to improve her skills and overall game play. Murray has been a more than solid pitcher and outfielder throughout her playing career so far. However, she has started to play first base to be more versatile and valuable to her team.  Most importantly and in Murray’s own words, “One thing I love about softball is all the amazing coaches and teammates I have met along the way. They help push me and get me closer to achieving my dream of playing in college each and every day.” Without any doubt, Murray’s coaches and teammates feel the same way she does.

“Totally deserving of player of the month!” – Coach Diaz Patterson

 

As mentioned earlier Murray is a force in the classroom as well. An honor roll student at Greenwich Academy with high expectations on herself. A class that she is passionate about and excels at is science, where for the year she is averaging an ‘A’. In addition, her passions extend to painting, doodling, and experimenting with recipes in her kitchen.  This allows her creative expression to take over and be free. One of her favorite things to do is play with her puppy, Albie Sassafras! Murray wants to work with children when she is older, either as a teacher or a pediatrician but also stay involved in the game.  Passing on her softball knowledge and experience to the next wave of superstars.

We here at BVSA are extremely proud and so happy to be able to give Hannah this honor. The hard work in the cage, at practice, on the field, and especially in the classroom made this such an easy choice. Continue to work hard and make this place proud, big things are on the horizon. Everybody is very excited to see what the coming years have in store! Congratulations!

Lewis Cropper – First County Bank Athlete of the Month

Lewis Cropper – First County Bank Athlete of the Month

Our First County Bank Athlete of the Month for February 2021 is Lewis Cropper. Cropper is a 18 year old Senior, captain at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, CT. Cropper has blazed his own path both at the school and in his respective sports. He is an athlete who enjoys going the extra mile after going a few already to make any improvement he can. A long time member of the BVSA community, Cropper was a main stead for years in the Fury program. Great to see his years of experience shine through as he leads the SLS Baseball team in their Winter Workouts prior to this Spring season. It is this exemplary work ethic that makes him a great fit for this honor.

Cropper will be featured all over the diamond this coming season as he not only pitches but plays shortstop, third base, and first base. This versatility is part of what makes him so valuable to his team. Coach Sam Colon this Spring. Colon had this to say, “Lewis Cropper is an amazing young man.  He embodies the student athlete players should model themselves after.  His hard work on and off the field, along with his leadership abilities makes his teammates and coaches the luckiest people.” It is also something that Kenyon College took notice of! Even though he committed there to pitch, Cropper standing at an impressive 6’4” is an athlete and his athleticism only makes him that much more valuable 60 feet 6 inches away in between the white lines. 

However, this hasn’t always been the case for Cropper who has gone through his own trials and tribulations to get where he is now. Cropper started his playing career back when he was 5 years old, in the little league of his hometown of Wilton, Connecticut. Cropper played through little league and the early years on the big field with some success, but the big event that changed the course of his playing career came in his Freshman year. He was cut, which altered not just where he decided to play the next year, but his work ethic as a whole. Cropper transferred to St. Lukes School to repeat his Freshman year and recommitted himself to improving his entire skill set. Coach Conte, Fury Director, had this on full display both as Cropper’s former coach at St. Lukes, his coach in Fury for sometime and an important mentor in his college selection. This past summer of 2020 he posted a 1.98 era over 36 and ⅔ innings, absolutely astounding numbers coming off a COVID pause period.

“I will always remember the first day I met Lewis and his dad upstairs at BVSA.  Lewis had just been cut and was looking to possibly transfer to SLS.  Immediately, you could see by his work ethic, focus, and gangly movements, he was set up for serious future success.  Have to shout out Marc Fraioli for bringing Lewis into our lives that day.  Seems weird and awesome that I get to say this two months in a row but Lewis is the kind of player/person that makes the people around him better. Looking forward to watching you dominate the FAA this spring and bring your amazing energy to Kenyon over the next four years!!”

As Cropper describes, “it was the wake up call for me, and I realized that I needed to spend a lot more time getting better.” What separates Cropper from the rest goes way past baseball though. Basketball is also a passion he has and excels at. A now two year captain of the baseball team (3 year starter), Cropper has played Varsity basketball all four years at the school. As a Junior prior to COVID he was a starter, the team won the FAA championship and this year was named a captain of that team as well.  Head Coach Tony Newsom had this to say about Lewis, “It has truly been a pleasure coaching Lewis. He’s an outstanding young man with a great work ethic. He is a selfless individual who has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches with his leadership. I’m excited to see what the future holds for Lewis!”

Additionally, Cropper excels in the classroom knowing that building knowledge and continuing to learn is what can make him more successful on the field and after his playing career is done. He finished with a 4.0 for the first semester of his senior year and knows exactly what he wants to do at Kenyon this fall. He plans on majoring in economics, with the goal of becoming a successful entrepreneur in the years following school.

Lewis Cropper though is a multi-dimensional person who is much more than just the athlete he has been described as. During quarantine he took up yoga and is now said to be hooked on it, he does it everyday without fail. Lewis is also a member of the Investment Club at school, he is learning a ton about stocks and business practices. But, one of the great things he is doing is writing and journaling. Not just every start he has but big things he is learning in his efforts to continually be improving himself. We here at BVSA are so happy to be able to give him the honor because it is so earned and deserved for his constant efforts. Kenyon College should be excited about getting not just a player but a person like Lewis Cropper. We are excited to see what he can do with this opportunity and wish him the best of luck.

New School Catching Techniques

JT

New School Catching Techniques

The catching position is widely regarded as the most demanding position in the sport of baseball. It requires both physical & mental focus on every single pitch to be successful. That being said, the evolution of the position has been simultaneously subtle & drastic.  We are going to discuss some of the new school catching techniques that have been taking over.

Let’s start with one obvious new school technique. The one knee down approach to catching pitches.  Let me begin by saying I am open to any new technique that can improve the quality of the catcher, as well as, benefit the team and or pitcher.  I’m an “old school” catcher who used the traditional catching stances (primary & secondary).

With the adaptation of technology and the analytics used to grade catchers, it was only a matter of time before a new approach would be introduced. While we’re calling it “new school” this technique has been modified at the big league level before. With the most well known modification being former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Tony Pena and his “kickstand “split stance used in the 1970’s & 80’s.  Safe to say it wasn’t used by many guys due to its difficulty. 

This stance could only be used by the most agile and limber catchers.

The one knee down approach has multiple benefits.  Firstly, it’s a less physically demanding catching position. I know what you’re thinking…”this stance makes you “lazy” back there.” This opinion is only true if the catcher isn’t being taught the proper use of the stance. The knee down stance should only be used by experienced catchers with the understanding that with runners on base, the traditional secondary stance still works best. 

Secondly, if taught properly, the one knee down stance can benefit the pitcher getting more strikes called. In this stance the catcher is lower to the ground. Therefore the umpire has a better view of the inside and outside corners of the strike zone. Especially with a bigger catcher behind the plate. Also, in this stance it may be easier for the catcher to frame pitches lower in the strike zone. If the glove starts lower to ground it’s easier to work up and make pitches look like strikes when they’re not. 

So, the synopsis here is that although the Major leaguers make the one knee down stance look easy. IT IS NOT.  It takes many reps in practice to perfect this stance.  

Please comment below and let us know what you think of these new school techniques or any others you would like us to discuss!!