MacArthur Baseball: From Cursed, to Underdogs, to Champs

21 years.

21 long years of a program that had such success and such great pedigree, but with no County Championship in 21 years. The 1993 Generals captured a Long Island Championship and the 1994 Generals capped off an incredible season by being crowned New York State Champions.

21 years later, we were cursed. I don’t know what the curse was, or what caused it, but we were cursed. In those 21 years, the Generals went to 11 County Championship series. 11 times MacArthur came out of the other end of the championship. Runners up 11 times after winning states in 1994. 

It was a cold, rainy, March 2nd day. 26 of us entered the gym that day for our first practice of the year because obviously, due to the weather, it was impossible to practice outside. 26 kids who grew up together, played in the same little league together, but with different backgrounds and different stories on how the 26 of us got to the same gym that day. As we always do when we practiced in the gym, we started the practice lined up on the sideline. We went through our stretches and our agilities. Coach Costello went out to the half court line. Looked at the 26 of us lined up on that sideline and started the 2015 season off by simply stating, “We are going to win the County Championship this year.” After hearing that, I put my head down and had the biggest smile on my face. That’s all I wanted to end my High School career. That’s all any of the 26 of us wanted. Coach continued to say that it won’t happen without hard work, patience, and determination, but he reiterated that we were going to win the County Championship.

How cool would it be to be on the team that ended one of the most elusive curses?

We entered that season as underdogs. You see, at MacArthur there are always baseball teams that are oozing with talent. MacArthur sends kids to Division 1 schools all the time, some play in the minor leagues and some just play professionally elsewhere, or at least play at the next level. It’s not like that 2015 didn’t have talent, we just had to prove it more than any other team. We didn’t have that one sure fire division 1 prospect, or a top player in Nassau County. We had to prove it, and at MacArthur, that’s nothing new to us.

We always must prove ourselves. We always must believe in ourselves and our brothers. Because if we didn’t, no one outside that gym would (besides our family).

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As the season progressed, the team became closer and closer. The players on the team went from classmates, to teammates, to friends, to brothers. Whether it was going to Wild Willys after practice, running tabatas until we dropped, going through the Boelsen “Beach season” workout, or playing a massive game of “pepper” as we waited 45 minutes before every team showed up for a game or running out to the song “Baba O’Riely” by The Who before every game, this team was always together. 

Even if it was Coach Cash giving us the most ridiculous math equation ever. CC15=26. None of us knew what it meant. Like dumb high school kids, we were trying to solve it like it was a real math problem. We were trying to see if the numbers and letters meant anything. Couple days later Coach Cash solved the problem for us. He said you must believe in this equation if you want to win. ” CC (County Champions) 15 (the year, 2015)= 26 (amount of player). We were doing things as a team. 

When one teammate was down, we were there to pick him up, when one teammate was in trouble, we were there to back them up, and of course, celebrating together after a big win. The 26 of us became brothers. And brothers for life.

However, none of that was possible without our coaches. And that started off from JV B all the way to Varsity. Whether we were playing for Coach Val on JV B, or Coach Dasch on JV A, or with Coach Costello, Coach Cash, Coach Boelsen and Coach Bags on Varsity, each one of them helped us with not only our baseball careers, but our lives. Every step of the way, for 4 years, they were devoted to us, cared for us, took care of us, but made us men. They made us grow up. You won’t find more fun coaches at MacArthur than the baseball program, but you also won’t find a group of coaches that expects the very best from every one of their players that comes through that program. And that just shows how much they cared, it just shows how much they wanted the very best of us because they knew we were capable of it, they just needed to get it out of us. I can speak for my team, without our coaches throughout the years, we are not the men we are today. They have impacted our lives so much, and they have certainly impacted mine. I love my coaches forever, I’m extremely grateful for them.

That season, we finished the regular season 14-5 and we were hot going into the playoffs. We were gelling as a team; we became closer than ever and we wanted the playoffs to start. We were ready for our moment, because it was ours to take.

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Our first-round match-up was against Calhoun. A respectable opponent but we knew we were better. After winning game 1, 7-2, we had all the confidence in the world we were going to sweep them and move onto the semifinals. We got a wakeup call during Game 2 against Calhoun. We lost game 2, 7-2. Clearly, we left the field disappointed, heads down, thinking to ourselves “how could we just lose by 5 to a team were better than?” And then the doubts from everywhere crept in, “21 years, no County Championship, what makes this team any different?” Right then and there turned around the entire season. Coach Costello didn’t allow us on the bus to go back home immediately after the game. He brought all 26 of us behind the field, sat us down, made all of us look directly at him and he said, “this game is nothing. This is just a speed bump in the journey. We are still going to be dog piling on Farmingdale’s field in 2 weeks. We are still going to win the County Championship.”

Right then and there, we knew, this was our year. No way anybody was taking this away from us.

Game 3 against Calhoun came and went. We came out from beginning to end, absolutely dominating the game. The final score? 5-1. We were on our way to the semifinals.

In the semifinals, we matched up against Valley Stream Central and we just overpowered them, winning the first 2 games and earning our spot in the County Championship.

21 years. 21 long, long years, but this was OUR shot at ending the curse. It was up to us. 21 years. Every kid on that team wasn’t even born when MacArthur last won a County Championship. And at MacArthur, it’s up to us. It’s not up to anyone else. We must prove it to ourselves and forget about everyone else. Everything is earned, nothing is given.

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Game 1 against Oceanside. The tensions were high, the nerves were building, emotions were overwhelming. We’re here. We’re finally here. From that cold March 2nd day, through all the hard work and determination, we were here. This was our moment. I never seen my team more excited and more ready to go. As the game was moving on we fell behind and fell behind in a big way. Going into the bottom of the 5th inning, we were losing 4-0. Maybe the stage was too big for us? Maybe we weren’t ready for this? Did we not have enough talent like the old MacArthur teams? I’m sure those were thoughts that were going through many people’s minds. But not ours. Yeah, it was 4-0, but it was the bottom of the 5th. We play 7 innings in high school baseball. We weren’t even close to being out yet. We were more of a second half team anyway. And then in the bottom of the 5th and the bottom of the 6th we scored 7 unanswered runs. Jack Wall shut the door down in the 7th inning. Game one went to us in a 7-4 victory. We were rolling and clearly ecstatic. We couldn’t wait for game 2.

Thanks to mother nature and rain, Game 2 didn’t happen until 3 days later. But we were fine with that. We got more time to hang out and practice together. It just favored us more. During game 2 we were down again, but that’s how we like it at MacArthur. We rallied for 4 runs and the Sophomore, who took the most roasts and was made fun of the most out of love due to his age, Bobby “The Reverend” Lewis, went toe to toe with the best pitcher on Long Island that year, and ultimately out dueled him.

Bottom 7th, we were up 4-3, Oceanside was up with 2 outs and no one on. We were one out away from ending the 21-year curse. One out away. But in baseball, anything can happen. But not this time, this was our moment. Ground ball to the shortstop Perez, fielded cleanly, the throw to the first baseman Cunningham…

“And the MacArthur Generals are your Class AA Nassau County Champions” boomed over the loudspeaker. It was over. 21 years were gone. The curse now stood at 0 years. We were champions.

As the final out was recorded, I was standing next to Coach Costello, and in the highest pitched tone I have ever heard him speak, he yelled, “Oh My God!” with both of his fists pointing to the sky. At that moment in time, I knew what we just accomplished.

Hats and Gloves were flying everywhere. There was a massive dog pile at the pitcher’s mound. The crowd was going crazy. It was over. It was over. We did it. We won.

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It was by far the greatest feeling in the world. I still get chills thinking about that last play. No one can take that away from us. We were champions. And it feels damn good to say that. 

The season ended when we lost to Connetquot in the Long Island Championship a couple days later, ending our chance at a New York State Championship. But at that moment in time, it was all icing on top of the cake after we won Counties. Coach Costello took us out to the outfield of the Dowling Field, where the LIC was held. With tears in our eyes and his eyes, he simply told us that the reason why he was so upset is not because we lost, but because this season was over. The 26 of us will never take the field together like that again. Coach was just so proud of us. The 26 of us were clearly upset and there is no denying it. Tears were coming down our faces, emotions were high.
We got on the bus ride home. A long 45-minute bus ride. The last time the 26 of players will be wearing the same jersey. No one said a word. No one could talk through the emotions. We just sent everything we had too in our group chat on the bus. We just told each other how much we loved one another. On the ride home, I got to sit next to one of my best friends back then and one of my best friends still today. We were friends since we were 8. We played sports together, went to to school together, played little league together and now played high school sports together. Friends since we were kids, now seniors in high school, going through everything together, winning a championship together, and now it was over. The two of us, in 3 short months, were going our separate ways, both leaving home for college. But it was the bond that we shared over the years, but especially that season strengthened that bond.

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All 26 of us shared that bond that could never be broken. We’ve been through it all together. Most high school athletes can’t say they had the experience that we had. From the coaches to the players, we will always have a special bond that will last forever. I will have my brothers backs for life. They’re my brothers since we stepped on the gym floor that March 2nd day, to the rest of our lives. To all the coaches I had during my tenure at the MacArthur baseball program, I will love them forever.

21 years is over.

CC15=26 was solved.

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