Brian Lesher has played baseball at every level, including five years in the pros, so he knows good hitting when he sees it. And he sees it in the Newark American Little League Majors All-Star team he’s managing.
“Our team hits the ball well up and down the lineup with some guys who can hit it out of the park,” Lesher said.
Graham Kline, AJ Hudson and Brett Lesher are among the heavy hitters, and unlike their nine teammates, all three enter this year’s tournament with a year of Majors All-Star experience under their belts.
“They are our leaders and can help the others through the process and expectations of the games,” Lesher pointed out.
Newark American has been practicing for weeks in preparation for its opener on Monday when the team will host the winner of the Canal-Stanton game at 8 p.m.
Lesher’s message has been clear from the start.
“I always tell my teams if they can do three of the four things well — pitching, defense, base-running and hitting — they have a great chance to win,” he explained. “If you do two of them well, it will be close.”
The three veteran players understand the importance of winning that first game after being part of the 2014 squad that lost its opener and was immediately bounced to the loser’s bracket, where they managed to win two games before being eliminated.
“I haven’t talked about last year’s team I helped coach because it’s a whole different team,” Lesher said. “But winning that first game can make it a lot easier on your pitching.”
As the fifth seed in the 10-team tournament, Newark American has an advantage of being able to see both of its potential opponents play against each other.
“You can always pick up something watching a team before you play them,” Lesher said. “I’m sure most of our guys will be at the Canal-Stanton game, and we coaches will definitely be there to scout them.”
Lesher’s assistant coaches, Ron Kline and Jim Hudson, bring a wealth of knowledge.
“They have a lot of playing and coaching experience,” Lesher said. “We all have been together coaching all-stars since our kids have been 8 years old. Ron will coach first base and is very good over there. His decisions have made a huge impact on our success in the past.”
One of the biggest challenges coaching an all-star team at any level is balancing playing time among kids who are used to playing their favorite position the entire game.
“The first thing I say in the parent/team meeting is the playing time is not the same as the regular season, but everyone will play and most will likely play in a different defensive position,” Lesher explained. “I’ve been fortunate not to have any problems with playing time as kids and parents have always put the team first. I believe they know they are in good hands as I always have a good reason for my decisions. I remind them they all should be honored to be playing on the All-Star team and many other players would love to be in their position.”
Lesher is hoping to lead this team to the club’s first District 2 Tournament title since 2002. But win or lose, he said this will be his last time managing a Little League team as his youngest son Brett finishes up playing at the Majors level.
“What I’ve enjoyed most is putting in the time with the players and seeing them progress years later and improve. It’s very rewarding,” said Lesher, who won six championships in 11 years managing teams at Newark American. “I get to follow a lot of the players from the different leagues and will see them again in high school being the Newark Charter baseball coach.”
This last experience has already been a rewarding one.
“We have a bunch of great kids and families that will pull together and make it a great experience win or lose,” Lesher said.
Additional players include Hayden Beck, Reed Burkhardt, Zach Czarnecki, Justin Farquhar, Derek McFadden, A.J. Nardo, Dylan Rogerson, Ryan Sheldon and Ryan Silver.
Follow the team at www.eteamz.com/delaware02.