By KEVIN ROBERTS
When the Connecticut American Legion Baseball Committee holds its 18th Annual Hot Stove Dinner on Jan. 4, 2019, Southington will be well-represented.
Southington Post 72 American Legion head coach Marc Verderame will be honored as the 19U Coach of the Year. Former Southington High, Southington Post 72 Legion, and UConn standout catcher Zac Susi will be feted as the organization’s college player of the year.
Verderame skippered the Post 72 19U team to a 29-11 overall record, a state championship and a trip to the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass. Verderame cherishes the friendships with his players the most out of everything during his time coaching.
“It means the world to win this award,” Verderame said. “Having coached now for 11 years, winning my 200th game this year and winning a championship, I’ve had time to reflect on all of it. The thing I’m most thankful for is the relationships that I formed with all of my players. I’ve tried to be a big brother. We don’t just teach kids how to be better at baseball, we try and teach kids how to become better men.”
Susi spent 2018 in the minor leagues playing for the West Virginia Black Bears (short season ‘A’) and Bristol Pirates (rookie) of the Pittsburgh Pirates system. Susi played in 36 games between the two teams and hit .234 with 25 hits, 11 runs scored, nine RBI, 17 walks and two stolen bases.
While at UConn as a junior in 2018, Susi reached in 55 of 56 games, including a 49-game streak to end the season. Susi hit .335 with 30 walks, a .429 on-base percentage and 33 RBI. He was drafted in the 12th round by the Pirates.
“My high school coach Steve Matyczyk always used to preach that ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get,’” Verderame said. “Zac is a testament to that. He worked the long hours his whole life to get better at baseball and made the sacrifices. He deserves all the credit in the world and I know he will give professional baseball everything he has.”
On Jan. 4, Verderame will be honored right alongside his former player.
“Zac Susi winning the College Player of the Year makes this year all that more special to me,” Verderame said. “Here’s a kid who you could tell from a young age really loved the game and was willing to put all the work in.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com