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Manager instilling his love for game


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000

Rick Shaw has loved baseball since he was a young boy.

The fourth-year St. Pete Stingers manager is helping boys learn to play and love the game as well.

In the last three years with the Stingers, Shaw has managed the team to three state titles and a second- and third-place finish in the Amateur Athletic Union National Championships.

A nucleus of players from last year's 11-and-under state championship squad and third-place finishers at AAU nationals teamed with other players from Seminole, Sarasota and Northwest Little League.

They competed in their first tournament in the 12-and-under division over the Labor Day weekend in Lakeland.

When Daniel Catalano, Nick Shaw, Austin Gaines, Austin Yee, Kevin Riley and Stephen Gilbert went to a division for older players (12), manager Shaw found Nick Gaines, Joey Civello, David Staton, Kevin Craycraft, Josh Bowman, Tyler Lacertosa, Matt Hester and Keith Staton to fill out a squad of 14.

"We're carrying 14 players into the fall season," Shaw said, "and, if everything looks good, we'll stay together."

In the Lakeland tournament, the St. Pete Stingers 12-and-under squad outscored its five opponents 69-7, including a 15-5 win over the Tampa Dream in the final.

Led by pitching from Austin Gaines against Tampa, the Stingers received a double from Riley and Craycraft and were aided by a triple from Gaines and Civello.

"I wasn't so sure we'd do so well since we hadn't all played together before and, plus, the distance between bases changed from 60 feet to 70," Shaw said

Shaw thinks the team's strength lies in its pitching, with nine players called upon at different times.

"AAU doesn't have any pitching limitations, but we usually just have them pitch four innings," said Shaw, who's assisted by Phil Yee.

"We have that luxury since we have so many pitchers. Plus, we don't encourage throwing a curveball, but, instead, practice throwing at spots," Shaw said. "That way, we decrease our chances of injuries."

Shaw has the choice of the Gaines brothers, Yee, Civello, Bowman, Catalano, Craycraft, Nick Shaw, Lacertosa and Riley for pitching duties. The manager generally uses several of them in a game.

In Lakeland, Austin, Gaines, Bowman, Riley, Lacertosa, Craycraft, Catalano and Yee pitched.

"I always do the best I can and try not to make mistakes and keep a good attitude," said Yee, who also plays first base.

"I was surprised we did so well since we had so many new players, but we did."

When Riley isn't pitching, he plays left field.

When the team gets use other player, Riley hopes to do even better than last year, which would mean first or second at nationals.

"I don't see any reason we couldn't win at nationals," Catalano said.

"We've got the hitters, pitchers and staff," he said. "We plan to play our way back to nationals this year."

Hitting, along with pitching, is a team strength. Batting instructions from Franklin Colon, a former second baseman with New York Mets, have contributed to the success.

"We've learned the mechanics of hitting and how to place the ball," Nick Shaw said.

The Stingers will play 40-50 games in half a season and more than 120 in a year's time.

The AAU national tournament is in Minnesota, and a trip to Cooperstown is on the team's schedule.

SWIMMING: The Dunedin Aquatic Team played host to its fourth annual Sweet September Swim Meet last weekend for nearly 300 individuals from 10 clubs.

The Greater Tampa Swimming Association was first overall, followed by the Clearwater Aquatic Team and DAC, respectively. West Florida Lightning Aquatics finished 10th.

High-point winners in girls and boys age divisions included April Moore and Zachary Perrotti (6-and-under), Mary McGeehan and Weston Sterns (8-and-under), Stephanie Barker and Jonathan Jordan (10-and-under), Chelsea Nauta and Tommy Wyher (11-12), Kristin Norton and James Jordan (13-14) and Anna Midence and Carter Crosby (senior).

GYMNASTICS: Levels 3, 4, 5 and 6 gymnasts opened their competitive season in the Aloha Invitational in Tampa last weekend.

Gemini School of Gymnastics finished first in team competition in Level 3, second in Levels 4 and 6 and fourth in Level 5.

LaFleur's of Largo won Levels 4 and 5. Medalist All-Star Gymnastics won Level 6 and Level 3 small team, finished second in Level 5 and was fifth in Level 4.

All-around winners were Helen Gristi in Level 3 and Cristina Gunter in Level 4 for Gemini; Kaley LaFleur, Megan VonStetina, Alana Rivera and Ashleigh Johansen in Level 4 and Jamie Applefield and Nicole Abdo in Level 5 for LaFleur's; Kristin Dibell in Level 5 and Andrea Bairam and Amanda Shumake in Level 6 for Medalist.

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