East Coast Drive Athletics shifts into high gear
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
This idiom might well be applied to 28-year-old sports entrepreneur Natalie Traina, who was a standout in softball at North Rockland High School, then in college and finally one summer in Italy playing for AIST or American International Softball Team.
While playing, Traina was often told she would be unable to make a living in softball, but the Nyack College alumna is a dreamer and was always a saver, wise with her money; thus she formed a travel team two years ago and only three months ago opened East Coast Drive Athletics in Blauvelt.
Traina immediately named certified trainer Erika Velez of Stony Point as head of strength and conditioning. They have been friends since the seventh grade and while Traina starred in softball, Velez’s talents were on the hardwood – first at North Rockland HS, then at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
“I’ve been very, very smart, always a saver,” noted Traina, who recently was named a coach at the University of Bridgeport.
Traina played in college at Long Island University and Molloy before being recruited to Nyack, and feels having played for three coaches is a benefit.
“I picked up tactics at each place, from each coach, and this will only help with my players,” said Traina, who played against teams from Japan, China and Europe while a member of AIST in the summer of 2008.
Her travels and mind-set led to the formation of East Coast Drive (ECD), the travel team, and the 7,500 square-foot facility located at 200 Corporate Drive in Blauvelt.
Velez and Traina are concentrating on softball at the moment, but also offer training in other sports, camps, clinics and adult leagues.
“Our ultimate goal is to have other travel teams, probably starting with basketball,” Velez, 29, said, noting that having an indoor facility will make winter training that much more productive. In addition to the showcase 18-and-under travel team, ECD fields teams in 12U, 14U and 16U.
“We finished either first or second in every tournament this year,” recalls Velez, adding that the season just ended with tournaments at The Rock in Chester, and in Union, N.J.
Preparation for next season is already under way, with 40 players having tried out for the 18U team last Saturday, and with practices set to begin this weekend.
“We’ve built a good following already,” offers Traina. “We’re very confident about the facility, and Natalie is bringing in a lot of players. It’s always a risk, but the parents don’t mind investing (in their children), if there’s a good chance they will earn a scholarship to help the (financial) burden.”
In this vein, the 18U team travels the Northeast participating in showcase tournaments, and Traina hires only former or current college players or coaches.
“We don’t hire coaches related to players, we don’t want that mom-pop thing (to interfere),” she added.
Among the players still eligible and on the active roster are Tappan Zee HS senior Meagan Trozzo, a second baseman; shortstop Megan Atzl, a senior at Clarkstown South HS; left fielder/catcher Alana Vezza of Nanuet; pitcher/centerfielder Tara Sasso of North Rockland HS, who has won a scholarship to Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Mass.; and Meagan Finnerty, a first baseman out of Monroe-Woodbury HS now playing at Elmira College.
“She’s an awesome first baseman,” said Velez. “We’re very proud to say, our seniors have been getting scholarships.”
For information call East Coast Athletics at 845-675-7722 or access: www.eastcoastdrive.org.
BOULDERS PACK PARK: The Rockland Boulders, who lead the Can-Am League in attendance and have been in a ferocious battle for first place with the nearby New Jersey Jackals, are on the road for eight games against the Quebec Capitales and the Trois-Rivieres Aigles. They close the regular season at home with a three-game series August 29-31 against the Jackals that could decide the championship. The teams meet at 7 p.m. on August 29, at 6:30 p.m. on August 30, and at 5 p.m. in the finale on August 31. Through games of August 17, the Boulders, in their fourth season, had attracted 123,762 fans – well ahead of runner-up Quebec with 92,985. “We can never thank our fans enough,” team president Ken Lehner was quoted as saying. For information access: www.rocklandboulders.com.
QUICK HITTERS: Linebacker Ruben Demosthene of New City, a Clarkstown South HS alum, a graduate of Monroe College in New Rochelle, has signed with NCAA member Brevard College in North Carolina. Monroe opens its season on August 30 against Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pa., at 2 p.m. The Mustangs, whose football program was inaugurated last season, meet Dean College in Franklin, Mass., at noon on September 6 before returning to New Rochelle for their home opener on September 13 against Nassau Community College at 6:30 p.m. at City Park. … The Mercy College men’s basketball, based in Dobbs Ferry, will travel across the Tappan Zee Bridge to open its season on November 14 against local rival Nyack College at 7 p.m. The Mavericks will also visit Rockland on January 20 for an 8 p.m. game against St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill. … The St. Thomas Aquinas College men’s and women’s track & field teams have been awarded all-Academic status by the USTFCCCA. The Lady Spartans earned the honor for the fourth consecutive year. The men’s squad earned a team GPA of 3.04, while the women posted a 3.19. …Dominican College men’s soccer alum, Alex Rodier, a 2013 graduate and four-year starter, recently signed to play with LKS Lomza in Poland. … Former Dominican College golf standout Keith Prokop of Boonton, N.J., has been named as head coach of the Chargers’ golf team. Prokop succeeds Wayne Mackey, who led the team for the past eight seasons. The golf squad will open the fall 2014 portion of its season on September 7-8 at Assumption College. After that Dominican will travel to four more tournaments to complete the fall section of the schedule. The CACC Championships are scheduled April 21-22.
THIS & THAT: Jillian Lynch, a senior three-sport athlete at Tappan Zee HS, has committed to St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill. Lynch, who also plays soccer and softball for the Dutchmen, averaged 17 points and nine rebounds last season as a junior basketball standout. When Lynch begins her collegiate basketball career she’ll be a teammate, among others, of guard Alex Bertolino of Garnerville, a graduate of North Rockland HS. … A field of 197 golfers, in addition to businesses and supporters of Friends of Saint Dominic’s in Blauvelt, reportedly raised $352,695 at the non-profit’s 22nd golf tournament at Edgewood Country Club in River Vale, N.J. … The St. Thomas Aquinas College men’s basketball team will host an Elite Camp on August 23-24 for boys in grades 7-12, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at Aquinas Hall gymnasium in Sparkill. Registration starts at 8 a.m. both days. The cost — $60 per day or $100 for both days — includes all instruction, evaluation, camp jersey, and lunch. For more information, contact Tobin Anderson at 845-398-4056 or Matt Capell at 814-460-1273 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.