A true expansion team takes the field

Tuxedo. A modified baseball team’s unique approach to creating playing opportunities for athletes outside of their district.

| 24 May 2023 | 02:09

When the Tuxedo modified baseball team took the field for their first game of the season last week, there were several new Tornadoes patrolling the diamond at Euvrard Field.

Four of the team’s players hail from Suffern Middle School, one of two schools the Tuxedo Union Free School District has teamed up with to create additional playing opportunities for local student athletes while providing Tuxedo the numbers needed to field modified baseball and softball teams.

The partnership was the idea of Tuxedo Athletic Director Marco Margotta, who calls it a “win-win” for everyone.

“Sometimes we don’t have enough players. I knew we couldn’t do it in house, so there had to be another way,” he said.

Margotta began thinking about students in nearby towns who didn’t make their school’s squad or weren’t receiving the playing time they hoped for. If they were still willing to play, why couldn’t it be for Tuxedo?

After getting the go ahead from OCIAA sports, Margotta set off to find any nearby schools or districts that might be interested in combining forces. In addition to Suffern, the search led him to the John S. Burke Academy in Goshen, which as luck would have it, had players interested in modified softball, but had no schedule.

Good for Tuxedo, because they had a schedule but no players.

“So, we basically gave ours to Burke” Assistant Athletic Director Michelle Hines said. “They play our softball schedule, and we have several of our players on the roster.”

Does that make them Tornadoes or Eagles? The answer is both. In another win-win scenario, the black Tuxedo jerseys resemble the navy blue of Burke, allowing players to represent their home school when they take the field.

Margotta credits the early success of Tuxedo’s arrangement to the support he has received from his counterparts.

“The athletic directors at Suffern and Burke have been extremely helpful in the process and they’re very easy to work with,” he said.

“It’s just fantastic,” Hines added. “More opportunities to field more teams. More opportunities for kids to encourage others to come out and try something new.”

Modified softball coach Emily Dowling called it a physical and social opportunity: “One that allows players the chance to build relationships, learn the game, improve their skills and have fun,” she said.

For McKenna, whose modified baseball team includes the Suffern players, it is an opportunity for his players to be competitive in the division, while being active after school.

“To play on a team is big for me. There is a value in team sports. Chemistry and bonding that you will never forget about,” he said, reflecting on the teams he coached during his 25 years with the district. “That doesn’t happen when you don’t have team sports.”

Back at Euvrard Field, those bonds are already forming between the Tuxedo players and their new Suffern teammates.

“It’s like they’ve known each other for years,” McKenna said.