In the five years that Hamptons Collegiate Baseball has been in existence, it has never had to dismiss a coach halfway through a season. That all changed this week, when the HCBL, in its first season as an independent league, dismissed T.J. Baxter from his post as manager of the Westhampton Aviators.
On Friday, with the Aviators playing North Fork at Cochran Park in Peconic, Baxter was arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire. He was eventually tossed from the game for using profanity on the field. On his way off the field, he reportedly exchanged words with some of the spectators as well.
Westhampton eventually won the game, 8-6, but Baxter’s use of profanity within earshot of spectators didn’t sit well with league officials.
The cluster of local teams had been part of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League the past four seasons, and had expanded to a seven-team Hamptons Division in the ACBL last year, hosting teams from Sag Harbor, Southampton, Westhampton, Riverhead, Center Moriches, Shelter Island and the North Fork. All seven teams now make up the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, which is headed by President Brett Mauser.
“He exhibited behavior that is inconsistent with the expectations we have of our managers and players in HCBL,” Mauser said. He added that it was a collaborative decision between the league and the Aviators to relieve Baxter of his duties as manager.
Henry Bramwell, Westhampton’s general manager, actually attended Friday’s game, from which Baxter was ejected. He still went through the process, though, of getting both sides of the story. He eventually agreed with the decision to let Baxter go.
“The behavior was completely contrary to everything we stand for in the league,” Bramwell said. “We want kids to be at the game, and the behavior was really unacceptable. We wanted be decisive in our decision and demonstrate to the community that we don’t ever want that type of behavior around our children.”
Lou Bernardi, who was the team’s pitching coach this season, was promoted to manager. He is the current pitching coach at SUNY College at Old Westbury and played college ball at the New York Institute of Technology. Bernardi served as head coach for the New York Atlantics of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League last season and guided his team to a Kaiser Division Championship.
Bernardi won his first two games in a sweep of a doubleheader on Sunday at Riverhead. Bramwell said he doesn’t think the team will miss a beat in its endeavor of reaching the playoffs with Bernardi at the helm. “He’s a great baseball mind and a very, very hard worker,” he said. “When he first got here, he contacted all of the college coaches and asked them about the players they were sending us, how they wanted us to use them, how many innings they can go. He even reports back to them.
“Lou has just kept a low profile since he’s been here, and I absolutely think it’ll be a smooth transition,” Bramwell added. “He’s got the respect of the team. There are no issues with players. They respect Lou a lot.”