Westfield baseball club preps for summer

WESTFIELD – It is that time of year again, as the early morning frost is replaced by dew, the ground crews break out the mowers and dirt rakes, and the crack of a bat resonates throughout many a small town.
Yes, baseball season is upon us. And no one is more excited than Jeff Koziol, the head coach of the Westfield Terminators, an area youth baseball team comprised of a crew of talented young sluggers who are in their third season together, and have one goal in mind: to improve on their performance last season in the Cooperstown Dreams Park Champions tournament in the town where Abner Doubleday created “America’s Pastime” – Cooperstown, New York.
Last season, the Terminators were defeated in the opening round by the Neptune Heat of Neptune, New Jersey. However, the boys are optimistic that they can improve on last season’s finish in Cooperstown.
“We have a great group of kids,” Koziol said in a recent interview, “we’ve been prepping for this tournament a lot, and will continue to do so in small regional tournaments before making the trek out to Cooperstown.”
Founded several years ago by Ray Neilsen, an area firefighter who was looking to give his own kids a place to play, the Terminators have grown by leaps and bounds while still retaining the original core group, now coached by Koziol, and assisted by John Bonini and PJ Hoynoski.
Hoynoski, who serves as a pitching coach, found that another season of experience was greatly beneficial for the boys.
“We sort of ran into some problems last year in New York, since the boys hadn’t really gotten a chance to acclimate themselves from the rules of the tournament, which differ from little league, as far as the dimensions of the game.” Hoynoski said.
Hoynoski, who has been a fixture in Westfield area baseball since his high school career with the Bombers, loves working with the kids and watching them progress.
“You can never have enough pitching.” Hoynoski said with a chuckle.
Coach Bonini played in college as well, at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and has been very active on the coaching scene in Westfield, coaching the majority of the kids on the team at various levels.
“Watching these kids grow as players and people has been a great experience,” Bonini said. Bonini has a son, Nate, on the team, and he has enjoyed having a hand in his son’s development as a player.
Nate Bonini isn’t the only player on the team with a baseball pedigree, as Koziol’s son, Connor, also plays for his old man. Rounding out the Terminator roster are Kyle Roberts, Adam Kearing, Steve McKenna, Andrew Tobias, Devin Baker, Joey Czanecki and Cody Garwacki, all 13 years old.
Bonini is optimistic that the majority of the boys will continue to play up the ladder, from Babe Ruth to the various high school levels.
“These kids possess a great knack for the game, and they are getting better every season,” he said.
When asked if some of the boys had the potential to play in the college ranks someday, Bonini definitely thinks so.
“Some of them are going to be great ball players,” he said with certainty.
And while the boys are primed to play on the field, the funding necessary to send an entire team, families and players, is expensive. It is here where Neilsen focuses the majority of his energy.
“Even though my kids are no longer involved with playing on the team, I still like to be involved in some capacity,” Neilsen said.
The Terminators will be hosting several fund-raising events in the coming weeks and months.  They are holding a pasta supper on Saturday at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Broad Street from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with tickets being sold at the door at $7 for adults, $5 for children (children 5 and under eat free).
For all area high rollers, on Friday, May 4th, the team will be holding “Casino Night” at the Westwood Restaurant from 7 to 11 p.m., with tickets going for $30 apiece. Contact Andrew Tobias at [email protected] for tickets and table sponsorship information.
But the big event for the Terminators is their golf tournament, which be held Sunday, May 20th at Tekoa Country Club from noon to 5 p/m. Tickets are going for $100 per person, or $400 for a group. Additional information can be obtained by contacting LuAnn Roberts at [email protected]
With the current state of youth sports in America being heavily scrutinized, the Westfield Terminators stand for all that is right in youth athletics, with sportsmanship being taught, friendships being gained, and life lessons being learned.

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