Knights of Past now Coaching Hawks

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Knights of Past now Coaching Hawks

The Hawks coaching staff (from left to right: Coach Yac, Coach Smink, Coach Cameron, Coach Billetz, Coach Bart, and Coach Bertucci) pose for a picture after a 3-2 extra inning victory over Hatfield-Towamencin.

The Hawks coaching staff (from left to right: Coach Yac, Coach Smink, Coach Cameron, Coach Billetz, Coach Bart, and Coach Bertucci) pose for a picture after a 3-2 extra inning victory over Hatfield-Towamencin.

Prasham Jobanputra

The Hawks coaching staff (from left to right: Coach Yac, Coach Smink, Coach Cameron, Coach Billetz, Coach Bart, and Coach Bertucci) pose for a picture after a 3-2 extra inning victory over Hatfield-Towamencin.

Prasham Jobanputra

Prasham Jobanputra

The Hawks coaching staff (from left to right: Coach Yac, Coach Smink, Coach Cameron, Coach Billetz, Coach Bart, and Coach Bertucci) pose for a picture after a 3-2 extra inning victory over Hatfield-Towamencin.

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HOSTELLEY FIELD- The baseball games for North Penn might be over but the Knights are still in action and a lot of them take part in the Bux Mont American Legion Baseball League.  Hostelley Field hosts of one the teams in the local Bux Mont League as the Nor-Gwyn Hawks take the field on most summer days from early June to mid-July. The Hawks feature 12 active players in the Knights baseball program, but the North Penn roots run deeper than just the players.  All of the coaches are former North Penn players that are now helping the Hawks develop into better ball players and people.

Coach Brandon Billetz is in first year as the Hawks head coach after being an assistant coach for them last year.  Billetz was a part of the 2013 state championship team at North Penn as a backup outfielder and first baseman.  He then went to Penn State University before returning to North Penn where he is a substitute teacher while also being the head coach of the JV baseball team.

Prasham Jobanputra
Coach Billetz hitting ground balls as the Hawks warmup.

“He’s definitely shown he’s passionate about his job and wants to make his players better and wants to see them succeed.  He works with players constantly to improve our swings and fielding mechanics and will do anything to make us better baseball players,” Hawks left fielder and now junior, Steve Corrado, explained.

During the summer, he works at the North Wales Water Authority before suiting up in the green and yellow of Nor-Gwyn.  With his first season as head coach in the books, the Hawks finished with a 10-10 record as the Hawks made the playoffs for the first time in 5 years.

“Couldn’t have hand-picked probably a better group of kids.  Seemed like there was a lot of chemistry that gelled.  I’m really happy with the way the players played every single game.  We were out there fighting and attacking and that’s all I wanted for as a coach. I wanted everybody here to have fun.  I wanted them to be able to actually enjoy coming to the field and making it competitive cause Nor-Gwyn has been in the cellar for so long.  I was glad everybody actually wore that and came back and played great,” Billetz said on his first year as Head Coach.

Another 2013 state champion, Coach Tyler Smink joined the Hawks coaching staff this year.  Smink is a former catcher for the Knights and served as a defensive replacement during the 2013 season.  He then took his talents to Penn State Harrisburg where he played baseball.

Prasham Jobanputra
Coach Smink watches over the catchers as the pitchers warmup.

“It was special cause it was my first season coaching coming out of college and seeing where guys are at from high school.  It’s definitely interesting just being out here with them. It’s almost like we never left, like obviously we’re not on the field playing but we’re still young enough to communicate with guys well enough and it’s almost like we’re still one of the boys,” Coach Smink said.

For the Hawks, Smink mainly works with the catchers, Spencer Heilveil and Josh Hittle, along with giving advice to hitters and pitchers when he can.

“Coach Smink since the first day of practice was one-hundred percent committed to making me the best catcher possible and makes me want to work harder every day.  Couldn’t ask for a more committed coach,” Heilveil said.

Prasham Jobanputra
Coach Yac poses for a picture before a game against Quakertown.

Coach Nick Yacopino, also known as Yac, is a former second baseman for the Knights and went on to attend Bloomsburg University before he became a carpenter.  For the Hawks, Yac splits time as the first base coach and gives advice to the players on how to become better hitters, fielders, and baserunners.

When describing his coaching style, Coach Yac said, “I just like to keep it fun.  When it’s time to be serious it’s time to be serious but [the players] should enjoy their summer.  This is one of my favorite moments when I was young so I want these guys to have fun too.”

This coaching style has made it very easy for players to form a good relationship with Yacopino.

“I just feel like he’s easy to connect to because he’s not much older than us, so a lot look up to him and he really teaches us well because he knows what it’s like to be a teenager and play at this level of baseball and everything that comes with it so he is really good at understanding what’s going on in our lives and how to connect with us and help us reach our highest potential,” Quinn Holt explained.

Former 2013 third baseman, Coach Brad Bertucci, also has a part on the coaching staff.  Bertucci was named an honorable mention in the 2013 All-League selections as he helped the Knights to their state championship.  He then went on to Millersville University to pursue a degree in engineering.

Coach Bertucci at first base.

“It’s definitely fun and definitely good to give back.  A lot of coaches give a lot of time, energy, and sacrifice a lot in their own lives to help us out so I think it’s good to give back to younger kids and teach them what others taught us”

Bertucci splits time with Yac as the first base coach while offering advice with hitting and fielding, especially at third base where the Hawks played Sam Cohen, Joey Christian, and R.J. Agriss, all players that did not much have much recent practice at third before this season.

“I like how Coach Bertucci is always laughing and having fun during the games and how he is very laid back as a coach,” Cohen said.

Coach Anthony Cameron, was a sophomore during the 2013 state championship run and got an opportunity to start when there was an injury.  The Knights kept winning and Cameron stayed in the lineup as the Knights raised the trophy at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.  Two years later, Cameron helped the Knights win the 2015 state championship as a second baseman and pitcher.  After his senior year, Cameron went on to play baseball at Elizabethtown College while studying to become a special education teacher as he just wrapped up his senior year of college.

Prasham Jobanputra
Coach Cameron calling pitches from the dugout.

Cameron reflected on his time with the Hawks saying, “My time I think was well spent with this.  I think we have made vast improvements with pitching.  We made vast improvements with hitting.  Sometimes you got a young team and it all doesn’t come together at the same time but for the most part we got the team coming back next year and it will be great with guys with one more year of experience and all this stuff and hopefully we’ll have every guy for every game and it’ll be that much better.”

For the Hawks, Cameron is the pitching coach and calls the pitches from the dugout while also offering input in all aspects of the game when he can.

“Coach Cameron is a coach that is a great pitching coach that has experience with pitching at the next level and has been able to bring every pitcher on our team knowledge that we wouldn’t have otherwise.  While working with him, I have seen a big improvement from the start of the season till now,” pitcher, Nick Nichini, said.

Coach Brian Bartley, also known as Bart, graduated a little bit earlier than the rest of the coaches.  A shortstop for the Knights, Bart graduated in 1997 and went to Philadelphia University and played baseball there.

Coach Bart helps in all aspects of the game but probably his best coaching skill is his knowledge of the game and noticing the small things whether it’s the technique of fielding a ball or getting a better jump to steal a base.  Bartley announced that this would be his final year as a coach for the Hawks so that he could spend more time with his family that includes a 1-year old child.

Coach Bart enjoying his final year as a coach.

Holding back tears, Coach Bart reflected on his time at Nor-Gwyn by saying, “Sixteen years.  A lot of good times last few years, didn’t really translate very much on the field but still nothing better than coming out to the field, putting the jersey on, hanging out in the dugout, the camaraderie of the guys in the dugout.  My early years, I played for Nor-Gwyn. I played in the Perky league for Nor-Gwyn.  When I couldn’t play anymore after college with arm issues, I joined a staff with a buddy I played high school ball with and we had a lot of great years.  We had seven straight Region Two runs, we went to two national regionals and in both cases, we fell two games shy going to the World Series.  A lot of great players have come through the program and fortunately with the likes of social media, I’m still able to connect with those guys and rehash some of those old memories and actually see them grow up and now they’re working in jobs and families and they all have children of their own too, so it’s great to see but it’s also realization that you’re getting old and the older you get the more you gotta change your priorities in life.”

Christian, a natural middle infielder, offered input on Bart’s impact saying, “When I started playing for the Hawks, I was a little freshman that didn’t know much about how fast the game was and how much I needed to learn.  With my coaches at the time, it was an easy adjustment.  Bart is hands down one of the greatest coaches I have ever played for.  His knowledge of the game will surprise you. He is the kind of coach that knows when to be positive and negative.  He will put his team and fellow coaches before anything.  Also, he takes the time to hike over to Hostelley and he does not live close.  Bart’s knowledge of the game will be missed and I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done for me.  Once a Hawk, always a Hawk.”

The Hawks season just recently came to an end but this season showed a very different Hawks team compared to recent years.  The players are excited for what the future holds for next year as the team will once again be anchored by the coaching staff made up of hustlers, champions, and former Knights.

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