CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The storm named Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm from its original hurricane status as it swept across the New York City area Sunday morning, bringing an ever-so-slight sense of relief to the millions of people affected by the storm.
More than 1,000 miles from where the storm made landfall near Staten Island, three sets of fathers and sons from three Long Island families were finding refuge at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium, enjoying a warm, sunny Sunday morning at the Perfect Game Midwest Underclass Showcase.
New York prospects Max Riskin, a junior C/OF at Northport High School in East Northport, N.Y.; Lukas Pracher, a junior MIF/OF/3B/1B at Manhasset (N.Y.) High School; and Jason Weiner, a junior LHP/OF at Oceanside (N.Y.) High School, were here seeking shelter from the storm.
“It was good to be out here and play against other kids from the Midwest,” Pracher said.
“This was very beneficial. Very organized,” Riskin said of the showcase. “It should help a lot to get our names out there for the colleges.”
Despite the pending storm, the players felt it was important to travel here from their Long Island homes in the company of their fathers – Dave Weiner, Rick Pracher and Dean Riskin. They flew out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Friday and made it to eastern Iowa with few problems.
Over the last two days, Hurricane Irene moved slowly up the Atlantic Seaboard, and soon travel plans across the entire region – the entire country, for that matter – were put on hold.
The kids played their final 10-inning game Sunday morning and, unable to get a flight home until much later in the week, the fathers rented a car and the six New Yorkers hit the road in the afternoon for the start of a 16-hour drive. School in the players’ three separate districts doesn’t start until next week, so there will be no missed class time.
“Sixteen hours,” Dean Riskin said, shaking his head. “They cancelled our flights and they weren’t going to get us out of here until Thursday, so we decided to drive it.”
The players said they had received reports of flooding and some downed trees around their homes, but nothing of too much significance.
“In my area, a couple of trees fell down, but I’m not really near the water like (Pracher and Weiner) are so I don’t really have to worry about water damage or backed-up drainage systems like they are. I’m more worried about the wind,” Riskin said.
Although Riskin admitted to also being worried his mom, who remained at home, to a man the three players said they had no regrets about traveling to the showcase.
“It was important for me to be out here. I really wanted to play,” Weiner said. “This is very organized, and it was shorter and not dragged out.”
The trio of players is serious about their baseball careers. This was Pracher’s fifth Perfect Game event in the last two years, and Riskin’s and Weiner’s fourth.
They play together on the Long Island Whalers travel ball team and started their PG careers at the 2010 PG WWBA 2013 Grads or 15u National Championship, and played again with the Whalers at this year’s PG WWBA 2013 Grads or 16u National Championship. There was also a mutual stop at the 16u Northeast Father’s Day Invitational at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank, N.Y., in June.
Pracher went out on his own to attend the 2011 National Underclass Showcase – Session 3 in Fort Myers, Fla., in January.
The boys’ fathers are equally determined to provide their sons with the opportunity to attend as many Perfect Game events as possible – even if there is a hurricane swirling around the neighborhood back home.
“Everybody’s OK at home, and it’s more important for the kids to be here,” Dave Weiner said. “My father wanted us to cancel the trip, and I said, ‘No. What am I going to do? This is (Jason’s) future.’”
Call it that New York state of mind.
“We were worried, but as New Yorkers we’re always optimistic,” Rick Pracher said. “We never think that we’re going to experience the same kind of hardship that other people do. Hurricanes don’t really happen in New York (very often).”
The nearly 130 players who turned out for the weekend’s PG Midwest Top Prospects and PG Midwest Underclass showcases – games were played at both Perfect Game Field at VMS and Kirkwood Community College – represented 10 states, with most from Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
There were a couple of prospects who traveled nearly as far as the trio from New York, however. Glenn Roy Pace (RHP/3B, 2013) came all the way from Flower Mound, Texas, and Cadis Chase (1B/OF, 2013) made the trip from his home in Cheyenne, Wyo.
But the New Yorkers traveled the farthest – with a lot on their minds – and they don’t plan on cutting their trips back anytime soon.
“This is something that we’ll look back on the rest of our lives. We travel all over the country for this,” Dean Riskin said.
“We only have another year or two to do this with our boys, so this is special to us. We love it,” Rick Pracher added. “We want them to get into good schools and play ball in school, and we give them the opportunity and they do the work.”