Staff report
The Ventnor Bay Sox are one of the six teams coming over from the Atlantic County Baseball League to join the new South Jersey South Shore Baseball League, which begins its inaugural season on Monday night. The Bay Sox will be hosting the expansion Somers Point Captains, and Ventnor coach Nathan Wallace said his young team will be looking to prove it belongs among some of the more veteran rosters.
The new SJSSBL, launched this year by Bunting Family Pharmacy owner and former Mainland Regional High School standout Joe Bunting, is focusing on developing outstanding young high school and collegiate talent in South Jersey, and to that end, Ventnor will be one of the building blocks of the new league. The Bay Sox took some lumps in the ACBL the past few years against teams with a lot more college and adult players, but this young group has been playing together now for a few years and has a solid nucleus.
Some of the names on the roster should be very familiar to South Jersey high school baseball fans, including the likes of Javi Vega (ACIT, now Atlantic Cape Community College), his former ACIT teammates Kyle Bronco and Phil Santa Maria, as well as Angel Murray of EHT and a couple of former Absegami standouts like Shane Nanek, Billy Wheatley and Gabe Gilger.
“Ventnor is continuing to build around a core of young players that we picked up while they were still in high school,” Wallace said. “They’ll be entering their third year with the team this season and we’ve been adding more guys as we go.”
Wallace said he is tempering any expectations, mostly because it will be hard to know how teams stack up against each other until a few weeks into the regular season, which runs until mid-July before all 10 teams in the league begin to battle it out in the playoffs.
“I know college baseball can be a rigorous ordeal and can beat the love of the game out of kids so this season I’ll just be trying to make sure they can relax and enjoy the game they grew up playing,” Wallace said. “Plus I’m looking forward to the opportunity the players will have to be seen on a wider scale through the new league.”