NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y.-Since the age of four, Clarence native Zach Lauricella has devoted his life to baseball with a dream of eventually playing in the major leagues. Up until he graduated from Clarence High School in 2011, he was able to play both baseball and football in his hometown and around Western New York.
Since then Lauricella has not been able to spend much time at home, playing college baseball in the Big East Conference as a freshman for St. John's and in the New York Collegiate Baseball League for the Syracuse Jr. Chiefs this summer. Fortunately for Lauricella and his family, he and the Jr. Chiefs were able to play at Sal Maglie Stadium in Niagara Falls on Saturday night.
"It's an away game for us but technically a home game in my opinion, so it's going to be cool. I'm going to have some people here watching, a lot of family and a lot of friends, so it's going to be a cool feeling to finally be at home for once," Lauricella said.
Zach's parents are thrilled as well. "We haven't had him home in a long time so it's nice for his family to get to see him play close to home," Zach's Father John Paul Lauricella said.
There's no place like home for Lauricella, where he not only played baseball for Clarence, but also excelled as quarterback for the football team and as a student in the classroom. As a member of the varsity baseball team at Clarence, Lauricella was a three-time All-Western New York first team selection and was second-team All-State as a senior. On the football field as a senior, Lauricella was an All-WNY first team selection and led the Red Devils to a Section VI Class AA Championship. To bring it all together, Clarence named him both the school's Athlete of the Year and Scholar Athlete of the Year.
To Lauricella though, school has and will always take precedent over sports. "For me it's always been school over sports, my parents have always stressed that. If baseball doesn't work out I'm going to have to have a degree in something and a backup plan," Lauricella said. "So schooling is very important to me and I want to come out with my degree."
As he stressed, his parents have been a huge influence in his academic success and his mother Lisa feels he is doing a tremendous job balancing sports and school in college thus far. "He learned in his first year how to balance a full-time job which is baseball and also full-time school, so that's what I'm most proud of and he did a great job of that," Lisa Lauricella said. "He loves it there. That makes it easier to let him go because he really loves where he is."
While school has been out of session this summer, Lauricella has done very well for the Syracuse Jr. Chiefs on the field. He has hit .340 with a league-leading 10 homeruns, 13 doubles, 2 triples and 46 runs batted in. Lauricella also earned offensive MVP honors in the playoffs.
Lauricella says his experience with the Jr. Chiefs has been a great one. "It's been a very good league, playing against guys all across the country and it's really helped me grow as a player facing some great pitching," Lauricella said. "It's just another step towards the dream for me and that's the MLB so hopefully this takes me one step closer."
The transition from playing in the Big East to the NYCBL has also been an easy one for Lauricella. "Coming from the Big East pitching to this pitching its' a little bit different but these guys have helped me along the way," Lauricella said. "It's easy to hit in a lineup with so many good hitters."
One of the biggest transitions Lauricella has had to make from playing in the Big East to playing in the NYCBL is the type of bat he uses. The NCAA has its' players use an aluminum "BBCOR" bat, which is a downgrade in terms of power from the previous aluminum bat used in order to decrease the speed of the ball off the bat and thus increase player safety. The NYCBL only allows the use of wooden bats like the MLB, but the change hasn't phased Lauricella, "It's been an easy transition actually, I like hitting with wood better, I think the ball jumps off the bat well so I like it." A jack of all trades, Lauricella also did very well with the BBCOR bat as a freshman for St. John's last season. He hit .263 with 2 homeruns and 32 RBI's for the Red Storm in 54 games played.
As for moving onto the next level? Lauricella cannot go to the majors or the minors quite yet, because players can only be drafted by a franchise directly out of high school or as a junior or senior in college. Going into his sophomore year at St. John's, Lauricella is looking to improve as much as possible in order to make his dream of becoming a professional baseball player a reality.
"I'm just going to try and get better and work on the weaknesses of my game," Lauricella said. "Just trying to get better, faster, stronger every year and hopefully my junior year I could get drafted."
Lauricella's parents are also very enthused about the prospects of their son being drafted. "Over this past year we've learned a lot about what it's like to play at the next level, things that we've dreamed about for him when he was younger, and now he's there," John Paul Lauricella said. "Now that he's been playing at this level, he's got the opportunity now to possibly go to the next level which is what we're really looking forward to."
Right now though, Lauricella is competing, and thriving, at a very high level of baseball. As Icing on the cake this summer, Lauricella and the Jr. Chiefs won the NYCBL championship on Sunday