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Bayside L.L. team set for trip to Chicago

Michael Biordi goes to Florida for vacation almost every year, but he has never traveled for the sole purpose of playing baseball.

That is, until now.

Biordi and a group of 10 other 11-year-olds from the Bayside Little League will get to feel what’s it like to be a Major Leaguer at least for one week, as they are set to fly to Chicago Thursday to play in the USAA-Caba Illinois Tournament in Mokena, Ill., which is about an hour outside of Chicago.

It will be the first time in the 51-year history of the Bayside Little League that a full Bayside team will be taking a plane trip to play in an out-of-state tournament.

“It’s something different than New York,” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing teams from different areas, it might be difficult.”

The Bayside Little Leaguers are set to play at least five games in the tournament against other 11-year-old teams from Louisville, Florida, Indiana and Illinois. They also have a night game scheduled at Thillens Stadium, Chicago’s premier Little League stadium, located in downtown Chicago.

“The kids are excited and we’re excited too,” said Bayside Little League President Bob Reid, who will also be making the trip to the Windy City. “But it’s bittersweet, because the better the kids do, the less sightseeing we get to do. It is something we hope to do again though.”

The trip is the brainchild of Dominic Scianna, whose two sons, Peter and Anthony, are in the Bayside Little League. According to Scianna, who coaches in the league and is also the director of media relations at St. John’s University, he wanted to see if the team could travel somewhere because it does not play in a regional tournament this year.

The club won the 10-year-old regional last year but fell to a team from the Bronx in the quarterfinal round of the New York State tournament. And with dreams of Williamsport, Pa. and the Little League World Series still a year away, this was the perfect time to take a trip.

“We talked about the possibility of going to Cooperstown [home of the Baseball Hall of Fame] and being that I’m from Chicago, I thought I’d check out the possibility of going there,” Scianna said.

After deciding on the location, price became an issue. In addition to the $375-per team fee to enter the tournament, there was also the cost of the airfare, hotel and uniforms to worry about.

Scianna, along with the team’s coach Doug Rowen, decided to hold a raffle to raise money for the trip. The players went everywhere to sell the tickets: after church, during Bayside Little League games and at St. John’s baseball games.

The team raised a total of $7,522 and Kerri Scianna, Dominic’s wife, sprung into action to book the airline tickets and put a deposit down on the hotel rooms.

St. John’s softball coach Melody Cope donated jerseys for the team and Ron Linfonte, the director of sports medicine at St. John’s, provided the team with water bottles and jugs as well as Gatorade and some medical supplies. Polo shirts were also donated for the team to wear on the plane to give them the look of being a professional club.

Scianna said the team will also go to a Chicago White Sox game and will visit the Navy Piers, which are similar to New York’s Chelsea Piers. A tour of Wrigley Field may also be in the works.

But what are the kids most looking forward to?

“The hotel,” said Anthony Zupnick, whose response was echoed by every player on the team. “We get to room with each other and there’s an indoor pool so we go swimming almost any time we want.”

George Rowen, Doug’s son, said it has been difficult waiting to take the trip.

“It’s almost like I have two calendars,” he said. “One counting down the days until school ends and the other one counting down the days until Chicago.”

Added Chris Paruch: “Usually we just stay in Bayside and play teams here. It’s going to be fun and it will be a good experience to play better or more experienced kids.”

The fun won’t just be reserved for the players.

“I ran track in high school and I enjoy going to other places to play other teams,” said Doug Rowen. “I get a kick out of seeing my son and the others play. I also enjoy the traveling part, about going to different places.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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