Archbishop Curley Holds Steady Under Yeash
Archbishop Curley-Notre Dame Manager Jerry Yeash has watched the South Florida baseball landscape change over the past three decades. As the Knights skipper enters his 32nd season at the helm he is still going strong by molding his kids into good baseball players and even better young men.
The Knights used to played teams like Monsignor Pace, Key West, St. Thomas Aquinas, Cardinal Gibbons and Miami Edison annually. However, some old rivalries have faded as schools try to boost their profile through athletics. But the private Catholic school of about 300 students has kept a low profile through the years, and Yeash prefers it that way.
“Its a little bit tough, but we’ll deal with it,” Yeash said of the limited talent pool at Curley.
Curley lost eight seniors to graduation, but it returns four starters and bring in a new crop of underclassman eager to learn the game.
“We have a lot of guys at positions they’ve never played before and kids coming out playing baseball competitively for the first time,” said Yeash. “Hopefully, if I do a good job of coaching, we’ll get better as the season goes on.”
Last season the Knights finished 5-19-1, but showed some positive signs winning four of their last seven games to end the year.
Curley remained in District 3A-15 this offseason, but the Knights will battle some unfamiliar faces on the schedule this season. The team remains in the district with rival Miami Country Day and Dade Christian but new to the group is Hialeah Educational Academy, Sagemont Prep in Weston, and 2013 Class 2A state champion Westwood Christian.
In addition, the Knights also compete in the South Florida Baseball Conference with Miami Country Day, Ransom Everglades, Marathon, Palmer Trinity, and Coral Shores. The conference was created to give those schools who aren’t baseball powerhouses a competitive league to play in. Yeash considers himself a traditionalist and prefers to play the same schools each year.
“Those are schools that I’ve played for 25 years,” said Yeash, referring to the conference schedule. “Baseball is a lot of tradition, and we like to play the same schools and go from there.”
The success of his team in those games depends on how quickly the young players can pick up the varsity game. Yeash has a number of players that compete in multiple sports on campus and some that are playing organized baseball for the first time.
“If you’re a good athlete and you work on your baseball skills, you can do pretty well in any sport,” Yeash said. “I never discouraged anybody from playing other sports. When I was in school I liked playing everything.”
With a good amount of new players on the roster, Yeash has gone back to the basics in practice.
“The first thing we have to do is throw strikes, we’re going to learn how to catch the ball and get outs,” he said.
His top returning pitcher is senior Jose Gomez who pitched about 15 innings last season and started on the football team last fall. Gomez is excited about the prospects of the underclassman on the team for 2014.
“Even though we’re a young team, we can make big things happen,” Gomez says. “They may not be the best, but they can catch the ball and make contact with the bat. As long as you have that, along the way our coaches and staff will teach us even more.”
Gomez has the two games against rival Miami Country Day circled on his calendar. The Spartans have had the Knights number recently and he played with a group of their players on a summer league team, so having one more year to try and beat his buddies can make for a sweet ending to his high school career.
“In my four years we’ve only beat Country Day twice, so for my senior year I’d love to go out and beat those guys,” Gomez said.
Senior Danny Diaz will provide a large chunk of the run support and split time between the outfield and third base. Diaz also competed with the cross country team last fall but he plans to attend a state university next fall to focus solely on academics. One of his primary goals as a senior is to bring more exposure to the school.
“I don’t think the public knows we exist,” Diaz said. “I tell a lot of my friends I go to Archbishop Curley-Notre Dame and they say ‘What? What school is that?’ So we just want to get out there and make a name for ourselves.”
Other key contributors in the outfield include seniors Yave Calero and Michael Smith, as well as junior Rashad Pierre. In the infield speedy sophomore Karim Joseph will try to wreak havoc on the base paths. Utility players Brian Lopez and Jose Pena will fill in wherever the coaching staff asks.
“He’s probably one of the fastest players in Dade county on the base paths,” Yeash said of Joseph. “He’s a strong hitter and has a decent arm and just has to learn the position, and he’ll be a super shortstop that a lot of people will be watching.”
Another standout sophomore Jordi Herrera will add a big bat to the lineup. Herrera burst on the scene late last year after hitting a three run home run against Boca Raton-St. Andrew’s.
Regardless of their place in the standings, the Knights trust that Yeash will mold them into better baseball players, but most importantly better men after sports.
“As long as you can hit and catch, or even if you don’t know how to hit and catch that’s what the coaches are here for, they help you out,” Gomez said. “Thats what I like about our coach, Mr. Yeash he takes the time out and he’s patient.”