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Baseball Heaven prepares in winter for August tournament

The indoor baseball facility at Baseball Haven in

The indoor baseball facility at Baseball Haven in Yaphank on Jan. 28, 2014. Credit: Ed Betz

While Long Island endures a frigid winter, a Yaphank sports complex is preparing to welcome the boys of summer.

About 200 players from around the country are expected to descend on Baseball Heaven in August for the National Youth Baseball Championships, a tournament for traveling teams with players 12 years old or younger.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said town officials are working to secure up to 400 rooms for teams taking part in the August tournament. He said Baseball Heaven provides an economic boost for nearby hotels and restaurants.

"They give a shot in the arm to the economy, and we think sports can be a big business for Brookhaven," Romaine said.

The tournament, founded in 2008 by Chicago White Sox vice chairman Eddie Einhorn and owned by New York-based New Media Sports, had been held in Memphis, Tenn., each of the last six years.

Games are scheduled to be played from Aug. 8 to Aug. 11 at the 27-acre complex on Sills Road, south of the Long Island Expressway. Some games will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network and live-streamed on the Major League Baseball website, MLB.com, organizers said.

Frank Zitaglio, Baseball Heaven's general manager, said the tournament would bring national attention to the 10-year-old complex, which previously has hosted state high school baseball tournament qualifying games.

"This is the first nationally televised event that we'll have at the facility," Zitaglio said. "We're very excited about it."

The complex is open year-round, even when its seven artificial-turf fields are covered by snow, thanks to a newly opened, $1.9 million indoor facility managed by former major league player and Smithtown native Frank Catalanotto. Players from Dowling College in Oakdale swatted line drives in the facility's batting cages one day last week.

Nathan Clinkenberard, managing editor of Lexington, Ky.-based Baseball Youth magazine, which is involved in marketing the tournament, said organizers moved the event to Baseball Heaven because of its "first-rate" fields and proximity to New York City.

"We really wanted to make this a bigger event than it was in the past," he said. "Baseball Heaven is a great facility. . . . We can just really make it a great event, and an event that people want to come out and watch."

He said teams would qualify for the tournament by winning their league championships or by earning bids after playing in other tournaments. Players join traveling teams in hopes of receiving advanced training that could lead to college and pro ball careers, he said.

"It's going to be a really competitive event," Clinkenberard said. "They want to see how good they are and face tough competition."

Zitaglio said Baseball Heaven hosts about 30 tournaments each year, as well as several youth baseball leagues that play from spring through fall.

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