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Ironmen Rule

The latest superhero to explode over movie screens nationwide, Ironman, has nothing on the real Ironmen baseball team of Don Bosco Prep. Recognized by various ranking services as the #1 high school baseball team in the country, this highly talented squad lives up to its billing every time it takes the field.

With seven players on its roster already committed to college programs, the Don Bosco baseball team serves notice that high school baseball in the Garden State sets the standard for other scholastic programs to emulate. Senior pitchers Tim O’Sullivan (Quinnipiac), Eric Pfisterer (Duke), and Mike Denhardt (Boston College) lead the way for a New Jersey baseball team that has achieved national acclaim, rivaled only by Mike Sheppard’s great Biggio-Vaughn-Valentin college teams of the mid-1980s.

Sam Cerbo

Pitcher Mike Denhardt

Pitcher Tim O’Sullivan

Pitcher Eric Pfisterer

Catcher Benjamin Luderer (Marist), second baseman Michael Vargas (Florida International), third baseman Steve Proscia (Virginia), and center fielder Sam Cerbo (Delaware) round out a crop of prospects that have left college and pro scouts drooling all year.

Head Coach Greg Butler

Catcher Ben Luderer

Third Baseman
Steve Proscia

Third Baseman
Michael Vargas

With all the baseball notoriety they have received, these young men have not lost their focus on the life goals that matter. Nunzio Campanile and Greg Butler, Don Bosco’s first-year athletic director and first-year, head baseball coach respectively, speak proudly of their young charges’ balanced perspective on the attention they have received.

Campanile, who taught for eight years and remains an assistant football coach, acknowledges the hard work of his players and coaching staff who have won so many accolades. While he appreciates that “they have not gotten too wrapped up in (the national exposure),” he sees how the baseball team’s recognition has affected other sports programs at Don Bosco. Increased attention on the baseball team has helped place the football, cross country, soccer, and wrestling programs in the limelight as well, with several teams receiving high rankings from such notable sources as Sports Illustrated and USA Today.

In addition to the “healthy competition” that it creates among the other sports programs, as Campanile describes it, the Ironmen’s success “fits the school’s promise and vision of elevated excellence.” By that he means that Don Bosco stresses academic achievement as a precursor for sports participation. If Ironmen ball players do not perform up to high standards in the classroom, they jeopardize their chances to perform on the field.

The Prep places high expectations on students because, unless they take responsibility for their education, they risk taking for granted their success in sports. Campanile and his coaches view this philosophy as a perfect foundation for building a cutting edge, scholastic baseball program. It must work, because the team still had an undefeated record at this writing.

The Don Bosco philosophy works because of the student-centered atmosphere that the school’s administrators, teachers, and coaches religiously maintain. Both Campanile and Coach Butler pride themselves in having fair but firm relationships with students. Being able to “stay an educator by constantly interacting with kids is the beauty of the job,” as Campanile likes to say.

For his part, Coach Butler imputes to his players a zest for the game, along with a sense of sacrifice that it takes to succeed. He likens the relationship he has with his team to “teaching an honors class.” He always stresses to players the importance of “having a passion for what they do, being the best that they can be, both on the field and off.” Again, that student-centered philosophy has paid off for Coach, as his history of piloting winning programs attests. In view of the four county championships and six state titles that he has accumulated, few can argue with his formula for success at the high school level.

Winning traditions that he established at Bergenfield High School and at Northern Valley Demarest High School preceded and augured his arrival at Don Bosco Prep. His players usually win because they understand how “to be a small part of something big.” It has not happened by accident, either.

Seton Hall University

Head Coach
Mike Sheppard

Butler credits his knowledge of the game and his winning philosophy to the influence of various role models in is life, most notably his parents, his high school football coach, Bob Pagliari, and the inestimable Mike Sheppard, Head Coach of Seton Hall University, whom Butler describes as a “second father” to him. He also thanks his long time friend, high school teammate, and now pitching coach, Frank Eufemia, who brings the perspective of an ex-major leaguer to the proving grounds of Don Bosco.

All contributed in some small way to something larger than themselves, and, in so doing, contributed to a legacy of winning that now benefits the Ironmen of Don Bosco Prep. By “giving back” to his teams and his players the life lessons that so many gave to him, Coach Butler figures to impact in a positive way the lives of young men for many years to come.

“It takes team chemistry to win a championship,” as Coach Butler so correctly asserts. One might also add the all-important ingredients of experienced, credible guidance and leadership – the critical elements that Ironmen like Nunzio Campanile and Greg Butler bring to the molding of young people’s aspirations, both on and off the field, into lives of vision, character, and purpose.

New Jersey Baseball Magazine salutes the efforts of these outstanding contributors to youth development, and wishes them and their sports teams continued success in the focused arenas of athletic competition as well as in the larger arena of life.



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