Parental Bonds

Father-son teamwork makes Dodgers (and other Little League teams) work


Unlike most of the players warming up just prior to a late afternoon Little League game at Sid Augarten Field, Nick Sosa’s day started a little bit earlier — and with good reason.

Just across the Hudson River, the 12-year-old Sosa had begun his recent Sunday morning at a 7:30 swim meet in Nyack. There, he competed in not one, not two, but three events: the 50-yard backstroke, 100-yard butterfly, and notching a heat win in the 100-yard freestyle. 

For all of his aquatic antics, one might have assumed Sosa’s performance on the mound as a North Riverdale Dodgers pitcher would have suffered, but that assumption would be quickly proven wrong as the righthander easily tossed a complete game.

The dominant performance, which saw the Dodgers come away with an 11-4 victory, came against the Rangers, one of their North Riverdale rivals, and has all but clinched for the Dodgers the second seed in the league’s upcoming playoffs for its major division of boys between 10 and 13.

But for the Dodgers’ coaching staff, this latest victory meant more than simply chalking up another ‘W’ in the standings. That’s because, like many Little League teams, the North Riverdale Dodgers are very much a family affair.

First-year coach Craig Herencia manages his son, also named Craig, while Steven Sosa — Nick’s dad — handles first base. That has allowed the Dodgers to leverage paternal relationships in battling adverse field conditions and weather in addition to their opponents.

All of this came en route to a respectable 7-4 record this season, which places them a pair of games behind the Nationals, who hold the first playoff seed with a 10-2 record.

When asked how coaching his son this year has changed his outlook on baseball, Herencia noted the nostalgic appeal of seeing his boy out on the diamond.

“Well, we get to play again,” Herencia said. “We’re not as young as these kids anymore. Now, if I run around, I’ll probably pull a muscle. So when I see them playing, it’s like I’m playing like I used to 20, 30 years ago.”

As for the younger Herencia, his reasons for enjoying having his dad as coach were a bit more straightforward. “Yeah, I like him,” the rookie said tersely. “Because I can actually pitch.”

More generally, the coaching experience has been an enjoyable one.

“It’s been great,” the older Herencia said. “I’ve got a good bunch of kids here. They take instructions simply, and they just hustle.”

That, he adds, will be pivotal to the Dodgers making a successful playoff run.

Beaming with pride after his son’s complete game, Steven Sosa, an Inwood native who relocated across the city limits to Yonkers, could only muster that Nick is “a wonderful child. I love him to death.”

According to his father, Nick — the league’s reigning rookie of the year — has played baseball since he was 5. Swimming competitively, on the other hand, is much newer — since last September.

There’s no challenge balancing the two sports, Nick said. “It’s easy.” 

Steven Sosa agreed, saying he and his wife “stay on top of everybody” in terms of keeping schedules in order for all their kids. Nick’s brother Matthew is an aspiring baseball and basketball player while his sister Emily is a gymnast.

This year has definitely been better than his last go-around in Little League, Nick said.

“We went like 2-16 with one forfeit win,” he said. “We won our first game in the playoffs, then lost.” 

And his game plan moving forward on the mound? “Same thing” as today, he said.

In the opposing dugout, Rangers coach Michael Reilly, who has been involved with the league for the past seven years, was impressed by the righthander’s performance.

“It’s rare at this age to throw a complete game because we’re on pitch counts,” Reilly said. “He’s one of those type kids that’s just good at everything he picks up. If he felt like playing lacrosse, he’d be good at that. You know what I mean?”