Two major leaguers are coming to town

Old dogs teach O.B. athletes new tricks

Former major league players will lead clinic on April 30


The junior sluggers of Oyster Bay have the opportunity to begin their baseball training working with not one, but two former major league players.

Fred Cambria and Art Shamsky have been not only players, but coaches and mentors as well. Now, on April 30, they are set to teach yet another generation the finer points of America’s pastime in a two-hour clinic in Roosevelt Memorial Park.

As a kid growing up in Queens, Cambria, who now lives in Northport, pitched at his high school, St. Pascal’s, before heading to Florida to play college baseball at Saint Leo University. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1969, he pitched for two minor league teams, the York Pirates and the Columbus Jets, before being called up to the big leagues in 1970.

While he would play only seven games in the majors, Cambria’s life would be forever tied to the sport: He went on to play in the minor leagues for three more years, then later was the pitching coach at his alma mater, Saint Leo.

“I love baseball — always have, always will,” Cambria said. “Baseball’s really been my life, and I’ve been so lucky to get to share it with so many people over the years.”

The idea for the clinic arose when Cambria was visiting his chiropractor and friend, Julian Samodulski, owner of Sapiens Physical Therapy in Oyster Bay. Samodulski, who has sponsored a Little League team since he moved to the hamlet a year and a half ago, was telling Cambria about the local Little League when Cambria had an idea.

“Fred offered to put something together so the local kids would get to meet some real MLB players,” Samodulski recalled. “Fred is just a great guy like that, you know, really community-oriented.”

Cambria spoke with the president of Oyster Bay Baseball, Darren Gerbosi, who said he was ecstatic about the idea. “That was the quickest, easiest answer I’ve given in a long time,” Gerbosi said. “It doesn’t cost the league anything, you’re going to educate our kids and teach them how to really play the game. I said yes, absolutely, 100 percent.”

Then Cambria decided to go one step further, and asked his longtime friend, former Mets outfielder and first baseman Art Shamsky, to join them for the clinic.

Shamsky, or Sham, as he’s known to his friends, grew up in St. Louis, where he played for University City High School. After his freshman year at the University of Missouri, he was signed as a free agent by the Cincinnati Reds.

After five years in the minors, Shamsky joined the Reds in 1965. In seven seasons in the major leagues, he played for the Reds, the Mets, the Chicago Cubs and the Oakland Athletics. The highlight of his career was the 1969 World Series, which he and the rest of the “Miracle Mets” defied the odds by winning.

Shamsky said he was looking forward to inspiring Oyster Bay’s youth to play what he and Cambria regard as the greatest sport on earth. “For me, (it’s) a great opportunity to spend time with Fred and get to work with kids,” Shamsky said.

“I love working with kids. The fact that they’re out there, wanting to learn the game of baseball, is just really exciting to me.”

The clinic will run from noon to 2 p.m., and boys and girls from kindergarten to high school will have the chance to talk to the two old pros. Cambria will teach pitching techniques in one area of the Roosevelt Park field, while Shamsky will teach batting in another.

Samodulski, meanwhile, will educate the athletes about proper stretching and other ways they can take care of themselves on and off the field. Ed Kull, the athletic director of Fordham University and the father of an Oyster Bay Little Leaguer, will also help run the clinic.

The event has been sponsored by several local businesses. Chick-fil-A of Syosset is donating roughly 100 chicken sandwiches, while the sports drink company Bodyarmor will provide beverages. New York Life Insurance will have a station where kids, parents and even pets will be able to get their own personalized baseball cards.

Cambria estimated that 125 to 150 kids would be there, based on what parents have said thus far. “The community response has really been amazing,” he said. “It’s just great to see how many kids want to come out and play. And not just the kids — the parents are excited, too.”