Recorder file photo Fort Plain catcher Drew Fureno goes after a pop-up in foul territory during an April 21 game against Schoharie at Phillips Field in Fort Plain. Fureno was a member of the South Troy Dodgers team that recently recorded a runner-up finished in the AABC 15U Ken Griffey Jr. World Series in Surprise, Ariz.
By ADAM SHINDER
Drew Fureno spent a lot of time slowly broiling underneath his heavy catcher's gear in the Arizona sun, but he did it gladly.
"I had to help my team as much as possible," Fureno said. "I couldn't let the heat bother me, because then I would take myself out of the game. I caught every inning of the whole tournament -- I think it was 84 innings in all -- and it was tough, but I like having the weight on my shoulders."
Fureno, about to enter his sophomore year at Fort Plain High School, was an iron man behind the plate for the South Troy Dodgers 15-and-under team last month at the AABC Ken Griffey Jr. World Series in Surprise, Ariz. Though he spent much of the weeklong trip sizzling in the heat, for Fureno it was a labor of love as he helped South Troy pick up a second-place finish against a field of top travel teams from across the nation.
"It was a lot different than playing at home, that's for sure," Fureno said. "It was a lot warmer, but you had to be mentally tough. If you let the heat get to you, you were done. It was tough, but it was a lot of fun, too."
Fureno and the Dodgers, a team consisting of standout underclassmen from across the Capital Region, powered their way through pool play to advance to the knockout rounds, where they won their first two games before a 5-2 loss to the Frozen Ropes of Texas moved them into the loser's bracket.
But, South Troy reeled off three more wins -- including a 5-2, 15-inning marathon against the North Texas Longhorns in the semifinal round -- to reach the championship, where they once again ran into a Frozen Ropes team that beat the Dodgers, 11-9, to complete an undefeated run through the tournament and claim the championship.
Still, Fureno was proud of the way he and his team acquitted themselves.
"The defense was extremely, extremely tough," he said. "We played good defense, and our pitching's really done well for us all year and it pulled us through the whole tournament."
Despite his young age, Fureno's no stranger to elite baseball competition. He was part of the South Troy Dodgers team that won the Nolan Ryan 13U World Series in 2012 and finished third in the Sandy Koufax 14U World Series last year.
He's also already spent two seasons on the Fort Plain varsity team, hitting .333 with 18 runs batted in when he was the team's starting shortstop as an eighth grader in 2013, then switching to catcher this past spring and hitting .460 while posting a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.
"It was good to see what's out there," Fureno said. "It lets you see that there's more baseball than the Northeast. These guys play all year round, and it was good to compete with them and stay with them the whole time."
With the summer season wrapped up, Fureno is now looking forward to a fall season that will see him and the Dodgers traverse the Northeast for showcase events and tournaments.
"It's a little break from summer ball, but it's still good baseball," he said.
Then, after the winter snows clear, it'll all start over again as he rejoins the Hilltoppers for his sophomore season.
"It's like a big cycle," Fureno said. "It's a very fun cycle. There's never a dull moment."