By Keith Mills
Fresh off a four-year baseball career at Elon College, Andy Canterna arrived at the Severn School nine years ago -- and never left.
"Tom Pollard asked me to help out with batting practice one day," Canterna said. "The next day I came back to see if he needed any more help. He said, 'Yeah.' I went back the day after that and have been there ever since."
John Avery replaced Pollard as head coach in 2002, and Canterna replaced Avery in 2006. Last Saturday, he watched his young Admirals win one of their biggest games ever, a 3-0 shutout of neighborhood rival Severna Park, thanks to a no-hitter from senior Sander Beck.
"Sander was really on his game," said Canterna of his hard-throwing, 6-foot-2 right-hander who is starting his fourth year on the Severn varsity. "He has really matured into a tremendous high school pitcher. He's mentally tough. He's not afraid to throw inside and he gets after it."
After winning six games last year and pitching two no-hitters as a junior at Severn, Beck pitched last fall for the Oriolelanders Scout Team. His no-hitter last Saturday was especially sweet since he lives in the Severna Park public school district and has grown up with many of the Falcons players.
It was also a huge win for coach Andy Canterna, his assistant and father John and the Admirals program which, historically, has taken a back seat to the higher-profile boys lacrosse team.
"Let's be honest," Canterna said. "Severn is a lacrosse school and we have to fight that a lot. But we've got some real good young kids."
It was also a win that undoubtedly filtered all the way down to Disney's Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., where Mark Teixeira is spending his final week of spring training with the Atlanta Braves. Andy Canterna and Teixeira are first cousins, and the entire Canterna-Teixeira family is close.
Teixeira, who grew up in the Severna Park area, was the fifth pick in the 2001 amateur draft and is now one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball. He recently signed a one-year, $12 million contract with the Braves.
"We downplay the Mark thing," Canterna said. "In fact, a lot of our kids don't even know the connection. But Mark's aware of what we're doing. It's funny. I've had coaches come up to me and name drop. They say, 'Yeah, Mark Teixeira and I are good friends, do you know him?' I say, 'Yeah, I know him pretty well,' and leave it that."
Like Teixeira, who turns 28 in April, Canterna, 31, grew up around baseball. He played for legendary Tom Lynn at Archbishop Spalding, graduating in 1994 before heading to Elon College. He took over the Severn program three years after the Admirals won the B Conference championship behind pitcher Ben Pfinsgraff, who was selected in the 22nd round of the 2006 amateur draft by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Now Beck is Severn's ace, and like Pfinsgraff, is headed to Maryland. Beck's latest no-hitter was a huge coup for the Severn program, coming against one of the premier public school programs in the area.
"I'm not sure our kids really believed they could compete," Canterna said. "But we scored a run in the first, Sander began to really shut them down, and our kids started to feel they could do it. When we won, I think I was prouder of how we handled it with the class we did."
"Andy is working really hard," John Canterna said. "The kids seem to respond to him and respect what he's trying to do. Baseball here is a tough sell, but we've got a great group of kids and some very good freshmen."
Beck may join former Catonsville standout Adam Kolarek in the Terrapins' rotation next year. For now, he’ll continue to help the Canternas win more games and build a program that can boast Teixeira as one of its biggest fans.
"It's truly a family affair," Canterna said. "It's been nine great years. Having my dad with me and my brother around, it's something I've really enjoyed."
Issue 3.13: March 27, 2008