If you happen to pull St. John's Prep baseball coach Dan Letarte in this year's Secret Santa, here's a suggestion: Get him one of those long distance phone cards.
In seven years since taking over one of the Eagles' marquee programs, Letarte has spent an incredible amount of time on the line with college coaches all over the country on behalf of his players. At the end of the summer, St. John's hit a rather telling milestone when it had the 25th Division 1 commit since Letarte took over in 2014.
"It's a credit to our players. They listen to our advice and they put the work in," said Letarte, whose team has 53 total college baseball players at all levels in the last six years — a number that is sure to rise as this year's seniors continue to make their decisions.
"I love it when we get to see kids reach their goals. Helping them get to those goals, that's my number one job."
This past summer was a particularly busy one for Letarte and his Eagles. The Prep had five different players land Division 1 opportunities in a span of 32 days: Seniors Ryan Bradley (pitcher, Bryant), Will Frain (infield/outfield, UMass Amherst) and Matt Remley (pitcher, Holy Cross) and juniors D.J. Pacheco (infield, Richmond) and Pat D'Amico (infield, Seton Hall).
They have at least six returning for 2020 including pitcher Zach Fortuna (UMass Lowell), plus Stonehill bound pitcher Joe Castrichini of Peabody.
"It's the caliber of play. The best play here, plain and simple, and competing with and against them really helped me become the player I am today," said Frain, who comes from Hamilton and can play either first base or the outfield.
Some of the Eagles recent future collegians like Tyler MacGregor (Columbia), Max Gieg (Boston College) and Alex Lane (Bryant) served as mentors for this year's crew. Just as they were shown the way by guys who came before them like Jacob Yish (BC), Max Burt (Northeastern), Justin Snyder (Bryant), Evan Roberts (Davidson), Frank DiOrio (UMass), Sean Letarte (UMass Lowell) and Jake Sanderson (UConn), just to name a few.
"Each and every day those guys pushed me to be my best self and taught me so much about the game along the way," Frain added. "Our coaches, Letarte and Matt Antonelli, are a massive part of the process. Even when I wasn't on varsity, coach always told me I would play at the next level before I even believed it myself."
A Catholic Conference all-star last spring, Frain hit .390 with 18 RBI. It was a bounce back year after he'd broken his wrist in 2018 and he helped St. John's win the league title and reach the Super 8 championship game.
"You look up teammate in the dictionary and you'll see Will Frain's picture," said Letarte. "He's one of the most unselfish kids and best teammates I've ever coached in 27 years, including baseball and basketball."
From Frain's point of view, the combination of Division 1 baseball and the prestigious Isenberg School of Management at UMass made the Minutemen his top choice. As an added bonus, he'll be reunited with Hamilton-Wenham Little League teammate Aidan Cann, a Governor's Academy senior who committed over the summer as well.
"I'm hoping to study sports management and marketing and the internships they offer are second to none," Frain said. "Being a kid from a small town in Massachusetts, the opportunity to study sports business miles from the greatest sports city in the world is surreal. And all while playing Division 1 baseball? It's truly a dream come true."
Though they graduated six college pitchers, the Eagles staff should still be formidable in 2020. Remley, who had a 1.20 ERA last spring, and lefty Bradley (0.70 ERA, 25 K's in 20 innings) lead the pack and Fortuna and Castrichini are excellent as well.
Heading to Bryant, one of New England's top programs which has churned out pro pitchers and been a great home for locals like Brandon Bingel, Lane and Jake Gustin (Peabody) is exciting for Bradley.
"The pitching coach, Ted Hurvul, is a lefthanded pitcher too so I connected with him right away," said Bradley. "I'm very excited that I'll be able to play with a couple of my friends, Gustin and Lane. I look up to those guys and it'll be great to share the field with them."
For Letarte, putting kids through to D1 baseball is great, but he's also just as proud of the players that go on to do well academically and make all-conference at high caliber schools like Bates and Brandeis, or play deep into the Division 3 NCAA tournament at places like Babson.
"For us, it's all about finding the right fit," Letarte explained. "We're honest with our guys and with the college coaches. It's about fitting in, finding a place where kids can play, study what they want to study and set themselves up in life as well as baseball. That's as important as anything."
The rash of talent and future prospects has translated to success on the diamond for St. John's: The Eagles are 116-38 in Letarte's six seasons and they've qualified for the Super 8 all six years. Though the Super 8 state title has eluded them so far, they're 18-12 (.600) in the tournament and have reached the finals four times.
"A lot of the college stuff comes down to projections. It means a lot that these programs like the way we take care of our kids, want our kids," said Letarte. "Seeing our guys make it to those next levels and accomplish their goals — I'll take that over state titles all day."