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Marquis Staten Island baseball academy comes up ACES
By DYLAN BUTLER
With a client list that includes David Wright, Jorge Posada and Scott Rolen, Seth and brother Sam Levinson are two of baseball’s biggest power brokers and Brooklyn-based ACES is one of the largest player agencies in the game.
But the death of their father five years ago inspired the Levinsons to give back and the end result is ACES Baseball Academy on Staten Island.
“The game has taught us invaluable life lessons and it is ultimately our hope to in some way improve the community in which we all live,” Seth Levinson told The Post.
Along with Nationals pitcher Jason Marquis, a Staten Island native and ACES client, the Levinsons opened the academy, located in the Charleston section of borough, in April with the plan to cater to the serious-minded baseball player. It’s a facility, according Ben Laskin, the academy's vice president of baseball operations, that has been lacking on the Island.
“Staten Island never had a hardcore place,” he said. “Everyone was going to these little batting cages all over and doing what they can in the park, but this is a legit, hardcore place with top of the line people behind it from Major League Baseball.”
Laskin, a former Tottenville standout and the hitting coach at the College of Staten Island, is part of a troika of like-minded baseball guys who run the day-to-day operations. Greg Belson, who was a star pitcher at Tottenville and Montclair State and was picked by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 26th round of the 2000 draft, is the president of baseball operations. Kevin Hughes, who was a star hitter at McKee/Staten Island Tech, played at St. John’s and is now a scout with the Washington Nationals, is the hitting coordinator.
“These very special men share not only the same love of the game, but also the same high core life values,” Seth Levinson said. “It goes without saying that their knowledge of the game is exceptional, however it is their ability to convey that knowledge that distinctly places them on a level well above all others.”
Frankie Brooks, who pitched with the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates and catcher Brian Esposito, who played for the Cardinals and Astros, are also regular instructors.
“The quality of the instruction, the resources behind it, the machines we have are the best you can get,” said Hughes, who is a hitting instructor to Tottenville’s Kevin Krause and former St. Peter’s standout John Ziznewski. “They wanted to open a facility where kids can come in, work and get better and that’s just what they’ve done.”
Also what sets ACES apart, Hughes said, is the likelihood of one of Levinson’s clients showing up at a moment’s notice. That’s what happened two weeks ago when Wright popped in and ended up working with the Stony Brook-bound Krause on his swing.
Marquis, arguably the borough’s most famous athlete, is also a regular at the facility.
“He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met,” Hughes said of Marquis. “I love talking baseball with him because he’s so goal-orientated, strict routine. It’s all about baseball. He really puts the time and effort in.”
That’s just what Belson, Laskin and Hughes are doing at ACES.
“It’s all about the kids, about getting these kids better and making them learn the game the right way,” Laskin said. “I don’t know if there’s a lot of teaching about the mental side of this game and I’m really big on that. It’s really a microcosm of life. You fail a lot of times, you have to overcome a lot of struggles. It’s really for the mentally tough.”
Hughes said ACES is more than just pitching and hitting instructions. There are currently two travels teams (U-11 and U-15) under the ACES Baseball Academy umbrella, speed and agility workouts three nights a week, video analysis and the facility also caters to softball players with the same mentality.
“We take softball as serious as baseball,” Hughes said. “Teams have come in, pushed all the nets back and done fielding.”
ACES aims to have travel teams in all ages, camps, hitting leagues for baseball and softball and complex that rivals some of those in the south.
“Our ultimate vision is to have a significantly larger facility that has the means to attend to children with special needs and has the ability to raise funds for charitable purposes,” Seth Levinson said.
While Levinson is keen on expanding ACES Baseball Academy, it is a one-of-a-kind facility Laskin wishes he had at his disposal when he was younger.
“There’s really nowhere like this place out here and there’s a lot of talent on Staten Island,” Laskin said. “Everything was always so far away. It’s nice that we don’t have to cross that bridge.”
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