Cangelosi Sparks Add Additional Leadership to Player Development

April 22, 2022 | BJES

Cangelosi Sparks Add Additional Leadership to Player Development

Over the past six years, we’ve improved our player experience by adding leadership to both the youth and high school divisions; Rick Balcaitis, Director of Youth Sparks Division (Oct ’20) and Tom Knapczyk, Director of Player Development (May ’19). Both Rick and Tom’s leadership has been felt throughout the entire organization. Over this time, we’ve also made capital improvements to the facility; LED Lighting (2019), replaced turf (2021) and installed a pitching lab with Rapsodo/Video technology (2022).

As an organization, no different than the expectations we have for our players, we too are always looking to get better. We have added two leadership roles that will provide additional eyes on our high school player’s development during the off-season and performance throughout summer tournament play. We are excited to announce, effective June 1, 2022, the following roles:


Dean Anna, Director of Player Development
Dean will step in as our new Director of Player Development replacing Tom Knapczyk. Dean is no stranger to the dome. He’s been involved since 2010 giving lessons, working training sessions, and coaching summer and fall teams.

Dean will be responsible for evaluating and influencing players and coaches at the Sparks High School Division, specifically our Black & White teams. This includes attending the Midwest Prospect League Tournament and our 15u, 16u, and 17u Sparks Invitational Tournaments. He will also be on the coaching staff for the Geico City Series Tournament in Milwaukee, WI in August.

During the off-season, Dean will run 30 of our Sparks High School off-season workouts. His schedule will be structured in a way where he is seeing all high school players on a weekly basis.

A local product out of Lincoln-Way East High School (’05), Dean Anna played collegiately at John Logan Community College. Following Logan, Dean played his junior year at Ball State University, where he was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 26th round. He played 11 seasons in the minor leagues and has big league time with both the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2013, he won the AAA PCL batting title while hitting .331 over 132 games. Dean also coaches at Providence Catholic High School as the Varsity Infield Coach.

Dean will replace Tom Knapczyk in his new position. Tom is re-focusing his time on his two younger sons (Caiden-7, Cully-5), who are starting their young baseball careers as Sparks. Tom will continue to coach and instruct within the organization.


JT Scara, Director of Player Placement

We created a new role in the organization and have named JT as our Director of Player Placement. If you come to the dome regularly, you’ve seen JT. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our organization.

JT will be responsible for evaluating and influencing players and coaches at the Sparks High School Division, specifically our Red, Silver and Gray teams. He is responsible for written reports/evaluations after each game and will report directly to Tyler Thompson on progress of players.

During the off-season, JT is tasked with collaborating and leading a restructuring/organizing of our HS off-season workouts. This includes designing outlined practice plans and progressive development concepts for hitters, catchers, outfielders, and infielders. He will also work all 52 off-season workouts.

JT has experience in both college and professional baseball. On the college side, JT spent 3 years as the Associate Head Coach at Robert Morris University followed by 4 years as the Recruiting Coordinator at McKendree University. Professionally, JT spent 2 years as the 3B/Catching coach for the Gary Railcats, and 2 years as the hitting coach for the Schaumburg Boomers. He is also currently the head coach of the Rockford Rivets of the Northwoods Summer Collegiate League.


Fluid Summer Rosters

It is our goal as an organization to create a culture that breeds competitiveness and rewards players for their hard work and more importantly their performance. Last summer, we reserved the right to slide players up and down from week to week based on performance between the Black & White teams. Our coaches reported to us after each weekend regarding player performance. We’ve made the decision as an organization to implement this practice throughout each age division this summer. Please note when a player gets promoted from one team to another, a player must go down. Some of these promotions might be short-term opportunities, and some may lead to a permanent situation.

Tyler Thompson, Dean Anna and JT Scara, along with our High School Sparks coaches will be in weekly communication throughout the summer. It’s our goal to ensure that players are placed on appropriate teams.


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