New Milford High grad Michael Garrison starts his day with a stop at Home Plate Deli.

There, he grabs a Double Play Breakfast Special for $1.99.

"One of my former gym teachers in high school is an owner," said Garrison, 22, referring to deli co-owner Lance Pliego. "Not only that, they have great food at great prices. It's a little bit like a sports bar without being a bar. I like it here."

Pliego, former athletic director at New Milford High School, and Paul Gesualdi, known locally as a youth baseball coach, opened Home Plate Deli in August.

Located at 46 Danbury Road (Route 7 South), the deli has become a regular stop for student athletes.

"That was our goal," Gesualdi said. "To give the kids a place where they can come after school, after practice or a game. We want to be the community spot where everyone comes and everyone's known."

Perhaps the best business decision Pliego and Gesualdi made was to keep Wilson Arias on staff.

"Wilson's been here with the last three deli owners," Pliego said. "He knows what our customers are here for, often by eye contact. People come in and ask, `Is Wilson here today?' He's a great asset to the business."

Two flat screen TVs play sports competition and sports talk shows throughout the day. Sports memorabilia and photos decorate the walls. The decor is sparse, but welcoming.

"There's a good banter that goes on with our customers," Gesualdi said. "Someone will come in and highlights of last night's game will be on. We'll start bantering -- `He should have had that play,' `Ah, he couldn't make that play if ...' -- it's a lot of fun."

Along with sports photos taken by Pliego's wife, Nicole, a professional photographer, a chart with statistics from Gesualdi's Cal Ripken New England regional championship 12-year-old baseball team hangs on one wall.

Displaying the Thunder's success proudly is seminal to Home Plate Deli's philosophy, he said -- that and serving fresh, affordable food.

"We grew up in Italian households where everybody ate big meals," Pliego said. "Everything we serve is made from scratch. Nothing comes out of a package."

Credit for the deli's name, Home Plate Deli, is readily given to Karen Dolcimascole. One afternoon at a high school baseball game, names were flying around as possibilities for the new business.

"Karen said, `Home Plate Deli.' It was perfect -- a play on sports, a play on plates of food," Gesualdi said. "We have to give her credit."

Home Plate Deli, at 46 Danbury Road (Route 7 South) in New Milford, is open Mondays through Fridays from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Hours will be adjusted by season. Call 860-799-5555 for catering to businesses.

For more photos visit