PITTSFIELD -- The first Berkshire County-born Pittsfield Suns player said he can't wait for June 6.
Great Barrington's John Kinne just completed his freshman season at Ivy League champion Columbia, and the former All-Eagle MVP will be joining the Futures League team for its second season at Wahconah Park.
"Coach [Brett Boretti] sent us a list of [summer] leagues. When I saw the Futures League, I immediately thought of the Suns and home," Kinne said. "With my surgery, I got robbed of one last year of playing back in the Berkshires. I immediately saw that as a chance to get back here."
Kinne's senior year at Monument Mountain was erased by Tommy John surgery on his right throwing elbow following an injury during basketball season. Kinne is healthy again and ready to play baseball next month.
"It means a lot to us" to have local players like Kinne on the roster, said Suns general manager Kevin McGuire. "One of our goals when we established this franchise was to be able to tap into this baseball market. I hope we can get more players like John and Mike [Geannelis]."
Kinne and former Mount Greylock athlete Geannelis will be part of manager Tom Conley's roster this summer.
The Suns will begin their season on June 6 at Wahconah Park when they play the Torrington Titans.
Kinne was the first player signed for the 2013 season. The right-handed hitter played in 11 of Columbia's 45 games. He was 8 for 12 at the plate with a pair of doubles and four runs batted in. His only start came in the second game of a doubleheader against Fordham on April 24, and Kinne went 3 for 3 with two singles and a two-run double in the fourth inning of a 9-3 loss.
The road back for Kinne has sometimes been a long one. He said that the trainers at Columbia shut him down from rehab work because they said he had been pushing the work a bit too much over the summer.
So instead of fully working out with the Lions, Kinne was fielding without throwing and hitting one-handed off a batting tee.
"I didn't really get to face live pitching until February," he said. "The fall was a frustrating time, being in a new place, trying to prove yourself and having only one arm to do it with."
Kinne got on the field for the first time on March 15 against Central Florida.
"I told my parents I was swinging at the first pitch," Kinne said.
The infielder said that UCF's top prospect, pitcher Ben Lively, had just exited the game when he came up to bat.
"The first pitch was a fastball right down the middle," Kinne said. "Luckily, I lined it down the [left field] line for a double. I'll always remember that."
Kinne has played all three outfield positions at Columbia and has spent time at second and third base. He has not yet played shortstop, the position he earned All-Eagle honors in at Monument.
He could get some time there this summer because Chad Funkhouser will not be returning for the summer. Funkhouser, who plays at Brevard College and was one of the Suns' top hitters in 2012, has lingering issues from a back injury and was advised to take the summer off. McGuire said Funkhouser has committed to returning here in 2014.
But for John Kinne, the NCAA Tournament comes before reporting to Wahconah Park. Columbia won its 11th Ivy League title this year, beating Dartmouth in a best-of-three playoff. Kinne and his Columbia mates will watch the selection show on May 27 to see where they'll be headed.
"As long as we pitch and play defense, anything can happen in baseball," he said. "We're really confident. We expect to go there and do some damage."
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