PITTSFIELD -- It has been work for Bradley Wilpon and Jordan Barbarotta to mesh with the Pittsfield Suns this summer -- and it's more than adjusting to players with wood bats.
Wilpon and Barbarotta are heading into their freshman college seasons in the fall, but are allowed to play in the Futures League because they graduated from prep school. Wilpon, the son of New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, completed four years at the Brunswick School in Connecticut. Barba rotta, a former Taconic athlete, finished up his post-graduate season at Blair Academy in New Jersey.
"It's definitely been an adjustment," said Wilpon. "But it's the same game, no matter whether you're playing against high school kids or kids who have been in college. If you make your pitches, if you keep the ball down, you're going to have success."
Wilpon said his feelings stem from his age, and that his teammates are older.
"I am the youngest," said Wilpon, who will pitch at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. "The guys treat me well and it's been a good experience."
Barbarotta, who makes up the Suns' Berkshire County contingent along with pitcher Austin Salnitis from Lenox and Central Connecticut, has one minor advantage over Wilpon. The post-graduate year at Blair makes him the same age as some of the younger players on manager Tom Conley's roster.
"It doesn't feel too much like that because I'm the same age as a lot of these guys and older than a couple of them," said Barbarotta. "I don't feel too much like a rookie."
Barbarotta struck out 17 Lawrenceville School hitters in 10 innings as Blair beat Lawrenceville 3-1 to win the New Jersey state prep championship. The right-hander played for head coach Jim Stone, whose brother Mike is the head coach at UMass-Amherst, where Barbarotta will play in the fall.
Wilpon, who threw a no-hitter as a freshman, finished 5-1 with a 1.54 earned-run average at Brunswick.
Both pitchers have seen action for the Suns. Barbarotta's work has been strictly out of the bullpen. He has no record and a 3.60 ERA. He has pitched five innings in four games and is coming off a scoreless inning in a loss to Brockton on June 24.
Wilpon has made three appearances, two in relief. He made a splash when he pitched five innings in a start at North Shore, picking up the victory in a 5-3 win. He gave three runs, two earned, on six hits.
"You just kind of try to ease them into things a little bit more because they haven't played at the college level, and this is the college level," Suns manager Tom Conley said. "You just try to ease them in, putting them in pressure-free situations to see how they handle it.
"They're going to come up with bumps and bruises every now and then, but that's like every other guy we have."
It's a learning experience for the former Taconic hurler, and this time, going to school has been a good thing and he has already learned lessons.
For Barbarotta, homecoming comes with a few extra butterflies. While the other Suns pitchers might be nervous taking the hill, he gets to do it in front of his parents, family and friends.
"It was pretty nerve wracking," he said, when asked about his first trip to the mound. "It was a bigger crowd than I'm used. So I was definitely nervous, but it was a good feeling."
Wilpon was "amped up" for his first Suns appearance because he had heard from the Boston Red Sox that day. The Sox had drafted him in the 34th round. Bradley Wilpon might have Mets blood, but that's not the reason why he turned down the Red Sox.
"I'm absolutely going to college," Wilpon said. "It was never really a consideration. I talked to my parents before the draft and Penn gave me a really good opportunity.
"I'm going to be attending the [Wharton School] business school which is obviously world renowned. It's a tremendous opportunity. I've always valued education."
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