Sunday July 8, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Jamie Keefe has managed in professional baseball for more than a decade and has won more than 400 games in those jobs.

You might think that managing the fledgling Pittsfield Suns of the Futures League might be a walk in the park. Keefe said that's not exactly the case.

"It's been completely different," Keefe said.

The Suns entered this weekend's home-and-home series with Brockton at 11-13. The Suns are one game out of a playoff spot and 71 2 games behind league-leading Nashua.

While Pittsfield has won four of its last six, it followed a five-game losing streak that dropped the Suns from the top of the Futures League standings to the middle of the pack. Unlike his years managing professional players, Keefe said that getting the same performance every day has been the biggest adjustment for him.

"There's no consistency. You don't know who's going to be there from day to day," he said, during an interview last week in his Wahconah Park office. "That's hard to do. That's one through nine in the lineup, one through six in the rotation and every guy in the bullpen."

It's not just an issue with the Suns. Keefe said that in talking with managers throughout the league, the college-age athlete has a bit more of an issue with consistent effort and performance than the professional players he used to manage.

"[North Shore manager Richie Hebner] and I talked, and that's a big thing," said Keefe.


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"We were on the pro side. Now, we see the difference. Today, they may look like an All-American. Tomorrow, they may look like a freshman. Sometimes, they're mentally beat."

Keefe said, however, that the ability is there with the members of his team. The manager said he is pleased with what he has seen from the players.

"There's not one guy in this clubhouse that doesn't have the ability to play at a high level at any school in the country," said Keefe. "They could play anywhere. All of our guys can play anywhere in the country if, number 1, they could find the consistency."

Keefe said that catchers Steve Dill and Anthony Corona have both been consistent behind the plate in calling games. Dill's game management, the manager said, has improved since the start of the year.

One other player Keefe singles out for improvement is second baseman Rob McLam.

"He's done a great job at second base since [Chad Funkhouser] has gone down" with an elbow injury, said Keefe. "He has taken the leadoff role over and has been one of our most consistent players all year. He's a team leader, even though he doesn't know it. He plays hard and he plays smart."

The Suns will play four home games in each of the next two weeks, part of a 16 home-game schedule for July. The Suns play 27 games in July.

"This is what we talked about at the beginning of the season," said Keefe. "We just discussed it in the last three or four days with the players. This here is your playoff push. We only have 10 games on the road in July. We're going to be in our beds. We're not going to be traveling too much. That's huge for us right now."

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.