Wednesday August 15, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The Pittsfield Suns players have all scattered from their summer homes in Berkshire County, back to their hometowns to prepare for another year at college.

They left Pittsfield without a championship trophy. But Suns manager Jamie Keefe said that he would still call the first Futures League season for the Suns a success on the field.

"On the field, we certainly didn't reach our goal -- which was to make the playoffs," said Keefe. "I learned a lot from the players and around the league. I learned a lot more about how to put these teams together. We have to start a heck of a lot earlier than we did.

"Overall, while we didn't reach our goal of making the playoffs, we had a lot of fun in the last few weeks, trying to put the push on."

Pittsfield finished its inaugural season with a 27-25 record. They dropped four of their last six games which undoubtedly figured in their not making the playoffs.

The Suns finished 12 games behind regular-season champion Nashua, but only 21 2 games behind Brockton, the last of the four playoff teams in the Futures League.

"We went 16-9 in the last 25 games and that sure made it fun," said Keefe. "With six games to go, we still had an opportunity to slide into one of those playoffs.

"It was a really fun group to share it with. I appreciate what the players put on the line for me, for us in Pittsfield in the last couple of weeks."

The Suns were fairly successful in the standings as they were one of five teams in the nine-team Futures League to finish over .500. In addition, three Pittsfield players ended up on the league leaders list at the end of the year.

Mike RoBards, a left-handed pitcher from San Diego State, was fourth in the league with 55 strikeouts. RoBards pitched in 12 games, started 10 and threw 611 3 innings. He had a 4-4 record but a solid 2.94 earned-run average.

Pittsfield reliever Adam Krebs of Keystone College, who paced the Suns with three saves, also was tied for sixth in the league with five wins.

Offensively, outfielder/first baseman Ryan Deitrich found himself in the mix for the home run and runs batted in titles. Deitrich, a right-handed slugger from the University of Pennsylvania, was tied for fourth with eight home runs and tied for sixth in the league with 35 RBI.

Keefe said he would bestow co-most valuable player honors on infielder Chad Funkhouser and outfielder Jimmy Ricoy.

Keefe said that his team's longest slump came while Funkhouser was on the sidelines with an elbow injury. Ricoy, Keefe said, just wouldn't come out of the lineup -- whether he was banged up or not.

The Suns' skipper, who came to the Futures League from a career in affiliated and independent pro baseball, said he was surprised by the level of play in the league.

"It was a lot better than I thought it was going to be," said Keefe. "The game is slower [than pro baseball], but man, it was a lot faster than I thought it was going to be. There were guys on this ball club and throughout the league who can play at the next level."

In preparation for 2012, Keefe had limited opportunities to find players who were, New England born and bred or New England collegians. Now with a full off-season to work, he is looking forward to jumping into the deep end of the talent pool.

"We're looking at not only giving opportunities for all of these kids in New England," he said, "but when we go to some of the other schools outside of New England,

"There are so many good players in New England. I need to spend the fall at different colleges, watching guys play," said Keefe. "The nice part is I'll sit down and put an email together that I'll send to New England coaches. I everybody to give me three or four names of guys at their school that they'd like to play and try to get a step up."

The Pittsfield manager said that positive reviews from the 2012 Pittsfield Suns players will only help when he goes out to recruit players for next season.

"Every one of them that is eligible wants to come back next year," said Keefe. "That says a lot about Pittsfield, baseball in Pittsfield, and how they were treated by the fans."

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