The fall sports season starts Monday, as Berkshire County high school football players report for the first day of preseason training.
Where did the summer go?
With the new season upon us, it is time to let go of the summer season. For me, that means emptying out the notebook and the recorder with some things I never got around to telling you about.
For example, when I was a Fenway Park earlier this summer, I ran into Howie Freiling. He was a coach and a manager for the Pittsfield Mets from 1992-94. He worked with three of the best players to wear a Mets uniform here: Jay Payton, Jason Isringhausen and Edgardo Alfonso.
Freiling worked his way up to be a coach at Triple A in the Mets organization where he worked with current Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. Freiling is now a major league scout with his hometown Philadelphia Phillies.
"Like every player, like every coach, your aspirations are to make it to the big leagues," Freiling told me. "I guess I would say that was my goal. It’s a long road to hoe, so it’s one step at a time. Keep doing a good job and try to move up."
As a manager, Freiling took the 1993 Mets to the New York-Penn League championship finals, and the 1994 Mets just missed the playoffs.
"Your first year, you make it to the championship and you think it’s easy and it’s not," he said. "There are so many things that happen in the course of a baseball season. You never know how it’s going to turn out.
Now if the Phillies make a trade with the Red Sox, say for Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels, Howie Freiling’s fingerprints will be all over it.
As a pro scout, Freiling has watched Boston’s big-league club, along with many others. So if there is a deal to be done, Freiling will probably be one of the voices in the room.
"The first couple of years [as a scout], you still see all your buddies coaching and you think ‘man, I want to be out there coaching still.’ It’s different," he said. "It’s the new norm. I like it. It’s a lot of fun."
Jamie Moyer made two trips to New England as a home-team player in his long baseball career. Many in the Berkshires remember his time with the Pittsfield Cubs in 1985 and 1986. Not as many recall the almost seven months Moyer spent with the Boston Red Sox.
Moyer was signed as a free agent by former Sox general manager Dan Duquette on Jan. 2, 1996, and was traded to Seattle for outfielder Darren Bragg on July 30. I have often wondered if that was the one trade Duquette would have liked to have back. Moyer went on to pitch 11 seasons with the Mariners, and his career didn’t end until he spent five years with the Phillies.
"I think they would have been much different" if he hadn’t been traded, Moyer told me. "I wasn’t really getting a consistent chance to pitch as a starter in Boston. To me, that was fine. I figured there was another way to get out there was to pitch well coming out of the bullpen."
Moyer was an impressive 7-1 for Kevin Kennedy’s Red Sox. Moyer appeared in 23 games, most in relief. But at the trade deadline, he was sent to Seattle and went right into the Mariners’ rotation. The rest of that season, Moyer was 6-2 with a 3.31 earned-run average in 11 starts. It was the first of 11 years with the Mariners.
"I look back at that [Red Sox] team in ‘96 and it was very talented team that really underachieved in the first half of the season," Moyer said. "The second half of the season, they played a lot better."
That was a Boston team that was led by Sox Hall of Famer Roger Clemens. The rotation also included Aaron Sele and Tom Gordon. Kennedy trotted out Mo Vaughn, John Valentin and Mike Greenwell -- along with Jose Canseco -- on an everyday basis. The Red Sox also had a very young Tim Wakefield and fan favorite Rich "El Guapo" Garces.
"I’ve always made the statement that if the season were a month longer, they would have been on a playoff run," said Moyer. "We got so far behind the eight-ball in the first half of the season, it just wasn’t going to happen.
"For me personally, it was just a stepping stone."
To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.