Happy return for Suns pitcher, Williamstown native Geannelis
PITTSFIELD -- Mike Geannelis has traveled a long way to get back to Berkshire County.
The Williamstown resident made prep school stops in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Florida, before returning to Berkshire County this summer to play baseball for the Pittsfield Suns.
"It's good to be back," said Geannelis, who will begin his freshman year at UMass in the fall. "It's good to be home. It's fun.
"It's definitely better than traveling out to Boston."
That's what Geannelis did for a while, playing on Eastern Massachusetts age-group travel teams while he was high school age.
The last time Geannelis played baseball in Berkshire County, he was a member of the Western Massachusetts Division II championship team at Mount Greylock.
Pittsfield Suns infielder John Kinne actually grew up playing against Geannelis in Berkshire County youth sports leagues.
"I remember him from basketball, when we played. He was on Williamstown and I was on Housatonic," Kinne said. "We were both freshman shortstops. I definitely remember him."
The Suns' Kinne is a solid 6-foot, 185 pounds, but wasn't quite as big back then. Geannelis is listed at 6-5, 210, and Kinne laughed when he was asked if the Williamstown native was that much bigger then too.
"He used to be similar to me in terms of stature. Now, he towers above me," said Kinne. "It was definitely a shock to see him be 6-5."
Of the 12 pitchers on the Pittsfield staff, 11 of them came into the summer with college baseball experience. That put Geannelis at a bit of a competitive disadvantage.
"He's been a competitor every time he's been out there," said Suns pitching coach Glen Misho. "He takes the ball with a lot of enthusiasm and he's very confident with the ball in his hand."
Geannelis made his Futures League debut at Wahconah Park on June 15, pitching one scoreless inning in a 5-1 loss to the Seacoast Mavericks.
The former Greylock right-hander has faced Seacoast in three of his four outings through Sunday. He has a 1.17 earned-run average in 72 3 innings and was charged with the loss in last Sunday's 9-7 defeat.
"I was a little nervous," he said of his first effort on the mound. "Once you get out there, you feel back at home. You feel just like yourself."
There is no doubt that Geannelis' return to Berkshire County has taken its share of twists and turns.
Geannelis, as a growing number of high school athletes are doing, left Greylock for Proctor Academy in New Hampshire. A stint at Proctor was followed by a ride to Connecticut at Salisbury School. Geannelis was on an undefeated team at Salisbury, playing for former UMass hockey and baseball player John Toffey, whose father Jack grew up in Great Barrington.
The move wasn't the easiest for Geannelis to make. After all, he was leaving one of the state's better high school baseball teams and the kids he's played with. It was a tough decision to leave, he said.
"I learned a lot" at Greylock, he said, "from all the guys I played with. I looked up to every one of those kids. I took what I learned and now here I am."
After his years at Proctor and Salisbury, Geannelis spent the 2012-13 school year at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. One of Geannelis' baseball coaches at IMG was Pete Paciorek, the nephew of former big leaguer Tom Paciorek, and a former independent league player who once called Pittsfield home.
"I just wanted the best for myself. I think it really helped," said Geannelis. "I developed down there. I learned a lot from my coaches."
Geannelis and his teammates were in the classroom until noon and on the field for three hours.
According to the school's website, the past four IMG graduating classes have sent 328 student-athletes to Division I colleges. One of Geannelis' teammates is going the junior college route, taking his familiar name with him. Geannelis played with Manny Ramirez Jr.
"He's a great kid. He's humble," said Geannelis. "You wouldn't expect it, but he's a great kid. He's powerful. He's got a great swing."
A lifelong Red Sox fan, Geannelis said it was terrific being Ramirez's teammate.
"It was great to get to know him," he said. "Every time I'd bring it up, I'd kind of rag on him."
UMass assistant coach Mike Sweeney first saw Geannelis and recruited him to Amherst. A pitcher so far in Pittsfield, Geannelis said he also played in the field, and wouldn't mind taking some hacks in the batter's box.
"It's great coming to a program like this," said Geannelis. "It's like the next level. It's what I needed.
"[Manager Tom Conley] and [pitching coach Glen Misho] are great, and the players are great. I'm learning a lot as I go."
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