Pittsfield Suns players arrive for start of 2016 season
PITTSFIELD >> They began coming into Wahconah Park in mid-afternoon, ready to begin their 2016 Futures League baseball season.
The first handful of Pittsfield Suns players met with their host families at the ballpark late Sunday afternoon, and then headed off to their homes for the next two-plus months.
For some of the players, coming to Pittsfield is just part of their collegiate baseball experience.
"I ended up here with a form I got one day in the locker room [that] said you're heading off to Pittsfield," University of Maine pitcher Gage Feeney said. "I said awesome. That sounds good.
"It was an assistant coach who told me this is where we're sending you. I said that sounds good to me."
A majority of Suns players will be arriving Monday in time for a 4 p.m. practice. Manager Tom Conley, entering his fourth season at the Pittsfield helm, will hold workouts Monday and Tuesday, in preparation for Wednesday's opener at Torrington.
The Suns will open at home on Thursday night against Bristol at 7 p.m. The team will have a post-game fireworks display, and there will be pregame live music on the ballpark's concourse.
There will be at least six players on the Pittsfield roster who will be late arrivals. Four of them are still with their teams in the NCAA Division I baseball tournament.
Infielder Chris Tinsman and outfielder Tyler Brosius are with a University of Rhode Island team that won the Atlantic 10 championship over the weekend. Bryant College won the Northeast Conference championship, so pitcher Craig Lacey from Westfield and infielder John Nolett will also be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
The announcement of the tournament field will be Monday at noon.
In addition, Boston College-bound catcher Jake Goodreau and UConn-bound infielder Conor Moriarty still have MIAA baseball tournaments to deal with. Goodreau is wrapping up his career at Southwick and Moriarty is finishing up at West Springfield. Both teams will be in a Western Mass. tournament. They will find out when their games are after Tuesday's seeding meeting.
The only returning player from 2015 is starting pitcher Jamin McCann, who is expected to be Thursday's starting pitcher. He's due in by Tuesday.
The first player to arrive at Wahconah Park was UAlbany shortstop Kevin Donati. But Donati didn't hang around very long — the Pittsfield High School graduate didn't have to meet a home family.
The second player in was infielder Eric Hamilton from SUNY-Oswego. Hamilton had quite a season for the Division III school, hitting .402 with 13 home runs and 53 runs batted in.
"I'm really looking forward to meeting the guys, getting a new group of friends and winning a couple of games here," said Hamilton
Hamilton said that he has hit with wood bats in previous summers, but this summer will provide him with a challenge.
"I've hit with wood bats before in previous summers, but not as much as this summer," he said, "so it will be an adjustment to make. I think I'll be OK."
Feeney has never played here before, but the pitcher did get a low down on Wahconah Park, the Suns and the Futures League from former Suns first baseman — and Maine teammate — Brenden Geary.
"I was actually pretty excited, too, because I had heard some good things from Geary. He told me to look forward to it, that it was a great program and a lot of fun," said Feeney. "So, I've been pretty excited for it for a while."
There are three players from Holy Cross on the Pittsfield roster — pitcher Declan Cronin, infielder Spencer Tinkel and outfielder Devin McGrath.
For Tinkel, the idea of being in Pittsfield with two of his teammates is a particularly appealing one.
"It makes it a little easier, I guess right now, with the transition to have a few familiar faces around, some good buddies," Tinkel said, "and guys I've played ball with. I think it'll make things more interesting.
"It'll make it more fun to share it with people I've already grown accustomed to."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.
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