Pittsfield Suns ready to arrive in a week

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PITTSFIELD — In seven days, the members of the 2016 Pittsfield Suns will begin to filter into the city.

And now that manager Tom Conley's college season is over, he turns his full attention to the players who will be in the Futures League at Wahconah Park this summer.

"It's kind of what I do when I get back from my games," said Conley, an assistant coach at Division III Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. "Some guys are redshirting, so they won't have any numbers. But the guys who have been playing have been pretty impactful for their college teams.

"It's good to see."

The Suns players are scheduled to check in at Wahconah Park on Sunday, meet their host families, and get ready to begin practicing. Conley said the team would likely practice in the late afternoon next Monday and Tuesday at Wahconah Park, in preparation for the opener at Torrington on June 1. Just how many players arrive on time will depend on how many of the Division I players have their teams advance in their respective conference tournaments or qualify for the NCAA Tourney.

The Suns will open at home Thursday night, June 2, against the West Division champion Bristol Blues.

The team, meanwhile, is still seeking host families for the season. Interested families should contact the team's front office.

Last year, Pittsfield was 25-30 and finished fourth in the West Division. But the Suns made the playoffs, and were eliminated in the first wild card game.

Eight players who were on a February roster are not on the team anymore. Conley said that is for a number of reasons, including injury and players needing a break.

"There are a lot of changes. Positionally, there weren't too many changes," said Conley, who scratched off five pitchers from that February roster. But the manager said that didn't create a major problem.

"It wasn't too bad. It seemed like once I lost someone, either that day or the next day, I was getting a call," he said. "That's been good."

The roster that is up on the Futures League site has seven outfielders, all newcomers, on the Pittsfield roster.

"I have about seven guys out there and it seems like every day I get a call about an outfielder," he said. "I don't know. For whatever reason, you get these positions that are stacked. I think, for us, the outfield is one of those."

That outfield logjam includes Colin Ridley from Maine, a left-handed hitting power bat. He led the Black Bears with six home runs this year. Two others, Tanner Mann-Fix of Appalachian State and Cam Walsh of Northeastern, are prototypical leadoff bats. Walsh led Northeastern with a .326 batting average while Mann-Fix, who will be joined by teammate Will Herman on the Suns roster, was No. 2 with a .294 average.

There are two players from the University of Oklahoma on the Pittsfield roster. This is the first time any OU players have been in Pittsfield. The connection is that current OU coach Pete Hughes used to be the head coach at Boston College.

Hughes' son Thomas is an infielder with the Sooners, and while he didn't play much, was the Oklahoma high school player of the year two seasons ago. Pitcher Austin Hanson was 4-0 in 13 relief appearances, and might be an early candidate to close for the Suns.

Pittsfield High School graduate Kevin Donati is finishing up his first year at the University at Albany. The freshman shortstop hit .296 with 18 runs batted in. He stole 17 bases in 19 attempts.

One interesting name is infielder Eric Hamilton from Division III SUNY-Oswego. Hamilton played for the No. 7 team in Division III in the nation. Oswego finished third in the New England Regional.

For the year, Hamilton's average fell just under .400 to .399 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI.

While Conley and coach Matt Gedman, who worked with Conley at Trinity, return to the third base dugout at Wahconah Park, only pitcher Jamin McCann returns from last year's roster.

McCann led East Tennessee with a 7-4 record and was No. 2 with a 5.64 ERA.

"I like having as many guys as I can back. This year, it hasn't worked out that way," said Conley. "He's probably going to go in the home opener, like I did for him last year.

"It's good to know that he'll give you a solid start every time out."

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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