Suns too

GILLIAN JONES — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE The Pittsfield Suns will open their 2021 home season Thursday against the New Britain Bees.

It’s been nearly two years since the crack of a bat echoed over the cheers of a Wahconah Park crowd. For sports fans, losing the joys of a day out at the ballpark to COVID last year was a crushing blow to a staple of summer fun. But as the Pittsfield Suns prepare for tonight’s home opener, we are happy to fully welcome back America’s pastime to the Berkshires.

Tonight, the Suns will host the New Britain Bees in the first Futures Collegiate Baseball League of New England game in Pittsfield since August 2019. Meanwhile, the North Adams SteepleCats will help open the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s season on June 3 against the Winnipesaukee Muskrats before the SteepleCats’ home opener on June 5.

The return of ballgames at Wahconah Park and Joe Wolfe Field is a heartening sign that we’re rounding the bases toward home as we embrace more and more of life’s simple pleasures that the coronavirus cruelly took from us last year.

These Berkshire teams are most valuable for local baseball lovers, but they’re also crucial springboards for young players on the path to the big leagues. Check out the recent Eagle sports reports on the players who got their cleats dirty on Berkshire baseball diamonds before knocking at the major leagues’s door.

Last year, the Washington Nationals’ first-round draft pick was Cade Cavalli, who pitched for the Suns in 2017. The right-hander, considered to be Washington’s top pitching prospect, is currently hurling for the franchise’s High Class A team. Another Suns alum, reliever Austin Hansen, spent 2016 pitching in Pittsfield before being drafted by the Houston Astros in 2018. He’s now playing for their Triple-A West team, the highest rung on the farm-system ladder before the bigs. A former SteepleCat took the mound in an MLB game earlier this month. Art Warren tossed for the North Adams team in 2015 before being drafted by the Seattle Mariners later that year, and went on to make his major-league debut in 2019. After the righty reliever was acquired by Cincinnati and started the season on the franchise’s Triple-A East roster, he answered the big-time call and pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Reds against the Colorado Rockies on May 14.

For Berkshire baseball fans, it’s a special source of local pride. We are blessed with some convenient options for taking ourselves out to a ballgame. On top of that, we can rightfully proclaim that the base path toward the future of America’s pastime runs through our fair county. For many young players hoping to take their swing in the majors, that hope has a home in a Pittsfield or North Adams dugout as the area’s collegiate league teams act as a tributary for young talent with their eyes on the big-league prize. Last year, that tributary had to be closed off. But tonight, it’s set to open up again with the gates of Wahconah Park.

Play ball.