Community lending a hand for Pittsfield Babe Ruth 13s on their World Series run

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MIKE WALSH — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield 13-year-old All-Stars have been hard at work the past two weeks, putting in two-a-days at Deming Park in preparation for the Babe Ruth Baseball World Series in Westfield.

So, it was nice to take a moment to relax on Sunday night at Wahconah Park, when — along with the Berkshire Force who recently returned from the Babe Ruth Softball World Series — the 13s were honored as New England regional champions before watching the Pittsfield Suns play their regular season finale.

Of course, it was a short break for manager Paul Brindle's squad, as the 13s busted out their own bats and gloves after the Suns beat the Westfield Starfires 6-4 and had their own practice under the lights.

"We have a night game coming up, and we haven't had one practice or game under lights this season," Brindle said on Thursday. "Thanks to the Suns and the city, we'll get to experience that before the tournament."

This was just another example of the Berkshire baseball community coming together to lend a helping hand to a group of young men who — many for a second consecutive summer — have captured the collective attention of local fans.

The Pittsfield American Little Leaguers of 2018 garnered much attention for their run to a state title and the brink of the Little League World Series. Now, with 10 of those players matriculating to the current 13s team, some of those who took notice have been dropping in to help out.

"I've been getting help from a lot of people," Brindle said. "Both Taconic and Pittsfield varsity baseball staffs have been here. Paul Procopio is here today, Kevin Stannard has been here, Seamus Morrison has been here. Top pitchers from both high school teams have been down here throwing batting practice. They've been helping this team throughout the past several weeks."

The 13s will play Southeast Region champion Greenville, N.C. on Sunday at 7 p.m. in Westfield, and thanks to the Suns and the city, that won't be the first time this summer they've had to catch fly balls under the lights. The Suns also had players visiting Deming this month to speak with the young team, but it's been varsity head coaches like Stannard and Morrison who have provided invaluable advice to Brindle's own staff and players.

"Having the high schoolers come out and help us out has been really cool," said Antonio Scalise, the team's starting catcher, who was working Thursday with former Taconic and Worcester State backstop Brian Bonacquisti.

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On Sunday, Scalise met with his neighbor after the Futures League game for a photo. The 13-year-old in his Babe Ruth gear and former Wahconah and current Assumption College and Pittsfield Suns catcher Matt Schneider in his Suns uniform.

Procopio, who has been a part of two state championship coaching staffs under Stannard at Taconic, was running a series of fielding drills, particularly with the 13s' infielders. The former MCLA third baseman had Evan Blake, Nick Brindle, Christian Salzarulo, Damon Pause and Tommy Mullin working on a variety of situational fielding skills.

"It's fun to be around those coaches, learning new things every day. It's really been a new experience," said Blake, who had just finished popping up from a prone position during a diving drill.

"It's good. They're our mentors and they're here helping us succeed and develop our games," added second baseman and leadoff man Nick Brindle. "I'm just glad they're here to help us."

That help has added to what Paul Brindle and his coaches, Jeff Gifford and Bruce Blake, have been able to accomplish at practices, and freed them up to dive deeper into specific avenues of work that will benefit the 13s when they take on the best teams from around the continent starting Thursday morning at Bullens Field in Westfield.

However, the aid goes beyond an arm angle adjustment or the speed with which those infielders can pop up to execute a throw on a diving stop, it's a mental confidence boost.

"To me it's just how great you've got to feel as a kid, knowing that you have these 18-year-olds coming down to help you and cheering for you," said the team's manager, "and high school coaches spending time because they want to see you be successful, not just some day down the road with them, but right here and now."

Paul Brindle's contact list has certainly expanded over the last month, as his 13s went 5-0 at regionals. And when Middle Atlantic regional champion Centre County, Pa. takes the field against Pittsfield at 10 a.m. on Thursday to open up the World Series, they'll be facing a lot more than just 15 kids and three coaches from the Berkshires.

"When I've made a phone call or sent a text, I don't care who, they're down here right away," Brindle finished. "That means a lot to me, and it's meant a lot to the kids."

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.


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