Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Special thanks owed to Patty Spector and the rest of the Josh Billings crew

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Normally, random thoughts come while waiting for the bagel to toast. But not on this morning.

If the Josh Billings RunAground weren't so important to Berkshire County, it might not have happened this year.

Kudos to race director Patty Spector, her Josh committee and the various communities along the new race course, for making this year's triathlon happen.

They didn't have much time to make alterations to the race course after finding out that the Stockbridge Bowl would not be closed up for the race.

Somehow, Spector and the Josh committee found a way to get things done so there will be a race this year.

There is much we don't know about how the race itself will play out in 2018. But there is one thing I do know — the race will be perhaps the most interesting one we've had in a long time.

After all, when you have a new race course that competitors have not used, the mystery will make for a potentially exciting day.

The cycling leg has been changed to reach Richmond Pond, and that will be a challenge for cyclists who may never have ridden along the course.

You might say water is water, but I can guarantee you that the paddlers who are used to the Stockbridge Bowl and may not have ever put a boat into Richmond Pond are wondering how the wind and the other paddlers will impact their leg of the competition.

Of course, the running leg to Tanglewood is different because of the starting point, and that will be different as well.

All in all, it adds up to the most interesting Josh in a while.

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Congratulations to former Pittsfield Suns pitcher Austin Hansen, who earned a championship ring in his first season.

Hansen was a New York-Penn League All-Star pitching for the Tri-City ValleyCats. That's the team run by Pittsfield's Rick Murphy.

Hansen got the ValleyCats going in the New York-Penn League playoffs with a 3 1/3 inning save in relief of Brett Conine as Tri-City beat Mahoming Valley 9-6 in the first game of the playoffs. Hansen gave up two runs on six hits and a walk, while striking out six.

It was the third championship in Troy, N.Y., for Murphy and majority owner Bill Gladstone. Their teams won in 2010 and 2013, and were finalists in 2004, 2006, 2012 and 2015.

The ValleyCats, who won the New York-Penn League title in 1997 as the Pittsfield Mets, swept Mahoming Valley and swept Hudson Valley, the team owned by the Goldklang Group — who also own the Suns.

The Pittsfield Mets made it to three championship series, losing in 1989, 1991 and 1993, before winning in 1997.

That 1997 Mets team was managed by Doug Davis, and he is in the thick of the International League playoffs.

Davis is the bullpen coach for the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Railriders of the Class AAA team. The Railriders are the Triple A affiliate of the New York Yankees.

Davis has won 515 games as a minor league manager. He was the bench coach for "Trader Jack" McKeon's championship run with the Florida Marlins, and won back-to-back league titles for the New York Mets in Pittsfield and then in Columbia of the Class A South Atlantic League.

Scranton-Wilkes Barre and Durham were tied 2-2 in the best-of-five Governors Cup series. Game 5 was Saturday, and was not over prior to deadline. The winner plays the winner of the Pacific Coast League for the Triple A championship.

The Scranton-Durham series was impacted by Hurricane Florence, as all five games were played in Pennsylvania.

The hurricane also impacted the Carolina League championship series. A best-of-five turned into a one-game, winner-take-all, contest. The Buies Creek Astros beat the Potomac Nationals 2-1 in 11 innings.

Potomac's manager was former Pittsfield Mets player Tripp Keister. Keister played for the 1992 Mets along with former major leaguers Edgardo Alfonzo, Brian Daubach and Bill Pulsipher. Keister hit .245 for the Mets, and stole 23 bases in 31 attempts.

Coincidentally, Daubach is also with the Nationals organization. The former manager of the Can-Am League's Pittsfield Colonials is the hitting coach with Washington's Triple A team in Syracuse, and managed in Potomac before Keister.

Those championship series bring down the curtain on the minor league baseball season, and a game of "Six Degrees of Wahconah Park," for another summer.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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