Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Summer baseball has arrived
Happy June. The sixth month of the year is finally here, and hopefully good weather will accompany the changing of the calendar.
With the coming of June comes two sounds that predominate our lives. It's the sound of lawn mowers (because we all have to keep our grass looking good), and the sound of bat to ball.
As someone who is a baseball guy through and through, the start of the summer league seasons and the high school baseball postseasons really get my attention and I'm all ready.
Our winter pro sports are in the final stage of their seasons, and within a week or so the ice should be melted and the basketballs put away. That leaves the stage for those of us who mow, and for those of us who play and/or watch baseball.
The baseball summer began Thursday night when the Pittsfield Suns opened the Futures League season with a walk-off win over Bristol. The next night, the Suns took a tag-team no-hitter into the bottom of the ninth inning in a 3-0 win over Westfield.
The North Adams SteepleCats of the NECBL, meanwhile, have arrived in Berkshire County and — weather permitting — will be putting in a lot of practice between now and the start of the season at Joe Wolfe Field on Wednesday night.
On my way out of town Saturday morning, I stopped by The Joe to see how the Cats were progressing. It is way too early to tell anything about how they'll perform on the field, since the hitters have yet to see live pitching and the pitchers aren't exactly trying to fool anyone yet.
But if you watch their practice, there does not appear to be any wasted motion among first-year manager Mike Dailey, coaches Parker Lynn and Kris Taveras and the players.
Dailey had a radar gun out and was charting pitch speed as each of his hurlers took turns during morning batting practice. Organization is a good first step. But the proof will be in the wins and losses over the next two months.
The Pittsfield Suns, meanwhile got off to a nice 2-0 start. I often joke that you can't go 56-0 if you don't win the first two games. Nobody is suggesting that the Suns will do that, but if you are a fan, 2-0 is certainly better than 0-2.
While it is far too early to draw any conclusions about the start to the Suns season, it does appear as if manager Matt Gedman has put himself together a pretty good pitching staff.
Alex Price and relievers, including former Monument Mountain pitcher Jared Henry, pitched very well in the opener. The good performance was needed because it took a while for the Pittsfield bats to wake up.
The same thing happened on night No. 2, when Jon Morrison, Matt Clarkin and Shaun Gamelin combined to throw a one-hit shutout in the first-ever home game for the Starfires at Bullens Field.
Pittsfield came two outs shy of two record-setting performances. No Suns pitcher — or pitchers — had ever thrown a no-hitter. In the Futures League, there had never been no-hitters thrown on consecutive days. Worcester threw a tag-team no-hitter on Wednesday. And how rare would it be to have tag-team no-nos on consecutive days?
Oh, Mayor Tyer, please call your counterpart in Westfield and set up some kind of Mayor's Trophy competition between the Suns and the Starfires.
Anyone who has been around baseball in Pittsfield knows that there is no youth baseball rivalry like the one between the cities of Pittsfield and Westfield. Let's extend that to the Futures League's teams.
At the end of the year, the team with the most wins gets to keep the trophy until next year. Let's make this happen.
And don't let anyone tell you that high school baseball in Berkshire County isn't good.
There might not be as many kids playing, and not just here but probably all through the commonwealth and the Northeast, as there used to be. That might cut into teams depth and there might be fewer very good players to deal around for teams. But you cannot say that baseball in the county isn't competitive, competitive with each other and competitive with other teams in Western Massachusetts.
When the regular season ends on Monday night, practically every Berkshire County League team might have a spot in the Western Massachusetts tournament. I write before the start of Saturday's games, so those results will go a ways toward helping determine just how many teams will be playing in the postseason.
At least one Berkshire County team has claimed a Western Mass. baseball title in each of the last five years, and county teams have claimed at least one title in seven of the last 10 seasons. There were no-title dry spells in 2010, 2011 and 2013.
Since 2013, there has been a county team hoisting a gold trophy. Seven teams have won, representing five different schools. That includes Wahconah's titles in 2016 and 2017, and Taconic's run in 2017 and 2018.
You can make a case that a Berkshire County team has a chance to win a title in each of the three Western Mass. divisions. A lot depends on good fortune, a little bit of luck and good health. But if it becomes a Berkshire sweep later this month, nobody should be surprised.
So let the summer begin.
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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