Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Williamstown's Conroy umpiring MLB's NLCS
In the eyes of some, Pittsfield is considered the birthplace of "base ball."
So, in that case, it is unsurprising that the Major League Baseball League Championship Series teams are all connected to the Shire City in a "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" kind of way.
It all starts on the field in St. Louis.
If you watched Game 2 of the NLCS between the Cardinals and Washington, the fellow in the umpire's gear behind home plate should have looked familiar. That's because Chris Conroy of Williamstown had the plate for the game.
Conroy is part of the six-umpire crew assigned to the series. Bill Miller, Conroy's regular-season crew chief, is part of the crew shuttling between St. Louis and our Nation's Capital.
Conroy watched a near no-hitter by Washington's Anibal Sanchez from his spot at first base in Game 1.
"You're sort of aware of it," Conroy said. "Honestly, you're just kind of so into the game and just doing your job and focused on your job, and making sure you're ready for anything that comes your way. Occasionally, you look up at the scoreboard and see the zero.
"But I have a job to do, and if I have a play or whatever, I have to be thinking about that."
This is Conroy's fourth "Jewel" event in MLB. He worked a Wild Card game back in 2015, was in the 2017 All-Star Game, and last year was part of the crew at an American League Division Series between Houston and Texas.
Do umpires, you ask, think about a call that could impact that no-hitter while the game is going on?
"You don't want to impact it any more than being correct. I know there's replay on the bases, so if there's a mistake, we can fix it, Like in some situations over the years that could have been avoided with the use of replay," Conroy said, when I reached him in his St. Louis hotel before he left for Busch Stadium. "We want to be right, on the spot, so your focus is extra sharp.
"You don't want to be part of that story at all."
Conroy has been a Major League umpire since 2013. He found out about his NLCS assignment when the Wild Card round wrapped up. It'll be the only series he works, because umpires cannot work consecutive postseason series. If Conroy had worked the Division Series, he would be eligible for the World Series.
But since he has worked the Division Series last year and the Championship Series this year, he's got his fingers crossed that a World Series assignment might not be too far away.
"You're checking all the boxes along the way. You still have to go out and perform all year and then perform in the postseason, if you're lucky enough to get there," Conroy said. "Things are progressing well. I'm happy. I like to work the postseason. It's fun. It's a fun time of the year. It's a great reward for a good year and a long year.
"October baseball is great."
Conroy's first season as an umpire was 2000, when he worked in the New York-Penn League. That means he might not be the only one with a connection to Wahconah Park who gets on the field in St. Louis or in Washington.
Matt Adams, who hit .221 for the Nationals as a reserve first baseman, was the most valuable player for the NECBL's Pittsfield Dukes in 2008. Five years later, he was a member of the Cardinals when they played the Red Sox in the 2013 World Series.
The Nats have another Berkshire connection in director of player development Mark Scialabba. Scialabba graduated from Williams in 2002, and was the NESCAC player of the year that season. He hit .437 with nine home runs and 55 runs batted in.
In the American League Championship Series, the New York Yankees play the Houston Astros.
The Yankees, of course, are primarily owned by the Steinbrenner Family, and their connection to Berkshire County is well-known.
The late George Steinbrenner was a Williams College graduate, and helped fund the renovations to Weston Field back in the late 1980s. Weston Field is where Williams played football and the old Weston site is where Farley-Lamb field sits.
George's son Hal graduated from Williams in 1991, and was a student at the school when the original Weston construction project ended.
Pittsfield native Nick Avanzato is an assistant director of Minor League Operations for the Yankees, and has been with the Pinstripes since 2015.
The Astros don't have any Berkshire ties in their organization, but Pittsfield's Rick Murphy runs the Tri-City ValleyCats of the New York-Penn League, Houston's Short Season Class A affiliate.
So, there's that too.
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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