Mid-Season Report (by the commish)

Tri-State League Has Own Version of Killer B’s…

Reminiscent of the Killer B’s for the Houston Astros of the late 90’s (Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Derek Bell, Lance Berkman and later Carlos Beltran), the Tri-State league has its own Killer B’s version as Bethlehem, Brass City, Bristol, and Burlington rule the standings heading into the holiday/vacation break.
The season has been a HUGE success (including the normal umpire complaints – ha!) The website (manned by Tom Van Stone, Jr. and Pat Flynn) has been nothing short of ‘breathtaking’ with game recaps, news information, to go along with all the decorative bells and whistles. 38,000 hits since February is all the proof you need. Throw in morning sports reports on 97.3FM, sports magazine inquiries to cover the league, sports BLOGS (John Pettit) and newspaper coverage on the Tri-State League which will only increase now that High School is done and the playoff stretch, state tourney, league playoffs, Old Timers Day, and Hall-Of-Fame ceremony are around the corner.
Not to mention that 10 games were played at Muzzy Field already. A legendary stadium with history dated back to the 1930’s… you can’t beat the atmosphere, locker rooms, P.A. system and the glamour of the grandstands!! Throw in Municipal Stadium, Fuessenich Park, and the ‘king of country baseball’ Amenia Park – and we truly have the best places to play baseball. Just looking at the standings shows the parity in the league, as evidenced by the roster restrictions handed down by the Tri-State League. Burlington and Bristol near the top of the standings, Mazda Dodge having a DREAM SEASON according to head coach Trevor Bellemare, and Wolcott, Torrington, Winsted all currently battling just to stay in the Top 12 and make the playoffs!!
I have placed nearly 20 kids (on various teams) who emailed me about playing in the league. Three teams (Brass City, Tribury, Wolcott) will represent the league in this years’ Stan Musial State Tournament. August 21st we induct this years HOF class; Greg Hunt, Barney Mestek, Jim Davidson Sr, Jim Davidson Jr, Howie Mann, Paul Giroux, Rich Thomson Sr, and John Gardner. As the summer days are finally here, the Tri-State league only gets HOTTER from here on in. And whoever captures the Tri-State League championship will certainly have something to brag about.
My apologies to anyone I have missed – as I do not interview coaches for this write-up.
BETHLEHEM PLOWBOYS:  Year after year the Plow sits near the top of the standings.  An influx of youth holds a tremendous future for the men who play at Gallup Field.  MVP candidate Sam Iverson and Jason Krajesky give Bethehem as good a starting tandem as there is.  Newcomer Jose Ortiz has been on fire and has been getting plenty of help from Eric O’Toole, Nick Chiovetti, Tony Geraci, Dave Green, and Aaron Granahan.
BURLINGTON HUNTERS:  Steve Dubois is Burlington’s MVP candidate to this point batting over .500 on the season with multiple extra base hits.  Hitting machine Justin Campbell is just a notch behind.  A host of new and young guns who joined the team (Steven Popp (Stonehill College), Jay and Scott McIntyre, Adam Peters) in the past two seasons have kept Burlington’s reputation as a ‘Powerhouse at the Plate’ alive and well.  Jimmy Spirito gives Burlington one of the best pitchers in the league and John Mittica has been solid as the #2 guy.
BRASS CITY BREW:  Paul Novakowski has my vote as the Team MVP so far.  We all know Brass City can hit (Justin McCulloch, Eric Rovenetti, Steve Carosella) and now they have loaded up on the mound (looks like their ready for the states!) adding former pro Gary Novakowski, Tim McCarthy (Post University) and the return of Willie Ramos to a pitching staff that includes 2008 Cy Young Winner Marc DiDominzio, Sean Keegan, Mike Padovani, and Eric Gormley.
BRISTOL GREENERS:  Before the season started and I was asked how I thought Bristol would do in their initial campaign and my answer was “they’ll finish around .500 as all teams struggle their first year in the league”.  Well, this is Bristol.  A big town and we all know its Legion baseball history.  The Greeners will finish well-above .500.  Dan Rosa is a legitimate league MVP candidate as his presence at the plate and on the mound has certainly not gone unnoticed.  Ryan Dudzinski, Ryan Klepps, Chris Klepps, Shawn Mirmina, Doug and Matt Beaudoin, and Mike Zammitt are just a few names you keep reading over and over in the game recaps. G eoff Pierce has pitched well in a starter’s role for the Greeners.
TRIBURY PAVERS:  It seems like Craig Prasauckus has the game-winning hit in the last inning every time these guys take the field. Andrew Conlan, Andrew Jones, and Eric Villanova, Jamie Kimberly, and Jordan Kershaw (another guy who e-mailed me about playing) have been providing plenty of help on the offensive end.  A deep pitching staff will help Tribury in the states and league playoffs. Future Hall-Of-Famer Don Maki is still shutting teams down at 50+ years old!!
TRI-TOWN TROJANS:  Are finally living up to their expectations and are stationed near the top of the league standings, coincidentally with the return of stalwart Andrew Osolin to the mound (after a year away enjoying Florida). Already having Wayne Brewington, Connor Murray, and Jason Patrick on the pitching staff – Tri-Town plays hard-nosed defense and puts the ball in play 1 thru 10 in the lineup.
NAUGATUCK DOGS:  I wrote in the pre-season write-up that if the Dogs made the playoffs this year (after losing 7 starters) then Jay Harloman would get my vote for coach of the year.  After starting out 0-3 on the season, I knew their was frustration out in Naugy land – now look at the standings and the Dogs are at .500 on the season and playing with confidence. It takes a while to build team chemistry with a new team. Returnees Ryan Russell, Ryan Nelson, Trent Levi, George Harloman, Bob Augelli, and Devin Murphy continue to lead the offense. Pitcher Lance Stevens has been a golden find for the Dogs as he is 4-0 on the year and pitcher Mike Valenti’s arm strength has recovered this season as Naugy plans on being in every game they play in this year.
AMENIA MONARCHS:  If you have a team that features Matt Hosier, Tom Downey Jr, Joel Judson, Travis Hyatt, Tom Moore, and all the Pomeisl’s – then your going to go to the playoffs year after year. This year is no different… except maybe finally a ‘championship’ run for the franchise that has more league titles in league history than any other team.
LITCHFIELD COWBOYS:  An arm injury to elite pitcher Kevin Murray has been a HUGE loss for Litchfield but Kyle Robinson and Ben Murphy have picked up the slack and Carl Rivers is pitching full-time for the Cowboys (not Bridgewater in the Housatonic League) meaning that the Cowboys will be in the playoffs this year.  Certainly a dark-horse come playoff time as a steady offense with the likes of Chris Beach, Kyle Weaver, Leeland McKenna, Dylan Stiles, Colin Pratt and company will back Rivers and company on the mound.
WINSTED WHALERS:  Yes they still have MVP Ricky Langer, Charlie Putnam, and a host of young stud players but losing pitcher Toby Nylin (took a job in West Haven) on a full-time basis you know would hurt any team.  Donny Crossman is the legend he is, but he can’t do it all himself.  Dan Connelly and Jorge Pimental have pitched well but Nylin certainly has to be missed.  The defending champs will need a strong second half run to ensure they make the playoffs.  Is a repeat possible?  Absolutely…
TORRINGTON REBELS:  Can we say ‘rebuilding’ in Torrington.  The Rebels have lost ‘Shaq’ Thomson, Jay Wetherall, Brian Mongeau, and Steve Richard (part-time this year).  You don’t recover from that right off the bat. I love the influx of youth in Torrington and Brandon Cardoni has been a stud on the mound all year long. But with youth comes growing pains, usually at the plate with scoring runs. Former league MVP Darrin Gould can still hit and Matt Marolo and Curtis Anthony are solid at the plate.  Can this team make a run in the playoffs? – assuming they get there – not out of the question.  Cardoni, Dan Livingston, and Anthony give you that chance on the mound.
WOLCOTT SCRAPPERS:  Another ‘year in and year out’ powerhouse fighting just to make the playoffs.  Sal Messina is another guy having a monster year (at the plate and on the mound) and certainly a potential league MVP.  He has been a bright spot on a tough season for the Scrappers, who have lost multiple one-run games.  With losing so many close ballgames comes frustration.  Wolcott’s key to making the playoffs may come down to how well they handle their composure the rest of the season.  The talent is there led by Alex Narus, Adam LaCapra, the Soucys, the Sehnals, Omar Tavaras, and Ed Belval.  Justin Koutrous gives Wolcott a 90 mph closer.
TERRYVILLE BLACK SOX:  A lousy start and several rainouts have Terryville as my biggest question mark heading into the second half of the season.  Tyler Wenz and Ken Martinik give the Black Sox solid pitching and there is much confidence on the team in Terryville.  Matt Gardiner is the stud in the Terryville offense.  I predicted this team would finish in the Top 5 this year.  They’re not there now, but I wouldn’t want to play them down the stretch when their fighting for a playoff berth.
THOMASTON SPOILERS:  Joe Deming, it appears, is out for the season on the mound with an arm injury and that is BAD, BAD news for the Spoilers.  As head coach Dave Post stated “we’ll see if the young kids step up”… Veterans Timmy Hamel, Gary Swierzynski, and Andy and Matt Gasparini still lead this offense as their names are always listed in the paper.
MAZDA DODGE RED DEVILS:  Without a doubt, the surprise team of the year.  An influx of young players (Jordan Gomes, Ben Yaffee, Keith April, Chris Ayer) has strengthened the Red Devils who have handed Bethlehem their only loss of the year and defeated Burlington as well.  DJ Dyer has become the #1 guy on the mound for Mazda – and he was one of those guys who e-mailed me and asked if he could play in the league – while Mike Cavallo has provided solid innings as well.  The Bellemares certainly have their sights set on a playoff berth in 2009!!
WATEBURY WILD:  One guy who has certainly stood out is Fraz Kader from Post University who had a monster start to the season getting multiple hits at the plate and throwing key innings on the mound for the Wild.  Third baseman Bill Finley is having a nice season with multiple hit games.  Waterbury, just like Terryville, has had many rainouts and looks to make a strong second half run.  Several Post University players have joined Waterbury this year and have proved they are no longer ‘pushovers’ in the league.
FARMINGBURY LONGSHOTS:  What can I say?  The days of 20-0 games are over.  The Longshots are much improved as I have seen several quality arms on the mound and some highly caliber hitters on this team.  As new teams usually do, they must avoid the one bad big inning and hope their defense continues to improve.  Adam Roque and Dave Antonucci lead the Farmingbury offense.
In closing, it’s been my first year of retirement away from the league as a player and I now know what all the retired guys ahead of me know… though I miss the game at this level playing on the field, it has been a blast watching all the great talent on the field, looking forward to reading the morning sports page on our league for results, and looking at the standings on a daily basis as every day their seems to be a new team in that dreaded #13 position.  It’s a blast watching the league battle it out.  And hey, I still have the over-40 league where my star can shine!!  See you all out on the field soon and enjoy your holiday time-off!!