OWEN CANFIELD: Tri-State Baseball League thriving

The Register Citizen pays considerable attention to the Tri-State League, an amateur baseball entity deserving of that kind of treatment. It has been around for a very long time and this spring, it is thriving.
When Ed Gadomski of Thomaston took over as league commissioner in 2003, there were six Tri-State teams. Today there are 17. Whew!
“I’m pretty well organized,’’ said Gadomski, a computer expert who works at Waterbury Hospital. “But when I took over from Bob McMahon, I never thought we’d expand this much.’’
Membership has fluctuated through the years, but since 1934 when it was founded, the league has always survived, and usually it has waxed fat. Men like to play baseball.
When young athletes get out of high school or college, they often want to keep playing baseball. Without the Tri-State and other leagues like it, they wouldn’t have the chance. They’d have to turn to softball, golf or another activity. Those things are good to have, but they’re not baseball.
Gadomski is a good example of what the league can mean to players who don’t want to hang up their spikes. He’s 42 years old and, while he’s retired from the Tri-State, he still plays for the Thomaston team in an over-40 league. Baseball is a tonic for him. He says he can relax, forget his concerns and just be a baseball player while on the field or in the dugout. And by the way, Ed is no slouch with the bat and glove. He was Tri-State MVP in 2003.
I visited both Walker Field in Winsted and the Thomaston High School field for Tri-State games on June 7. When they play on Sundays, Tri-Staters go nine innings. On weeknights, they play seven.
The Winsted manager-shortstop, Ricky Langer, allowed me to hang out in the dugout and talk to him and some of the players. Langer, 27, from Barkhamsted, graduated from Northwestern Regional High School and the University of Hartford and is a broadcast engineer at ESPN.
Amenia won, but the game was a good one. There was plenty of spark and hustle and when players struck out or, in one case, got picked off base, an interloper like me thought it was wise to sit quietly and not try to talk to him.
I met some good players, mostly college guys, that day, besides Langer. Chester Warner, U. of Bridgeport, is an accountant in East Hartford. Brenner Pieszak is a senior at UConn. Dave Lumpkin is a graduate of Syracuse and pitcher George Pimenthal, who threw over 130 pitches this day, is a student and player at Newberry College in Boston. He’s 18 years old and carrying a double major, sports management and business management, at Newberry.
After the game I met Tom Downey, who manages the Amenia team and is also a manager for the Dutchess County (N.Y.) Highway Department. He is a long-timer in the league, one of the valuable people and Amenia baseball wouldn’t be the same without him.
“Tom is a legend in the league,’’ Gadomski said. “He helped build the ball park in Amenia. When it was dedicated they surprised him by naming the road to the park Tom Downey Drive.’’
In Thomaston later in the afternoon, Rich Bellemare sat in a folding chair on the slope above the field watching his twin 27-year-old sons, Scott (first base) and Trevor (second base) playing for Mazda Dodge of Thomaston.
Rich works part-time, he said, as a produce associate for LaBoune’s Supermarket in Watertown. Thomaston knows him for his long association with and contributions to baseball. Bellemare said he’s been watching his boys play since their tee-ball days.
Gadomski had a bit of news for me – the names of seven men who shortly will be inducted into the Tri-State Hall of Fame. They are: Jim Davidson and Barney Mestek of Winsted, Paul Giroux and Howie Mann of Amenia, Greg Hunt of Bethlehem, John Gardner of Lakeville and Rich Thomson of Torrington. Thomson is an umpire.