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New-look Manny’s young and hungry

  • Manny's baserunner Greg Vouros, shown scoring a run last season, is back as a second baseman this year after playing mostly shortstop in the past.<br/>Recorder/file photo<br/>

This is not be your father’s Manny’s TV & Appliance baseball team.

The Tri-County League team that calls Greenfield’s Veterans Memorial Field home is undergoing a makeover of sorts. For years, the TV & Appliance Men have brought back the same core of players every summer, a recipe for success. Since 2003, Manny’s has played in seven of 11 TCL Championship Series, winning the league title in 2007 and 2009. While the team enjoyed a lot of success, it did not undergo much turnover, and because of that, younger players have stayed away for the most part or gone on to play for Teddy Bear Pools of South Deerfield.

But this season three mainstays are no longer with the team as pitcher Jeff Dixon, first baseman Kyle Henry and outfielder John Wilkes have all moved on. Center fielder Brian Hayes will also be with the team in a part-time role, opening the door for a number of younger players, featuring a number of promising newcomers.

“I don’t know the right way to put it, but we were getting long in the tooth,” longtime manager Lee Magee said. “It was tough to attract new players because the rumor out there was that they wouldn’t get any playing time because we were returning a lot of veterans. As much as I think we will miss the likes of Dixon, Wilkes and Henry, it does open up some possibilities for some new players.”

The signs of the team getting older were evident last season when Manny’s was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the playoffs, failing to make at least the semifinals for the first time since 2001.

Dixon has long been the ace of the pitching staff. The hulking hurler could eat up innings and was a complete-game machine. With him gone, the squad will rely on a mix of returnees and some promising new faces. Dusty Mones is the most seasoned member of the staff, going 4-1 with a 1.45 earned run average last season. Youngster Austin Finck made a big impression last season, finishing 3-1 overall with a 1.42 earned run average.

There are plenty of pitchers on the staff and Magee said he does not have a clear cut No. 1, leaving the door wide open for a number of newbees. Greenfield High School ace Garrett Hudson joins the team this season before heading off to pitch at Merrimack University, while his former Green Wave teammate Mike Duclos is also on board after pitching at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Amherst native Asher Young is another promising newcomer to the staff, while holdovers Devin Rhodes and Colin Dudunake are also in the rotation. Former Turners Falls High School pitcher T.J. Meyer, Dean Bonneau and Sawyer Olson are other possibilities.

Longtime catcher Eric Libardoni will once again strap on the tools of ignorance as the team’s primary backstop, although Stephen Herter can also fill in behind the plate. With Henry out, players like Hudson, Duclos and Finck can all see time at first, while longtime shortstop Greg Vouros is likely to move to second this year with Mike Putala backing him up. Soren Pelz-Walsh had a big year for the team last season and returns to shortstop, while Trinity College head coach Bryan Adamski returns after a hiatus and will play third.

Hayes is the only sure bet in the outfield, and with him playing part-time, the three outfield spots are all up for grabs. Dudunake, Herter, Meyer, Mones, newcomer Jordan Stempel (formerly of Pioneer Valley Regional School), and Luke Wamboldt are all possibilities. Old-timer Dave Talbot also returns and will be a coach and outfielder. Chris McAuliffe will serve in a utility role as well.

Manny’s opens tonight at 6 at Somers (Conn.) High School against Dream Bats.

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