It was a crowded diamond at Lunt Field in Greenfield earlier this spring during tryouts for the 10 & Under Greenfield tournament team.
Twenty-five kids showed up to try out for a travel team that would compete in various postseason summer tournaments, including the Cal Ripken Districts.
That day coach Scott Cote chose the 12 players he felt would give the town its best chance at winning the title. Well, the Greenfield Dozen hasn’t disappointed. This weekend the club will try to add to their growing collection of trophies when they head to Cranston, R.I., to take part in the eight-team New England Cal Ripken 10U Championships.
This summer marks the first season Greenfield is back under the Cal Ripken banner. Greenfield had previously been associated with Cal Ripken Baseball, but four years ago the Greenfield Minor League pulled out of it, opting to play as a private entity. The team competed in Invitational Tournaments around New England but did not take part in the Cal Ripken Tournament, which is akin to the Little League World Series.
This March, the GML voted to rejoin Cal Ripken and compete in its tournmaments. GML president Bobby Campbell, better known in these parts as Bobby C, said he was one of the individuals who opposed the move back to Ripken, but that was due to the issues the league has had surrounding the ball fields at the Lunt property.
“I didn’t think we were quite ready but a lot of people on the board wanted to give the kids a chance to compete at a higher level,” he said. “Cal Ripken has its ups and downs, but a lot of it has to do with tournament rules.
During the GML regular season, the league continued to play under its own rules, which vary a bit from the ones it adheres to under the Cal Ripken banner. One example is that the GML does not allow intentional walks. There are also baserunning rules, different field sizes (Cal Ripken is slightly bigger than Little League) and other small variances to the rules the tournament team now plays under. From Campbell’s explanation and reviewing Cal Ripken rules online, it appears that Cal Ripken baseball uses rules that are more like the ones you see on the larger baseball diamonds with 90-foot bases, whereas the GML (as well as Little League) are tailored to children’s 60-foot basepaths. Both organizations are very similar, although Little League is a much larger organization.
The GML has four tournament teams this season. The 10U team (known as the Greenfield Green) went to the Cal Ripken District Championships a few weeks back and finished second to Hadley, but the second-place finish earned it a spot in the state tournament. The remaining 13 players from the 10U tryouts also formed a team (known as Greenfield Gray, coached by legendary youth coach Butch Martin) also went to the tournament but was eliminated and now is playing in invitationals. Greenfield also has a 12U team (which went two-and-out in the district tournament) and an 11U team, which is playing in the 11-and-under States this weekend because the district only has two teams (Turners Falls is the other) and both qualified for the states.
Back to the Greenfield Green team, which won the state title Tuesday and earned a spot in the New Englands. Calling Greenfield the state champion is a bit misleading, if only because Cal Ripken splits Massachusetts into two sections: eastern Mass. and western/central Mass. Greenfield beat Marlborough, 3-2, Tuesday night to win the “state” title, and ironically it came when Marlborough was trying to issue an intentional walk (remember that free passes are not allowed in the GML) but had the ball go off the catcher’s glove and get far enough astray for the winning to score from third.
On Saturday at 12:30 p.m., Greenfield will play at Bain’s Ricci Field, taking on the hosts in the first game of the double-elimination tournament. Cranston automatically qualified for the tournament as host, so my original thinking was that perhaps it would be a bit weak. However, Cranston won the 10U Rhode Island State Tournament last weekend and will be a very tough first-round game for Greenfield.
As you might imagine, heading to Rhode Island for a weekend of baseball can get a bit expensive, so Campbell started raising funds from local businesses. And the businesses came through in a big way. Gilmore & Farrell Insurance stepped up and donated $1,000 and then challenged other local businesses to match. All-States Materials Group in Sunderland answered the call. All told, 19 businesses donated to the cause and the team managed to raise $4,000 to offset the cost of hotels, umpires and a team dinner.
“The community has supported us so strongly,” Cote said.
“I want to say thank you to the local businesses that helped this team out,” Campbell added. “It’s a really big deal. These kids are representing not only Greenfield, but the state of Massachusetts.”
Should the team win this tournament, it would qualify for the national tournament in Florida in early August.
And no matter what, the team has earned a spot in the Franklin County Fair Parade in early September.
The 12 players on the team are: Hunter Roberts, Troy Emond, Zach Renaud, Jacob Bryant, Kyle White, Ryan Herlihy, Julian Trenholm, Jared Hubbard, Ryan Cote, Brody Baird, Katie Haselton and Jacob Dodge.
“I have been so impressed with the character and talent of these kids,” Cote said. “I noticed two years ago their ability to work together and thought we had something special. Nobody wants to be the star. They really know team unity.”
You may have heard of the Sports Illustrated cover curse and the Madden cover curse. Perhaps you can add the curse of Austin Urkiel to the list.
Both the Sports Illustrated and Madden curses involve athletes getting injured or having poor showings after gracing the covers of the magazine and the video game.
As for the Austin Urkiel curse, well, the former Greenfield High School hockey goalie (class of 2010) owns Tyler Seguin and Aaron Hernandez jerseys. Unfortunately, Seguin was traded by the Boston Bruins on July 4th, while former Patriots tight end Hernandez is being charged with murder.
“Luckily they were my backups,” Urkiel joked.
The good news for him is that Hernandez jerseys were fetching a good price on eBay, while the Seguin jersey may be something to show the kids some day should the former second overall pick thrive in a new system that allows him to open things up offensively.
Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is email@example.com.