Keeping Score: Crazy for Keene

Published: 08-11-2023 3:54 PM

Good morning!
On a rare night in July when it was safe to leave the umbrella in the car, the Keene Swampbats were warming up to play the Bristol (Conn.) Blues. My daughter April and son-in-law Corey were ordering food and grandkids Chase and Carter were spinning wheels and tossing Nerf balls for prizes, so I took a walk around the bucolic 86-year-old ballpark. 

Under the roof of the wooden grandstand David Davoren was sitting in the front row with a loose leaf binder in his lap. He was about 50, wore a faded Red Sox t-shirt that covered his modest paunch and the burst of strawberry-gray hair from beneath his Cape Cod League baseball cap reminded me of film maker Michael Moore.

I sat down and introduced myself, but he seemed distracted and perhaps even annoyed. “Kayden!” he yelled to Swampbats reliever Kayden Campbell, “want to sign a card?”

The lanky southpaw from the University of Louisville looked over and nodded, and Davoren went down the steps and handed him a pen.

“The Swampbats have their own baseball cards?” I asked.

“No. I make my own,” he said.

“Off the computer?”

“Yeah,” he said and opened the binder to show me. “Most of them in this league are only freshmen and sophomores. You’ll see some of them move up next year to the Cape Cod League.”

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As a baseball purist living in Greater Boston, Davoren couldn’t care less about paying top dollar to do the wave and sing Sweet Caroline. His Twitter (or “X”) handle is @Diehard1918, but like many of us became an expat of the Fenway wars.

“I gravitated toward college and the summer leagues and drove all over the place to watch baseball,” he said. “I’ll watch BC or go to a Harvard or Northeastern game… We have the talent in New England to compete at the D-1 level.

“My wife hates it and my kids hate it, but I’ll drive all over the place to watch baseball. I love it and the players love it and it shows in the way they play and interact with the fans.”

Davoren said he’d taken Route 2 from his home in Arlington to Rte. 140 in Winchendon onto Route 12 to Keene. “It was a nice drive,” he said. “Enjoyable.”

Baseball America ranks the New England Collegiate Baseball League the second best in the U.S. behind the Cape Cod League, and a recent voters poll by Ballpark Digest ranked Alumni Stadium one of the four best in the U.S. and Canada.

  That’s all well and good, but Davoren’s worried that money from name-image-likeness deals might someday impact the summer leagues. “NIL is starting to filter into the players’ minds,” he said.  “They’re much more aware of their monetary value.”

Shudder to think of Swampbat players like Kayden Campbell charging for autographs, it would give ‘wait till next year’ a new meaning. 

If you’re in the Athol-Orange area, stop at the New Salem General Store owned by Jeff and Natalie Reynolds and wish their 16-year-old son Jack good luck at the IPF World Classic Powerlifting Championships. Young Jack will be competing in Cluj-Napoca, a city that played a central role in the Romanian Revolution of 1989.

Marathon runners Alaina Belanger and Chris Lotsbom are tying the marital knot today in Greenfield. They met at the Boston Athletic Association where they both work, and their shared passion for running became a shared passion for each other. Congratulations and good luck on the long marital road ahead.

Fox analyst Aly Wagner questioned U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski’s decision to use Meghan Rapinoe in the 99th minute of Sunday’s loss to Sweden. “That’s a surprise,” said Wagner. “Rapinoe’s ability to deliver the ball hasn’t been consistent.”

It turned out to be the understatement of the tournament, as Rapinoe flubbed her penalty kick.

Wagner’s colleague soccer Hall of Famer Alexi Lalas, summed up what Team USA’s apologists couldn’t or wouldn’t: “Ultimately, 2023 has been an unmitigated failure for this US team, the No. 1 team in the world, the defending World Cup champions, out in the Round of 16.” 

MLB’s Grant Paulsen led his Sunday morning radio show saying, “If your weekend hasn’t gone as well as you planned, you’re still doing better than Tim Anderson.” 

Paulsen was referring to Anderson getting KO’d by Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez in the sixth inning of last Saturday’s game.

As baseball fights go, it was a doozie. Anderson landed a few jabs but then Ramirez connected with a wild right hook. Up in the broadcast booth, Cleveland’s Tom Hamilton went full-on Howard Cosell: “They’re fighting! They’re swinging! Down goes Anderson! Down goes Anderson!”

The UMass football team remains an eight-point underdog at New Mexico State two weeks from today. After practice at McGuirk Stadium on Wednesday, the team gathered around coach Don Brown at the 50-yard line. His message was short and to the point: “Are we there yet? No. You’d better get your minds right and get ready to play your best game.”

The FBS is composed of 133 teams, and UMass is ranked No.133 by CBSSports. There’s nowhere to go but up.

SQUIBBERS: Wilbraham & Monson Academy announced it’s dropping from 11-man football to 8-man football, but that’s better than NMH which dropped football, doesn’t have baseball, and lost its varsity hockey and basketball coaches in back-to-back years. …  Boomer Esiason on the bad hand Nathaniel Hackett was dealt coaching the Broncos: “He thought he was getting Aaron Rodgers but got Russell Wilson who came in with a big contract extension and all sorts of demands and even had his own office.”… Mookie Betts slammed the Padres on Monday, his fourth dinger in eight games while the player Boston got for him Alex Verdugo has two home runs in 71 games since May 2. … The Sportshub’s Felger & Mazz are taking Rafael Devers to task for being chums with whoever’s standing at third base. Back in the day, umpires could fine players $50 for fraternizing. …The latest issue of the hunting/fishing tabloid Hawkeye reports that a record 19-foot Burmese python was caught at 1 a.m. on July 10 in Big Cypress National Preserve close to Naples. …Most depressing sight of the week: supermarkets are selling Halloween candy.. … Oakland’s radio announcer on Masataka Yoshida: “They feel his work in the outfield leaves something to be desired.” … Carlos Correa has hit in 22 double plays which leads the majors, not the way for a $33 million player to speed up the game. … Where have you gone Boof Bonser, the Red Sox need you. … TBS’s John Smoltz characterizes the Yankees as “a flawed roster that was years in the making.” …. Red Sox fans are clamoring to see Curacao’s Ceddanne Rafaela, who hits for power and average but strikes out every 4.5 at bats. If he makes it he’ll have the longest proper name in MLB history: Ceddanne Chipper Nicasio Marte Rafaela. … The late Jim Bouton on broadcasters who rely on statistics to fill airtime: “Statistics are about as interesting as first base coaches.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at chipjet715@icloud.com

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