Without Legion banner, Greenfield set to open Western Mass. Summer Baseball League season

  • Greenfield Post 81 pitcher Jacob Berry throws against Pittsfield Post 68 during American Legion baseball action at Vets Field in Greenfield last year. Greenfield is set to return to the field later this week. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 7/6/2020 4:51:34 PM
Modified: 7/6/2020 9:51:48 PM

While American Legion baseball officially canceled its season back in May, teams in Western Massachusetts have put together their own unofficial Legion season.

Defending champion Greenfield, which went on a wild postseason run a year ago to capture the District I championship in the Senior Division, will have a chance to play games again, albeit without the Legion banner. The Western Mass. Summer Baseball League, which features a 10-team Senior Division, is expected to begin games this week.

After postponements to start the week, Greenfield is tentatively set to open Thursday with a home game at Vets Field against Agawam (7 p.m.). That is contingent upon the Greenfield Board of Health agreeing to allow youth sports to return to fields in the city at Tuesday’s meeting. 

“These kids are very excited to potentially be playing games,” said Greenfield manager Kyle Phelps, whose team has been practicing at Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield in preparation for the season. “They’ve waited patiently for the health officials to give us the OK. We were actually the last team in the league to get on a field for practice. Safety has been the number one thing and I think the kids have done a great job handling the guidelines and safety measures we’ve incorporated into our practices.”

Things will look a bit different than normal Legion games, though many of the same teams are back. Usual suspects Pittsfield, East Springfield, Westfield and Longmeadow have decided not to participate, though familiar foes Northampton, Ludlow, Wilbraham, Belchertown and Easthampton are among the opponents on tap.

The league will keep most of its normal rules in place, including pitch count, though there will be free substitutions and an extra hitter in the lineup. Greenfield will wear its normal Post 81 uniforms, though the American Legion patches will either be removed or covered with duct tape, per order of the commissioner.

“It’s all about getting the kids a chance to play some games,” Phelps said. “There’s a double elimination tournament at the end so the kids have something to shoot for as well.”

Greenfield’s Senior Division team will have plenty of familiar faces. Veteran Post 81 players like Owen Phelps, Bryan Baumann, Garrett DeForest, Jacob Berry, Connor Waitkus and Joel Peabody are on the squad, as are Franklin County stalwarts like Matt Gardner (Deerfield Academy), Dylan Apanell (Frontier), Jaden Whiting (Turners Falls), Jacob Quinn (Pioneer), Jacob Bryant (Frontier), Nate Sciandra (Franklin Tech) and Gabe Gochinski (Frontier).

Phelps said a handful of Junior Division players are likely to get into the mix as well, including David Carey, Michael Bassett, Jason Quinn, MJ Paulin and Brody Baird.

“Normally you can only have three kids dual-rostered but this year any kid can play on the (Senior Division) team,” the skipper offered.

A staple of Greenfield play at this level, pitching should once again be a strength. Owen Phelps and Berry both pitched in an abbreviated collegiate season this past spring, while Peabody, Apanell, Waitkus, Gardner and Jacob Quinn are all reliable arms that Greenfield will use.

DeForest should be one of the top catching options in the league, and the roster has some depth at that position with the likes of Jason Quinn and Bassett. Up the middle, Baumann (shortstop) and Phelps (second base) return to their familiar spots, while Bryant, Berry and Paulin are in the mix at first base. Gardner, Apanell, Bassett and Peabody will battle for time at third base, while the outfield is plenty talented with Waitkus, Carey, Jacob Quinn and Whiting all involved.

In addition to Kyle Phelps, the coaching staff will also include Adam Phelps and Eliot Mousseau. The trio have been charged with ensuring safety measures and social distancing have been properly implemented during practice sessions.

“It’s been a transition but I give the kids a lot of credit,” Kyle Phelps said. “Everybody knows that if we’re going to do this, the only way to do it is safely.”

The regular season is scheduled to run through Aug. 2, with the postseason taking place Aug. 4-14.

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