By BRIAN JENNINGS
Southington’s American Legion baseball team (2-6) may have lost four-straight games over the past week, but the big question is, where did all of the Southington players go?
American Legion baseball has always been known as a source for great baseball talent at a highly competitive level during the summer. However, the baseball climate has recently seen major changes in the New England region.
One of those changes is collegiate baseball. With the inception of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League in 2010, Connecticut’s elite college baseball players no longer have to travel up to Massachusetts to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Southington Blue Knights catcher Zac Susi will be playing baseball for UConn in Storrs this coming spring and is spending his summer with the Torrington Titans. Knights’ first baseman Liam Scafariello is following Susi up to UConn, but for now, is playing across the way in the same division against Susi as the starting right fielder for the Bristol Blues.
Other starting varsity players from the Knights’ baseball team have dispersed to different teams and leagues this summer as well.
Adam Wilson is one of the few starting varsity players from the Knights to stay and continue playing for the Southington Legion team. Wilson and Knights teammate Brett Shaw were dependable hitters in their last season of high school baseball and have both decided to continue their careers at Western Connecticut State University.
However, Shaw moved on to play for Team Connecticut this summer. One of the starting pitchers for the Knights, Drew Farkas has also moved on to play CT’s AAU baseball team.
Southington Legion coach Marc Verderame said that he has had most of these household names throughout their whole high school careers. Southington Legion baseball went from having a roster of 18 guys that made it to the state finals two years ago to having only a total of 11 players tryout this summer, barely having enough to field a team.
Verderame said that when he played, about 30 guys showed up for the tryouts, and they cut players. With the disbanding of some teams and the forced merging of others, there’s no doubt that legion baseball has been dwindling over the recent years, in terms of the interest from players. However, Verderame said that he told his guys it’s no excuse.
“When you get up in the batter’s box, it doesn’t matter if there’s 20 kids in the dugout or one kid in the dugout,” said Verderame. “Baseball’s a team game with individual moments. Go out there, have some pride, and let’s not use it as an excuse. Embrace the challenge.”
Over this past week, Southington suffered a 4-1 loss to Terryville (8-4), an 11-4 loss to Wolcott (9-3), and back-to-back losses (3-1, 7-1) to Avon (7-4). Adam Wilson led the Southington at the plate with three hits, a run, and a RBI. Southington currently sits in seventh place of the 19U Division, five games back from first-place Wolcott.
“I think they’re going out there every night and trying their best,” the coach said. “We’re hitting the ball. We’re just not taking an advantage of opportunities. It’s been tough. We’re light on pitching, so we have guys that don’t pitch, who are going out there and giving a good effort. It’s the small things that you have to execute. This league is a wooden bat league, so it’s a low-scoring game and every play is important. We just haven’t been executing thus far.”
Southington will try to get back in contention this week when they face Torrington in a doubleheader at home.