By KEVIN ROBERTS
A lot has changed with the 2019 version of the Southington 66ers, who make their home in the Connecticut Tri-State Baseball League.
Gone from Southington are familiar names like Kyle Dube, Josh Dobratz, Tim Jalbert, and Matt Santovasi. New faces like Alex Stackpole, Nick Yousefzadeh, Eric Padden, Vic DeSimone, C.J. Vasquez and others have joined veterans Pat Smith, Pat Raymond, Dave Randazzo and Carmen Perugini on the 66ers roster, led by manager Joe Santovasi.
Santovasi is helped out by assistant coach Lou Perugini. Joe Daigle, another veteran, plays part-time.
Southington has had players move away, go into graduate school, or not be able to play because of work commitments. Joe Santovasi’s son Matt will be getting married soon and is no longer playing. The 66ers also lost a prized arm when former Southington High School standout and UConn right-handed pitcher Joe Rivera signed with the Tucson Saguaros of the independent Pecos League.
“It’s a good group of guys,” Joe Santovasi said of his new players.
What hasn’t helped Southington in its roster transition is the schedule. Within the first five games of the season, the 66ers played four of the best teams in Tri-State—Blasius Chevrolet, the Terryville Black Sox, the Tri-Town Trojans and the Naugatuck Dogs. Southington fell to 1-9 following an 8-2 loss to the Bethlehem Plowboys this past Sunday. Yousefzadeh went 4-for-5 in that game. Raymond and Smith each drove in a run.
“We’ve been pretty competitive, even though we’ve only won one game,” Santovasi said after a 7-3 loss to the Wolcott Scrappers on June 20 at Recreation Park. “It’s trying to get the new guys together to blend together. A good bunch of athletes, a good bunch of baseball players, they’re having some fun I hope. It will take a little time, maybe next year. So far it’s been a challenge, but they’re all doing their best.”
Southington’s win was 3-0 over the Canton Crushers on May 23 at Recreation Park. Stackpole and Raymond combined for a one-hit shutout and seven strikeouts. DeSimone hit a solo home run while Yousefzadeh, Vasquez and Bryan Webster all added hits.
Stackpole started against Wolcott in the June 20 game and brings a strong left-handed pitcher to the roster. Stackpole can only pitch in so many games, however, because he and his wife are taking care of their young baby. It was easier for Stackpole to play in Southington than continue traveling to Burlington to play with the Hunters, so he asked Santovasi the coach if he had an open roster spot. Yousefzadeh is also local and joined the roster this season after playing for the Torrington Rebels.
Players like Smith, Raymond and Perugini have been with Santovasi since they won a Mickey Mantle championship together in 2010. The 66ers have been playing in the Tri-State League since 2016.
“They’re good guys, and they want to play, so if they want to play, I’ll hang around. Louie (Perugini) is a great help,” Santovasi said.