Training in Florida at ‘Dodgertown’
With spring break looming, a number of college baseball and softball teams from New England are gearing up for their annual trips to Florida.
The Bridgewater State University baseball team is no different. The Bears, the preseason favorite in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference this season, will even be playing at a historic major-league spring training site.
Bridgewater State will play 10 games at legendary “Dodgertown’’ in Vero Beach, the spring home to the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers for more than 50 years.
“It’s a pretty remarkable place,’’ said longtime coach Rick Smith, who guided the Bears to a 26-17 record last season. “It’s great to have our kids on the same fields that Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, and Jackie Robinson played.’’
BSU was one of the first teams to make the trip to Vero Beach after the Dodgers moved their spring operations to Arizona in 2009.
“Every year it gets better and better; we luck out and get to play inside Holman Stadium a lot,’’ said junior captain David Pierce, an East Bridgewater High grad. “Last year Mike Piazza was standing next to the batting cages as we were warming up; it was pretty cool.”
There aren’t many frills to the fields: deep fences afford pitchers the ability to make mistakes, and require outfielders to cover a lot of ground. There no dugouts, just basic benches, a feature that was designed to allow fans to get closer to the players.
“The younger generation is so used to amenities, this is great for them to see,’’ said Smith. “Our first year, one of the kids remarked about the lack of dugouts, and one of the oldtimers who worked there quipped back, ‘If it was good enough for Jackie Robinson, it’s good enough for you.’ The place is all designed for the fans and kids to interact; I really enjoy it.’’
The Bears have high aspirations after capturing the MASCAC crown last season and earning a spot in the NCAA Division 3 regional tournament.
“These kids have been playing together for so many years, it’s paying dividends now,’’ said Smith, who has compiled a 449-242-4 record in 19 seasons.
Senior righthanders Corey Battista (Fall River) and Jim Balboni (Townsend) lead the rotation, while Tyler Hughes of Middleborough is an anchor in the bullpen.
Pierce, who plays first and will bat third, hit .313 last season with 29 RBIs.
“He’s a smart, patient hitter who can hit for power and average,’’ said Smith.
Senior outfielder Ian Williams (43 RBIs) of Taunton is in the cleanup spot. Mansfield High grad John Garabedian, a junior who has played every inning of every game of his college career, is a stalwart in center. Another former Hornet, James Gilmore, and Craig Stewart of Brockton will both see time at designated hitter.
Up the middle, two transfers, second baseman Sean Riley (Dean) and shortstop Trevor Lawson (Assumption) of Easton, form a solid double play combo.
“We’re young, but we were young last year,’’ said Pierce. “We expect to be strong from the start. I’m looking forward to the season starting; I’m sick of being indoors.’’
The Bears return home to begin their New England schedule with a pair of doubleheaders March 17 and 18 at Alumni Park.
Here and there
Easton’s Alex Dalton (Oliver Ames) studied abroad in Spain last semester. Her tennis game, however, travels well. Back at St. Michael’s this semester, the junior was 4-0 on the court last week to earn Player of the Week honors from the Northeast-10 Conference. It was the first weekly honor for the two-time all-conference selection. Her sister, Catherine, also played tennis at St. Mike’s.
Weymouth High grad Sarah Collins helped power the Babson women’s basketball team to its fourth straight NEWMAC title. The 6-foot-2 junior center was named the Most Outstanding Player of the conference tournament last week after averaging 18.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game while shooting a blistering 68 percent from the floor. The 25-2 Beavers were scheduled to play Bridgewater State in the first round of the NCAA Division 3 tournament in Amherst on Friday night.
On the ice, Hingham’s Matt Genovese lifted the Salem State men’s hockey team into yesterday’s MASCAC final against Plymouth State, scoring the overtime winner in a 4-3 semifinal victory over UMass-Dartmouth.
Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s 2012 Hall of Fame inductees include football players Bob Long (1980), Derek Gagnon (1994), Nate Gravelle (1994), and David Burrill (2002), as well as baseball and soccer standout John Hendy (1982). The induction ceremony will be held on June 2.
Andrew MacDougall can be reached at email@example.com.