Last year was a memorable one for the Braintree Post 86 American Legion baseball team.
The District 6 Legion squad had a Cinderella run. They finished the regular season with a 14-4 record and captured the district’s East Division crown and the Massachusetts state title, the team’s first state banner since 1989.
But the players’ dreams of playing on national television at the Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., were crushed when they lost, 5-1, to Shrewsbury Post 397 in the American Legion Region 1 title game.
Coach Cam Fox, who’s also assistant baseball coach at Braintree High under Billy O’Connell, had hoped the fairy tale would play all the way out.
“We were just one game away of making it,” said Fox. “We just came up short, but it was great to win the district and state championship. We played against some great competitors and we were fortunate [for] the success that we had.”
But success breeds success, and with many of the players from last year’s historic run back again this year, the goal is to keep on winning.
The team’s off to a 4-2 start and looking forward to the challenges ahead.
“We pretty much have the same team from last year,” said Fox. “And these kids really want to win. They are dedicated to the sport, and Braintree has such a great baseball program. We have been very fortunate to always have great teams here.”
The team features Braintree High graduates Kyle Gray, now a pitcher at Worcester State, and Sean Casey, who holds down first base for Bridgewater State. Current Braintree High ballplayers including pitching ace John Tellier and center fielder Jackson Duffy.
Tellier, whose arsenal includes fastballs, curves, sliders, and changeups, had an excellent spring for Braintree High, posting a 2.10 ERA. But a team accustomed to success on the diamond failed to qualify for the Super 8 and lost in the Division 1 South semifinals, 5-4, to eventual state champion Needham.
That spring loss definitely carries over in the players’ minds into the summer.
“I feel like our Legion team has something to prove because of it,’’ said Tellier. “We are a skilled and competitive squad. We definitely have a difficult task to prove our point and will be playing some tough opponents.”
Duffy, the centerfielder, concurs.
“We are a legitimate program,” said Duffy. “It was such a great feeling to win the state championship. . . . We want to carry on the Braintree baseball tradition of being a great program and take pride in that.”
To go all the way, the team will have to overcome some real powerhouses, including Franklin, most recent winners of the Super 8 title.
“There are so many tough opponents in District 6,” said Fox, the coach. “We are really taking the season one step at a time. But we put in the hours in the offseason and are prepared to get wins.”
In Braintree baseball, putting in the offeseason hours starts even before the Red Sox equipment truck heads south.
“We start practicing at the beginning of the year,” said Tellier. “From January until the end of the summer, it is all about baseball. Fox is great in the spring season and as a head coach in the summer. He gives us a great chance of being successful. We just need to prove it on the field.”
That should get a bit easier now that a few college athletes who missed the season’s start have returned to the fold.
“Now we have the whole team ready to go and everyone is healthy,’’ said Fox. “Everyone is committed to play, and I’m really looking forward to how far we can take this.”