Way back 50 years ago, Carlton Fisk of Charlestown heard his name called in the baseball draft. Only one area baseball player has had the same luxury since. Fisk was a first round choice. I am sure every baseball player who has competed in the region, would have been satisfied if their name had been called at all. Even if, they had to be the last pick.
The baseball draft is being held as this article is being written. It is likely, that another year will go by without anyone we know, getting the call. IF history repeats as expected, that doesn’t mean there will be another whole year, without any one in the area chasing the dream. Michael LaBeau of Bellows Falls is hoping to get some kind of chance.
LaBeau recently graduated from Castleton State University. He was the Sparatans co ace starter this spring, along with his roommate Devin Hayes. Devin tossed 62 innings this season and LaBeau countered with 60 1/3. LaBeau had more appearances, but, because for the second straight year, the former BF Terrier was moved to the bullpen at seasons end in order to pitch the teams most important innings, he accumulated less innings overall. LaBeau started 8 games and finished the season with a 5-4 record and a low 2.09 ERA. He had six complete games and pitched two shutouts. He walked 20 and struck out 57 and batters hit .242 against him.
Unfortunately, both LaBeau and Hayes fell short in their final appearance in the NCAA Tournament. They shared pitching duties in a big loss to Southern Maine and LaBeau would officially get the loss. He entered the contest with the bases loaded and two outs of a 2-2- game in the bottom of the fifth and struck out a batter to keep things even. Southern Maine pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the next frame versus LaBeau and went on to win the game and eventually advanced to the Northeast Regional Finals, where they were defeated by Oswego State. This is the second straight year Castleton has won their league tournament (LaBeau was the events Most Valuable Player in 2016) and advance to compete in the NCAA Regional. Regular readers should also remember that LaBeau had a stellar season last summer for the Keene Swampbats.
LaBeau has a plan and it doesn’t include sitting around to see if there is that slim chance his name is called in the draft. He knows he has to keep on pitching and hope that the right person gets to see him pitch at the right time.
We spoke to LaBeau Monday evening as the 2017 draft was beginning. He was sitting in Virginia Beach, Virginia, biding his time until the first pitch of the Red Sox-Phillies game. He was also still formulating his plan. He had just arrived in Virginia Beach the day before and was being added to the roster of the Virginia Beach Waves. The reason LaBeau had chosen the Virginia Beach Summer League was that it is a summer college league, which allows recently graduated seniors to compete. Opportunities for those in LaBeau’s status are few and far between, so LaBeau had taken this chance when opportunity knocked.
Before the Red Sox walked off that evening on Dustin Pedroia’s eleventh inning single, LaBeau had been offered and chosen another opportunity. As Pedroia raced to avoid a bath from his teammates, LaBeau was back in his car, driving back to Vermont, where he would have a plane ticket waiting for him to fly to Alaska and be a part of the Alaska League.
“I know the competition is at a higher level there and there will be more scouts watching me pitch. Even though i was just starting out in Virginia Beach, I just couldn’t turn down an opportunity which would give me a better chance to end up where I would really like to go,” and of course, that is for an opportunity to pitch in the professional ranks.
Professional speaking, very few have had the opportunity to play pro ball from our area. Those that come to mind other than Fisk are Ralph Fletcher, Hal Bushway, Kevin Keefe, Mark Brown, Scott and Bob Morse, Jeff Hubbard and Morgan Brown. The only one of those I remember ever appearing in the big leagues was Brown. He was also the only other area player, who was actually drafted. Two drafted players, two big leaguers. Not a bad percentage for the area in that regard. Brown was a sixth round pick of the Baltimore Orioles.
Of the numerous people who read this column weekly, here’s thinking that many of the older ones, believed at a young age, that they had a chance to become a big league player. There were less teams in that day, and less roster spots available, BUT, our awareness of the world at large, was so much less than it is today, so dreaming was much easier. Congratulations to all the names mentioned above, especially Fisk, who took many of us on a ride to never forget and to Brown, who by just appearing in the show, made a mark for this area, which might never be reached again.
Future stars- A couple of weeks back, yours truly, jumped up on his soapbox and shouted about the fact, little league age kids, don’t have the opportunity to play baseball all summer, the way they did in the good old days. Well…they do!
Walpole has just what we ordered. The new Hubbard Baseball Complex is home to baseball leagues for 7-9 and 10-12 year olds and anyone interested in getting their child into the competition needs to contact Steve Corey by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We understand the number of teams is dictated by the number of participants. What an opportunity! Not to mention they get to compete on the best fields in the area.