New Britain City Journal

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The Sports Journal

Legion Forfeits Final Game to WH


The word goes hand-in-hand with achievement in American Legion baseball.

The concept was taken for granted in a bygone era when playing Legion ball stirred pride in a player knowing he was one of the best in town. The idea no longer has the roots it once did, and New Britain American Legion coach Tommy Torres got a first-hand dose of it Monday afternoon.

Torrez was enjoying a day at the beach with his two young daughters, but made the trek to the north end of West Hartford to be at Hall High Field for the 5:30 p.m. contest against West Hartford. West Hartford needed a win to clinch first place in Zone 7. New Britain was playing out the string.

Less than the necessary nine players answered the call. Some apparently let their cell phones ring. West Hartford got its victory the easy way – by forfeit.

The committed New Britain players trudged toward their cars for the drive home. So did the umpires. The 2012 season came to an inauspicious conclusion. A New Britain team, composed primarily of players who made a semifinal run in the Class LL tournament for NBHS in 2011, finished out of the running with a disappointing 8-12 mark.

“Our season could have gone a lot better,” Torres said. “We’ve got a lot of veteran players, a lot of experienced kids who played deep into the state tournament in high school and a lot of all-conference players.”

He rattled off names that have dominated the city baseball scene since they were Little League stars – Justin Lemanski, Christian Garcia, Nestor Velasquez, Greg Boncek.

“What really took the wind out of our sails was when Mike Sturges and Greg Boncek went down with injuries,” Torres said. “Those two guys were the front end of our pitching staff. I think that deflated a lot of our players. We kind of sat back on our heels and didn’t come together.”

The pitching problems were most apparent in a three-game set with RCP (Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland). Torres said the staff issued 28 walks in three games.

The Stingers started the year with strong players like outfielders Matt Martinez and Allen Nunez, catchers Mike Dowling and Donovan Carasquillo, shortstop Nick Rodriguez and third baseman Kenny Noyola. Some didn’t make it very far under the stress of a heavy July schedule.

“In Legion you need to be at every game if you want to have some sort of momentum,” Torres said. “Our June schedule was pretty light – a couple games a week – but our July schedule was packed, packed with heavy hitters like RCP and West Hartford.

“We’d play a good, solid four innings of baseball, but once I had to go to my bullpen, that’s when things started to unravel and we couldn’t close the door. When things aren’t going right, it takes a lot to keep these kids together when you have different personalities and different tendencies. “It’s not Little League any more. We’re here to have fun most importantly but we all have to share that common goal. We have to realize what we want to accomplish.”

Others who played for the Stingers this season are: Nick Kukla, Bryan Rivera, Chris Aleman, Mike Homar, Miguel Sanchez and Dylan Peterson. Torres’ assistant coach is Joe Freundlich.

FATHER-SON COMMITMENT: The commitment to baseball in the city remains strong in the hearts of the Torres family.

Torres and his father Mike were at the core of an amateur baseball revival several years ago. They revived the Legion program, which had been dormant in town, and started a team in the Greater Hartford Twilight League (also called the Stingers), but they’re going to need some help to keep the flame burning.

Tommy and Mike have realized what very few sons and fathers have – they play together on the Twilight League Stingers. Mike has dug into his own pocket to keep it moving forward.

“It’s been getting tough the last few years,” Tommy said.

One of the most disappointing developments is that the GHTL Stingers don’t even play in the city. They had to go to Maloney High in Meriden to find a home field. Tommy said Beehive Field is available, but alluded to a delicate financial situation.

“We have to branch out more and get more sponsors to raise some money,” Tommy said. “It’s been coming out of his pocket and it’s been wearing him down.”