The Dugout Awards

St. Joseph had a lot to be happy about this season.

St. Joseph had a lot to be happy about this season.

Former Hearst colleague Mike Cardillo began the Hoop awards for basketball so let’s carry that over to baseball with the first of what I hope is many Dugout Awards.

The 2013 baseball season wrapped this weekend with four state champions being named, much to the chagrin of the Shelton coach who believes there should be only one state title and the tournament should only consist of teams from the SCC’s Housatonic Division, as he stated on Twitter over the weekend.

That nonsense aside let’s hand out some awards.

There is no certificate or trophy for these awards but if you see me at a game, point out that you were a winner and maybe I will share some sunflower seeds with you, if I have enough to share.

Went with Dugout Awards over the more obvious Diamond because the dugout is where teams bond and most of the best baseball stuff happens.

One more note, I primarily cover the FCIAC so this year’s awards will lean heavily on that experience, hopefully I can expand my range next season.

2013 Dugout Awards

Best Atmosphere (game): FCIAC final at Harbor Yard where  student sections not only formed but actually made noise for their schools. Baseball will never draw the fans that basketball and football do, but great to see kids out supporting their teams, especially the Trumbull kids who waved giant flags, wore jerseys with players names and were into the game from the first pitch, even showing up early and rooting on the Bluefish. An event which must have shocked those guys accustom to playing in front of 20 or so people every game.

Best big game pitcher: Stanley Wolpiuk of St. Joseph would have taken this award were it just the regular season, but can anyone dispute Amity’s Mike Concato was the best pitcher in the state? Concato simply dominated the state playoffs en route to Amity taking the Class LL crown, giving up no runs on two hits in three starts, all wins. He picked up a save in the semifinals against Fairfield Prep and pitched a no-hitter against the No. 3  Greenwich in the quarterfinals after no-hitting East Hartford for 6 innings in the first round.

Best hitting performance (one game): Taylor Olmstead of Greenwich had a home run, triple and single, falling a double shy of hitting for the cycle in the Cardinals win over Norwalk this year.

Most valuable position: Catcher. It’s not a coincidence that the most successful teams this year sported some of the best backstops in the area. James DeNomme of Trumbull and Casey Ouellette of New Canaan were among the best in the state and led two of the best pitching staffs around. Neither team reaches the level of success they did without these two behind the dish.

Best bridesmaids: Man, you have to feel for Southington, who have had one of the best three year runs in recent memory only to lose in two state finals and a state semifinal. I told people before the state final I thought their lineup could hit Concato, and they did get two hits, but facing the state’s top gun was enough to once again deny the Blue Knights.

Best patience: New Canaan had not won a state title since1950 and were 4 outs away from one in Class L in 2012 only to let the game slip away. The Rams proved that the best things come to those who wait as Andrew Casali pitched a one-hitter in the Class L finals against Waterford and the Rams finally had another state championship. Let’s hope they don’t have to wait until 2076  to win again.

Best coaching job: Shaun Ratchford of Danbury is one of the most respected and liked coaches in he FCIAC and the run the Hatters went on in the FCIAC tournament was certainly memorable and a testament to the job Ratchford does preparing his players.

Best uniforms in the state at Greenwich.

Best uniforms in the state at Greenwich.

Best uniforms: As another reporter said to me, “most teams look like they are wearing lacrosse uniform tops, not baseball,” so it was refreshing to see Greenwich not only wear proper button-up jersey, all white at home, all gray on the road, with matching pants but also bust out the stirrups for part of the season. I hope more teams go with the stirrup look next year.

Best glove work: St. Joseph’s Matt Batten was the best infielder in the league this year and maybe one of the best in the last 5 years as nothing got through him and he made the spectacular look routine. I heard complaints about including him on my All-FCIAC team over guys with higher batting averages, but if you saw Batten play in the field this year, you understand his inclusion.

Sacrifice award: This has nothing to do with bunting but rather giving of oneself. Casey Mack of Trumbull earned and spent his own money to buy bats for the three Bridgeport schools this year and a more charitable act by a high school kid I have never seen.

Awareness award: The McMahon team sported pink jerseys for its game vs Greenwich this year with the names of family or friends afflicted with cancer on the back.

Best player I never saw: Best player in the state was pretty clearly Thomas Milone of Masuk and his high selection in the MLB draft proves that.

So there you have it. Thanks for reading this year and check back during the summer for Senior Legion updates.

Scott Ericson