For Now, And Later

Ryan Thomas

When I was selecting the “keepers” in my ESPN Fantasy Baseball League this winter, I made it a point to not keep any player whom I deemed too old (Troy Glaus), too injury prone (Milton Bradley) or too shady in terms of supposed performance enhancing drug use (B.J. Ryan). As of now, about three weeks into baseball’s regular season, my decisions seem sound. Troy Glaus is on the disabled list while he recovers from shoulder surgery, Milton Bradley is already nursing a tender groin, and B.J. Ryan is out with soreness between his back and shoulder (but mostly because he can’t throw hard enough anymore to break Cito Gaston’s lunch pale).

I made decisions like these because, over the past three to four years, professional baseball as a whole has been trending towards younger athletes. Young professional athletes may not have the “seasoning” or “calming, clubhouse presence” that some veterans have, but they have a better chance of physically holding up over a grueling 162-game season than a Glaus or Bradley would. Therefore, I kept Jacoby Ellsbury, Evan Longoria and Chad Billingsly, and disposed of Troy Percival et al.

This year, I’d have to say that UMass Boston’s baseball roster resembles that of my fantasy team: young and full of budding talent. The Beacons have been playing some of their best baseball in years, and their roster is chock full of young players making huge contributions to a good cause: winning.

Mark McCormack exemplifies this youth movement. The sprightly centerfielder and leadoff hitter has won Little East Conference Rookie of the Week four times this season, while his name continues to appear in the top ten of categories such as hits, doubles, walks, steals and on-base percentage. And it’s not only McCormack that finds himself playing regularly for the Beacons as an underclassman.

Sophomores Ryan Walsh, Dan Noonan, Connor Reinfurt, and Drew Tambling are all intricate parts of this team’s success, not only now, but for at least another two years to come.

Walsh has been stellar at second base and is hitting the ball well to all fields, his .417 batting average through 31 games proving as much. Noonan has swung a solid bat (.346 average) this season, provided protection for the middle third of the Beacons’ potent offense and has played a sure-handed shortstop. Reinfurt is the definition of a dirt dog and has had a knack for late-inning heroics dating back to last season. His quick glove at first hasn’t disappointed either. If a combination of speed and power is needed, Tambling is perfect for the role. The 20-something-year-old outfielder can burn the base paths up, but also provide run support (17 RBIs in 80 at bats) from the bottom third of the line-up.

Second year assistant coach Kraig Kupiec feels as though the core group of players he and head coach Brendan Eygaborat have brought in will give the Beacons success not only this year, but for a few more ahead as well. “We have a lot of young players on our team and the fact that they’re responding to what we’re preaching so early, it looks like we may get a couple good years here, a good future with some of these players,” he said.

With its pitching staff almost as stacked for the future as its lineup, UMass Boston will look to make some noise in the Little East Tournament this year with Andrew LeBrun and Mike Andriano leading the way and guys like Danny Gomez and Alex Simas waiting in the wings for their turn.

From top to bottom, this Beacons team may be the most talented bunch the Peninsula has ever seen. And with the boys only losing a few important cogs to graduation after this year, the baseball program seems to be built for the now, and for the future.