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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Rarified Air For Conway

Nick Conway, undoubtedly the best pitcher in UMass Boston history, has found a home at the professional level for the 2009 season with the Worcester Tornadoes.

The two-time Little East Conference Pitcher of the Year has signed a contract with the Tornadoes, who finished 53-41 last season in the Canadian American League. Conway’s professional career will be underway in May, when the Tornadoes open their season on May 28 in Nashua.

“Being able to play a sport at the professional level is every athlete’s dream as a child,” Conway said. “Actually being able to reach those dreams and to continue playing at the next level is definitely the most exciting part.”

Conway’s legacy is littered throughout the UMB pitching records, and is a likely Athletics Hall of Fame member in the future. The Methuen High School product finished his career with the most innings pitched (245), most strikeouts (234), and lowest earned run average (3.49) in UMB history.

Opposing hitters only batted .235 off of the righty in his career, and a miniscule .167 with two outs this past season. More of an athlete than just a pitcher, Conway finished his career with 15 pickoffs, an unusually high number for a right-handed pitcher. Conway will forever be remembered as the first pitcher to defeat Little East powerhouse Eastern Connecticut State University twice.

Thanks to anemic run support, he finished his career with 14 victories in 33 starts. However, Conway proved he was an ace by completing nine of those career starts, just one aspect that attracted Tornadoes to him.

“He has a lot of upside,” Worcester general manager Jorg Bassiacos said.?”He had a very successful college career and has logged a lot of innings, so we know he’s a work horse.”

Beacon sophomore Tim Fontaine caught Conway almost exclusively last season, and believes that Conway will not only contribute but succeed at the professional level. “After watching him pitch last spring I definitely think he is ready to pitch in pro ball,” the Worcester native said. “I expect him to be one of their better pitchers, seeing as I have already watched many of those pitchers from the Tornadoes.”

At this time, it is unsure what Conway’s role will be with the Tornadoes staff. Although he started almost exclusively as a Beacon, he did see time in the bullpen in various summer leagues.

“Spring training will tell us which pitchers will fit in best,” Bassiacos said. “He was used in many situations at UMass Boston which is great for us to have options in certain game situations.”

Of course, Conway is happy to be with the club, and as a consummate team player, is willing to fit in wherever the club sees best. “I would love to be a starter, but of course I will do whatever they ask me to do,” Conway said.

Conway will have the opportunity to play for former Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman, the Tornadoes manager. Gedman was an American League All-Star in 1985 and 1986. Bassiacos thinks that Conway will benefit from the big league experience Gedman had with the Red Sox.

“Our manager, Rich Gedman, has the experience and the knowledge to put players in a position to succeed,” Bassiacos said. “Conway will bring a lot of versatility to our staff.”

Beacons head coach Brendan Eygabroat sees nothing but future success from his former ace.

“Nick has always succeeded on every level he has played at,” Eygabroat said. “I expect him to continue to raise his game at the pro level and be very successful.”

One of those levels was the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League in 2006, and Conway also played in the New England Collegiate Baseball League in 2007.

“He had a lot of success against those hitters and I think that just fueled his confidence into what it is today,” Eygabroat said.

Charlie Peters can be reached at [email protected]