By Nick Lemley
On Wednesday the 6th, I returned to Muzzy Field in Bristol, CT to watch the NECBL (New England Collegiate Baseball League) Bristol Blues against the Danbury Westerners. This is my second trip this summer to Bristol to watch some of the best collegiate baseball talent in the country and to revisit a really cool baseball park. And while at Muzzy Field, I met up with and interviewed one of the most influential baseball resources in the NECBL – Deputy Commissioner, Gregg Hunt.
Gregg Hunt has been the Deputy Commissioner for 10 years running. He is also the Head Varsity Coach for both the Wamogo Regional High School Boys Basketball and Baseball team. Gregg managed the Torrington Twisters for the team’s existence (1997-2008), and the Manchester Silkworms for a year, as well as coaching in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League and the Futures League for a year. He holds the NECBL record for most wins as a manager. Very impressive resume and I wanted to learn more about the league, how it operates and some of the history as well its place on the national scene. Our conversation lasted a couple innings as we both kept one eye on the game at hand. Here is an excerpt from our conversation.
Nick: How much has the league grown since you have been involved?
Gregg: It’s grown a lot, when we (Torrington Twisters) first got in there were 6 teams, 5 were in Connecticut. Our long trips you played double headers, and our long trips were from like Torrington to Worcester which is nothing now because you go from Torrington to Sanford, Maine. And then we started going north more, Keene came in soon after we got in and then we got Vermont and one of the Rhode Island franchises moved to Newport and that just revitalized the league.
Here are some images I found online featuring the Torrington Twisters, courtesy of the Republican American Newspaper:
We also talked about how TrackMan and Synergy camera setups are changing how teams and scouts look at players and stats. Both systems allow teams to capture entire games with different angles, see bat speeds, exit velocity, pitchers release angles, ball movement and more allowing for more in depth and accurate reports. During Gregg’s time as Deputy Commissioner, he has seen The NECBL rise to be one of the best collegiate wood bat leagues in the country and one of the more important leagues for MLB teams to scout and evaluate prospects. The ultimate purpose of these summer leagues is for players to be evaluated on how they hit with wood bats, the transition from metal to wood can be a challenge especially earlier in the summer season.
Gregg: It’s a huge change. At the beginning of the year, the kids are breaking bats like crazy and the pitchers are always hitters but they’re way ahead in this league… This is what MLB wants to do to evaluate these kids. There are guys that are aluminum bat hitters, they chase the ball with their hands and can get away with it, but you can’t do it with wood.
Despite the incredible growth and overall progress of the league, one of the challenges these collegiate summer leagues face is finding host families. When talking to Gregg about this he said that not only do we struggle to find families, we would have to make sure the kids are eating well. To fix the issue of helping with the eating habits of the players after every game both teams eat dinner together which is normally supplied by a local restaurant. If being a host family interests you there is a section on each teams website with information.
I had a great time talking to NECBL Deputy Commissioner Gregg Hunt and learning more about the NECBL. Huge thanks to Gregg for chatting with me and giving me incredible insight on the league, past and present. As for the local Rhode Islanders playing in the game, it was a slow night, with both MT Morrissey and Cal Parrillo of the Bristol Blues with the night off. Bristol would go on to win the game 5-4 in the 10th inning.