AL THOMAS CLUB MEETS BASEBALL IRELAND
On Sunday, July 25, the theme at Cunningham Park in Milton was obvious: green. The baseball field proudly displayed its plush grass, while two full teams dressed in their dark green uniform tops. And anyone who wasn’t able to attend the exhibition game had to have been green with envy.
The Al Thomas Club, Milton’s entry in Boston’s Yawkey Amateur Baseball League, welcomed Baseball Ireland, the Irish National baseball team in an exhibition contest dubbed “The Clash for the Celtic Cup”. The Irish team (the senior national team, along with an Irish little league team) travels to the U.S. every other year to compete in a number of states. This year, they had played games in Brockton and Connecticut, and took part in a multi-day tournament in Rhode Island prior to concluding their tour with the Al Thomas Club.
The settings were ideal as the sunny, 80-degree day attracted over 700 spectators at Cunningham Park. Irish and American flags of various sizes adorned the backstop, while red, white and blue bunting accentuated the perimeter fences, all courtesy of Milton’s Ed Duffy. Fans were transported from the parking lot to the field by Cliff Flynn in an electric golf cart provided by the Milton Police Department. The stands were full and lawn chairs were lined up along the first-base fence, with waves of green flashing in tee shirts and hats throughout the day.
A sound system at the field was provided by DJ Jen Farrell, while Yawkey League president, Dave McKay, served admirably as the play-by-play announcer all day long, offering occasional accolades for his rival manager in the league, Joe O’Hara, who runs the Al Thomas Club, and who set this event up with the help of Baseball Ireland player Nat Anglin, a Milton resident with dual citizenship, and a former Al Thomas player. Nat and his brother, Doug have been members of the Irish team for several years.
Al Thomas welcomed the crowd and thanked manager Sean Mitchell and the Irish squad for joining the Al Thomas A’s for such a special and exciting exhibition game. Then he introduced Jack Fairbarn, who led the Irish team in singing the Irish National Anthem, followed by Katelyn Hill, who performed a flawless rendition of the American National Anthem. Finally, Mr. Thomas was honored to present Steve Wilkie, longtime Milton resident and Al Thomas Club superfan, to throw out the first pitch. Sporting his Al Thomas A’s tee shirt with “WILKIE” on the back, Stevie fired a fastball on the inside corner for a strike to catcher Brendan Wheeler. As Wilkie walked off the mound to a standing ovation, Al Thomas bellowed the famous words, “PLAY BALL!”
The nine-inning game itself was a clean, well-played pitchers’ duel, with the Al Thomas Club defeating its guests 1-0 in a remarkable two hours and fourteen minutes. Will Clang singled in Milton’s John Kostas for the only run of the game. Kostas had singled, stolen second and moved to third on a grounder, before scoring the only run of the game on an infield hit. Clang also threw two shutout innings and picked up the win in relief of the starter, Luke Regan, who tossed three scoreless frames.
Throughout the day, live music was provided by Brian Queally and Matt Glover, who delighted the crowd with many Irish favorites. Possibly the hardest-working people of the day were the batboys and batgirl, who chased foul balls, retrieved bats, lined up helmets and handout out the program booklets to spectators all around the park. The teams wish to thank Sean Feehily, Will and Brian Bennett, and the McDonnell clan: Patrick, Sarah, Andrew and Michael, for all of their great work!
Following the game, Mr. Thomas hosted a private reception for the teams and their fans at the Milton American Legion Post at Heritage Hall in Milton, where everyone was treated to the Irish melodies of Sean Cunningham and his band. Deb and John “JL”Lasis, along with Jimmy and Rich Sheehan and others, worked tirelessly to provide an outstanding buffet for the 250 people in attendance.
In accepting the first-ever Celtic Cup, Al Thomas manager Joe “Chief” O’Hara thanked the Irish team for taking part in such a great event and presented its players and coaches with commemorative tee shirts. Irish skipper Sean Mitchell presented O’Hara with a plaque from the team in gratitude for the “2010 Friendship Series”. It is rumored that the Al Thomas Club senior management is looking at the budget for 2011 to see if a trip overseas might be possible, but if not, then Baseball Ireland would certainly be invited back in 2012.
Al Thomas wanted to send out a sincere thank you to all those people who contributed to the enormous success of this special event, especially Dave Wahlgren, Rene Gauthier and the Cunningham Foundation, who graciously hosted the event, and Joe O’Hara and Nat Anglin, who took the event from concept to reality.