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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.
The Al Thomas Baseball Club has added an exciting game to its 2010 schedule - a nine-inning exhibition game against the Irish National Baseball Team. The 2:00 game will take place on Sunday, July 25 at Cunningham Park in Milton with pregame player introductions and both the Irish and American national anthems.
The Irish team will wrap up its 2010 trip to the U.S. with the contest against the A's. Milton residents Nat and Doug Anglin have been members of the team for several years, while Nat also played two seasons for the Al Thomas Club.
[the following information is from the website of the Irish National Baseball Team]
Adult level Baseball in Ireland began to formally take shape in 1995. Visiting coaches from Major League Baseball International (MLBI) provided the much needed instruction to adult players, most of who had only played recreational softball but wished a greater competitive and athletic challenge. In 1996, with the assistance of MLBI coaches, Ireland played in its first international competition, the European Championships held in Hull, England. This international experience generated a great deal of interest in Baseball and has ultimately resulted in a ten team Adult League being formed with seven teams in Dublin, two in Belfast and one in Greystones, Co. Wicklow.
On the international scene in 1998, the Irish National Baseball Team made the quarterfinal stage in the 1998 European Championships held in Austria and finished eighth in the sixteen team tournament. The significance of this accomplishment is only fully appreciated when one considers that Ireland was the smallest of all the competing nations with many of the other federations claiming thousands of members.
Ireland’s National team hosted the Connie Mack League state champions, the Slocum Baseball Club, from Rhode Island in the United States in 1999. The four game series was a great success for all involved and has now developed into a bi-annual event in which Ireland travelled to America in August of 2001. And just when you thought it was safe to go back on the diamond, the boys from Slocum came back to Dublin in July, 2003 for a week of serious baseball and craic. Ireland also competed at international level competition when they played in the 2000 European B-Pool Championships held in Croatia and finished in fourth place at the 2002 European B-Pool Championships held in Stockholm, Sweden.
Most recently, the Irish National Team won a Bronze medal in the European B-Pool Championships held in August, 2004 in Regensburg, Germany and a Silver Medal at the 2006 European B-Pool Championships held in Antwerp, Belgium.
The A's added a number of rookies to the team in '09, including all star catcher Brendan Wheeler of Braintree, who led the team in runs, hits, doubles, triples, homers, rbi and hbp. Ricky Salvucci of Quincy enjoyed his first "full" season with the A's and led the team with a .431 average and 16 stolen bases, despite missing 10 games while leading his Amercican Legion team to and in the playoffs. Weymouth's Chris McDonough (.356) hung up his Brockton Rox cleats to join the squad at midseason and performed at an all star level at first base and in the outfield, while Milton's James Katsiroubas came aboard midseason and hit over .300 while playing a nasty, gold-glove-caliber third base.
Pat "PK" Kelleher of South Boston also donned the green & gold around midseason and brought several years of minor league baseball experience with him as he patrolled the outfield. A broken hand cut short his season, but he hit at a .333 clip and provided invaluable advice to other members of the team. Walpole and Bowdoin's Billy Donahue also saw his season ended by an injury, but he hit over .300 and provided some quiet leadership. Nick Runyan of Hyde Park, Casey Cushing of Milton and Reading's Joe Harvey (Suffolk U) also filled in well as first-year players and helped the team whenever asked.
On the hill, there were yet more rookie contributions. Milton residents and Curry College teammates Ben Howrigan and Joe Carrig led the starters, while Fitchburg State's Ryan Dauley and North Quincy's Matt Edgerly also stepped in as spot starters and relievers. Suffolk's Mitch Monke (of Cambridge via Ohio) made his A's debut in June and never looked back, dominating as the team's closer with a 1-0 mark with 5 saves, yielding no runs, 1 hit and striking out 16 in 10.2 innings. The aforementioned McDonough also threw a 2-hit shutout in his only start of the season. Colin Walsh of Milton returned to the Thomas Club after several years away and contributed both on the mound and at the plate, including a game-winning double in a come-from-behind win early in the season. Jim Perry pitched very effectively in his only two appearances of the season, saving one game and suffering a tough-luck loss in the other.
Second-year veterans Dan Gaughan of Braintee and Ryan Stoller of Milton rounded out the pitching staff, while longtime staff leaders Aidan Powers (Braintree) and John Kostas (Milton)were limited in pitching duties due to injuries and job commitments.
Offensively, Milton's Steve Lambert (.364), Quincy's Chris Malloy (.333), Kostas (.307) and Milton's Matt Hallisey (.281) remained steady throughout the season, while Milton's Mark Daly hit a solid .280 while playing numerous positions in the infield. With a few new additions expected, the future looks bright for the team.
On Saturday, January 30th, the Al Thomas Baseball Club held its annual Hall of Fame awards dinner. Held at the prestigious Neighborhood Club in Quincy, the evening featured over 100 people celebrating the team’s 2009 season, the induction of two former players into the team’s Hall of Fame, and a candid and enlightening question and answer session with former Al Thomas player and current major league pitcher Rich Hill.
In its 29 year history, the Al Thomas Club has amassed 5 league championships and 16 Division titles. We’ve sent 30 to 40 players to Fenway Park to play in our annual All Star game, and in recent years, have sent about 10 players to represent the Yawkey League against the US Military All star team.
Our fans share the same integrity, devotion and enthusiasm. Over the years, it is the fans who have inspired us to greater glory. It has always been the fans, our loyal followers who travel night in and night out to support us. When it comes to our fans, it could be a glance, a wave, a shout, a high-five or even just a smile. But their presence is always felt, and it is and always has been appreciated more than any one of us could ever communicate. The Al Thomas Club is not made up of simply 15-20 ballplayers, but it consists of every person who has ever been to one of our dinners, one of our cookouts, one of our games, every person who has ever checked the newspaper or gone online and smiled when they saw a victory from the night before.
The awards portion of the night began by honoring one of our dedicated fans. We honor Fans of the Year each year to say thank you. We don’t always get the chance to say it during the season, or may not even think of it then, but we appreciate the effort it takes to journey to our games, and to sit in the stands, or in lawn chairs, or to walk back and forth in sheer agony waiting for that next pitch. You never know on a given night what might inspire someone to greatness, but your presence always increases those chances. One fan, whose optimism and enthusiasm was always appreciated, was always there to cheer us on, and provided her great talents as a photographer to take team and individual pictures at our games and the All Star game. Congratulations to our 2009 Fan of the Year, Judy Salvucci.
2009 saw the Al Thomas Baseball Club begin the season with many new faces, a trend that continued until about midseason. After a subpar first half, the A’s posted a 13-3 mark in the second half to win the Tarpey Division. We outplayed a veteran Somerville team in the first round of the playoffs, but a bit of bad luck saw us lose the tight deciding game 5.
Our 10th Player Award generally goes to a player who does a lot of different things, basically whatever it takes to help the team win. Last year, there were a number of guys who fit that description, but one in particular played a critical role on the team. He bolstered the pitching staff, as both a starter and reliever, played some first base and all three outfield positions and filled in at DH. His answer was always, “Yup, whatever you need”, and players like that are so important to have on any team. The 2009 10th Player Award winner is Dan Gaughan.
We had a bunch of rookies this year, with some relegated to part time due to job constraints and because they had to go home when the street lights came on. We also had a number of rookies who joined us around midseason and played very well. Chris McDonough and Brendan Wheeler were named to the YBL all rookie team. Team spirit and celebratory longevity are major components of our award, and this guy did it all on the field and did a nice job off the field upholding the true traditions of Al Thomas baseball. The Rookie of the Year for 2009 is Brendan Wheeler.
The team also acknowledged its league All Stars for last season, as voted by the league: Steve Lambert, Ryan Stoller, Ricky Salvucci and Brendan Wheeler. .
The final team award for the evening was the MVP, and this year we had co-winners. These guys tore through YBL pitching, finishing 3rd and 8th in the league in hitting. Ricky Salvucci hit a torrid .431 with a team leading 16 stolen bases, despite missing a number of games as he was leading his American Legion team in the playoffs. He played infield and outfield and I’m looking forward to even more heroics from him this season. He also was the only player cut from the Northeastern baseball team last year to try out again this year. He busted his tail working out and preparing himself for tryouts and made the team. He, along with Steve Lambert and Ryan Stoller played against the US Military all star team last summer in Nashua, NH. Brendan Wheeler led the team in runs, hits, doubles, triples, hr, rbi and being hit by the pitch, having one of the best rookies seasons anyone has ever had on this team. Congratulations to the co-MVPs for 2009, Ricky Salvucci and Brendan Wheeler.
The Al Thomas Club Hall of Fame began in 1996 with appropriately enough, a single induction of Al himself. Since the inaugural year, 17 players have been inducted into this prestigious group, some of whom were in attendance: Tom Degnan, Paul Ratti, Andy McDonnell, Todd Hohenleitner, Mike Hannon, Mike Toland, Larry Fennelly, Kyle Robertson, Lloyd Hill and Larry Hill.
Tom Degnan gave a nice speech to introduce our first Hall of Fame inductee, Danny Lovett, who played for eight years and did everything the team needed, and enjoyed playing in an all star game at Fenway Park, lacing a single in his only at bat. Playing on a championship-caliber team of all stars, Lovett often found it tough to crack the lineup, but prepared himself for every game and was always successful when called upon to produce.Current player and eight-year veteran Chris Malloy inducted his friend and former teammate, Jimmy Schindler, noting that Jimmy played for 12 years, but his hamstrings only played for eight. Schindler also enjoyed an all star game at Fenway and always filled in admirably whenever needed to spell an outstanding outfield lineup.
Congratulations to both Danny and Jimmy, both well-deserving and the epitome of what being an Al Thomas player is all about.
After a brief team presentation thanking Al Thomas for his continued generosity and friendship, the evening concluded with a Q & A session with Milton’s Rich Hill, who after four years with the Cubs and Orioles, is in the St; Louis Cardinals spring training camp vying for one of the last two rotation spots. Among other things, Rich stated that his elbow and shoulder feel great and that he’s looking forward to making the Cardinals and helping them drive for a championship.
The Yawkey Baseball League was invited to Nashua, New Hampshire in June to play an all star weekend series of baseball against the U.S. Military All Star team. The U.S. team travels around the world, seeking the best competition amongst baseball leagues and organization.
The Al Thomas Club had four representatives in the games: manager Joe O'Hara and players Ryan Stoller, Ricky Salvucci and Steve Lambert. Brendan Wheeler was also selected to play, but was unable to due to job commitments. All three players made sizeable contributions, but O'Hara and Salvucci continued championship play following the game by defeating all oncomers in fierce dart competition, ending the evening with victories against all nine challengers.
The all star games were played at historic Holman Stadium, former home of the Nashua Pride of the Independent Baseball League. 2009 marked the third year that the YBL has been invited to play the military team, which consists of all branches of the armed forces.