Twilight’s 2024 Season Preview: Can Anyone Down the Jets?

On Thursday, May 23, 2024, the GHTBL Regular Season will begin. Managers and players alike are itching to reunite with teammates at Connecticut’s top venues. Ranging from Palmer Field in Middletown to historic Muzzy Field in Bristol, the league has spared no expense in organizing top-notch baseball action at a semi-professional caliber. With the start of a new season, one question lingers: can anyone down the East Hartford Jets and stop them from winning a fifth consecutive Playoff Championship?

East Hartford Jets & Chris Kehoe, General Manager (right). Photo cred: Phil Ledwith

All eight returning clubs have been busy this offseason improving rosters and preparing to compete for both the Regular Season Title and Playoff Championship. It’s the opinion of this author that a pennant-winning club will require a combination of established veterans and young talent. Game one of Opening Day will feature the South Windsor Phillies against the Vernon Orioles at 6:00 PM McCoy Field in Vernon. Undoubtedly, the game will be witnessed by the home team’s “Left Field Legion” of diehard fans.

McCoy Field at Henry Park, Vernon, Connecticut.

The Vernon O’s, one of last year’s Regular Season co-champions, welcome the return of their offensive stars, especially 2023 GHTBL home run leader Peter Kelley. The Trubia brothers are back again. So is the O’s best all-around player and former minor leaguer, Jimmy Titus. The O’s will also feature Eastern Connecticut State University prospects, Alejandro Soriano and Hank Penders, in their second twi-loop campaign. Manager Jack Ceppetelli has headed the Orioles since 2002. Steve Krajewski, a former O’s skipper, is the current General Manager, while Kevin Powell serves as an Assistant GM and Bench Coach.

Manager Ron Pizzanello and his South Windsor Phillies seek to take down the O’s in game one, though Vernon is tough place to win. The Phillies are headlined by moundsmen Luke Mathewson and Trevor Moulton as well as longtime outfielder Jack Petrozza. Successful newcomers from last season, Justin Oquendo and Javier Irizarry, are returning for their second year. A rookie addition to South Windsor is Kaden Murphy, a pitcher from University of Saint Joseph. Gary Burnham Jr. has stayed aboard as General Manager and hitting guru.

That same Thursday night the Record-Journal Expos will travel to McKenna Field to face the East Hartford Jets, and over in Manchester at Northwest Park, the Bristol Greeners look to steal an early win against Rainbow Graphics. Both games begin at 7:00 PM.

The Jets hope to continue their dynasty with infielders Corey Plasky and Jeff Criscuolo, who have been as lineup linchpins in on both sides of the ball. Plasky earned the Most Valuable Playoff Batter award back in August of ’23. Criscuolo will reprise his role as player-manager and Chris Kehoe, who’s been a part of the Jets since 1991, remains General Manager.

Major contributors of East Hartford’s dynasty-run have been Jimmy Schult and Taylor Kosakowski. Both men have signaled their retirement from the league or at least a role reduction. Schult played 5 GHTBL seasons as two-way all-star solely for the Jets and was probably their best all-around player. Kosakowski started his twilight career in 2007 and won 2 Regular Season titles and 7 Playoff championships.

East Hartford’s opening day opponent, the Record-Journal Expos, expect to play spoilers with an experience pitching rotation. This consists of 2023 innings leader JD Tyler, their former player-manager Charlie Hesseltine, and AJ Hendrickson, their current player-manager who’s planning a return to the mound after being injured last year. Other returners are: Kyle Hartenstein, Ben Schulz, Max Giacco, Hector Gonzalez and Jason Sullivan.

Over in Bristol, the Greeners are improving. Manager Trevor Mays has established a core of younger players and new recruits. Veteran Greeners include Jon Pierce at first base, AJ Lorenzetti in the outfield, and Trevor Nohilly and Kenny Knox on the mound. New Greeners include Eric Corhouse and Jacoby Banks. Bristol’s home ballpark at Muzzy Field is both a fan and player favorite, hosting some of the largest turnouts of the Regular Season.

Heading east of the Connecticut River, the Rainbow Graphics are formidable both offensively and defensively. Tyler Repoli, Most Valuable Player of ’23, leads the offensive charge for the Graphics. Their pitching staff is headed by veterans Evan Chamberlain and Travis Salois. With a recent Liberty League championship at Ithaca College under his belt, twi-loop sophomore John Griffin is expected to pitch at an even higher level than last season. Outfielders Mark DiTomasso and Eric Brainard are planning comeback seasons with Rainbow in ’24.

M&T Bank, last season’s postseason runner-up, wants to end this summer with some hardware. They start on May 31, 2024, armed with a dominant pitching staff, including the likes of Brandon Fry, Camden Murphy, and Matt Smith. Line drive-hitting outfielder Shaun Callahan is coming off of a recent NE10 Conference Championship with the University of New Haven. Manager Tom Abbruzzese is set to guide his team in his 49th season coaching the “Bankers” franchise. New additions include Gianni Zarrilli Jr. and Tim Pfaffenbichler.

With far less experience in the league, the Middletown Mets are seeking to improve upon their inaugural campaign. The Mets offense features two impressive GHTBL sophomores, 2023 Rookie of the Year Will Kleinhenz and Albertus Magnus graduate Ron Losacano. With a bolstered pitching staff and mainstays like Alex Koletar and side-armer Dan Livingston, the Mets seek to cause problems for opposing clubs. Livingston has pitched in the GHTBL for the last 25 years.

Dan Livingston earns a GHTBL win, Hartford Courant, June 30, 1999.

The 2024 Regular Season will conclude with the Stadium Series 4 Food Banks at Dunkin’ Park. On August 1 and 2, all eight clubs will play at Connecticut’s signature minor league ballpark. Proceeds from theses games will be donated to support a local food bank designated by each GHTBL team. $830 has been raised (most contributors have come from Vernon’s “Left Field Legion”) Visit the donation page here: https://givebutter.com/ss4fb

Dunkin’ Park, Hartford, Connecticut.

Thank you to the fans, sponsors, players, managers, and families who support the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. With your continued support, the summer of ’24 will be special.

Start a Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

55 − = 49