Tag: record-journal

Eight Twi-Loop Clubs to Return This Year

With summer around the corner, the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League is gearing up for our next Opening Day. Though an exact date has yet to be determined, you can expect more announcements as the schedule unfolds. Eight GHTBL franchises will return to action around late May of this year. The 2024 Regular Season should include another charity series at Dunkin’ Park. Each team will fundraise for a different food bank around the state. Read more about this effort called Stadium Series 4 Food Banks at Dunkin’ Park: Givebutter.com/ss4fb (more to come on this).

The twilight league continues to present a uniquely competitive experience for players of all ages. A mix of young and old teammates – local amateurs, college players, high school prospects, and ex-professionals – have developed talent, camaraderie and lifelong friendships. Deep into each season, teams seem to melt together in one way or another in pursuit of a common goal. To describe the GHTBL, one might say we’re a meritocracy operated by a large group of friends with help from umpires.

Peter Kelley, 1B, Vernon Orioles
GHTBL’s switch-hitting home run king of 2023.

Maybe that’s why GHTBL has staying power? For the last 95 years, the league has clung to a classic style of the game. Baseball purists seem to appreciate that the league requires nine players to a lineup while disallowing leniencies like metal bats, courtesy pinch-runners, and free-for-all substitutions. Whatever the reason, the tradition continues. After all, traditions are important, and they don’t go unrecognized. When a sport as beloved as baseball is played and witnessed in a pure form, virtually unchanged from years gone by, that’s something people can appreciate.

On behalf of President Holowaty and the Executive Committee, enjoy the rest of your off-season and here’s to another summer!

To apply for a roster spot, players are asked to fill out a Player Application found at GHTBL.org/join. Here’s a list of our current teams and managers:

League Management









GHTBL Executive Committee

Jack Ceppetelli
Treasurer
Wes Ulbrich Secretary
Wes Ulbrich
Secretary
Ryan Ruggiero GHTBL Assistant Secretary
Ryan Ruggiero
Assistant Secretary




Back in 1979, Gene Johnson of Moriarty Brothers in Manchester was bestowed with the “Player of the Half Century Award” by the GHTBL Hall of Fame. Here’s Gene (right) accepting the award from his teammate, Peter Sala (left).



GREATER
HARTFORD
TWILIGHT
BASEBALL
LEAGUE


2021 Charlie Hesseltine Meriden GHTBL Record Journal Expos

Hesseltine’s 4-Hitter, Hendrickson’s Homer Carry R-J Expos to Latest Twilight Win

By Ron Buck, Special to the Record-Journal

MERIDEN — Where were you in 2002?

Charlie Hesseltine was 18, fresh out of Maloney High School and throwing his first pitches for the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League team that would become the Record-Journal Expos.

Fast forward to Tuesday night.

Now 38, Hesseltine was on the mound for the Expos — better than ever — in making quick work of the South Windsor Phillies.

The veteran southpaw twirled a four-hit complete game in beating the Phillies 3-1 in a GHTBL affair that lasted just over 90 minutes at Ceppa Field.

Hesseltine’s battery mate, A.J. Hendrickson, provided the offensive fireworks. The catcher not only launched a towering two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning, he also drove in the tying run with a solid single in the fourth inning.

Hendrickson finished the game 2-for-3, while Jack Rich was 1-for-2 with a double to the right-field fence ahead of Hendrickson’s blast.

Phillies starter Luke Mathewson matched Hesseltine through five innings before allowing Rich’s double and then Hendrickson’s home run. Mathewson had allowed just three hits — all in the fourth inning when the Expos tied the game 1-1.

Hesseltine, toeing the rubber in his 17th season for a Meriden-based squad, finished strong after allowing all four Phillies’ hits over the first three innings. Overall, Hesseltine struck out seven 20-somethings en route to lifting the Expos to 8-5. 

The Phillies fell to 3-9.

“At my age, location is the key,” dead-panned Hesseltine, who until this season had played the role of player-coach of the Expos.

“All my pitches were working; and as long as I locate my pitches, they can’t put the barrel on the ball,” Hesseltine added. “If I’m middle-middle, they are hitting it a long way.

“My goal is to miss their barrels and let my defense do the work,” Hesseltine continued. “And, tonight, they did a great job behind me.”

Hesseltine was drafted by the Texas Rangers as a teenager out of high school. He would spend three seasons in the minor leagues before returning to Meriden. 

A staple with the Expos, Hesseltine allowed his only run Tuesday in the third inning.

Down 1-0, Hesseltine proceeded to retire the Phillies in order in three of the next four innings. Hesseltine’s shutdown performance allowed the Expos to tie the game in the fourth and then for Henrickson to win things in the sixth inning.

The Phillies’ only threat after scoring came in their own half of the sixth, when they put runners at first and third with two outs. 

Hesseltine, however, got some defensive help by fellow Maloney grad Max Giacco, who made a diving catch at second base to end the top of the sixth inning and keep the game tied.

The Expos then proceeded to score the winning runs in the bottom half when Hendrickson turned around a hanging curveball and launched a no-doubter well over the left field fence.

“I was sitting on a curveball up,” said Hendrickson, who took over the coaching duties from Hesseltine this season. “He’d thrown it to me both times I was up, so I was sitting on that and put a good swing on it.”

Back to Hesseltine. Before pitching in the minor leagues, the lefty threw for the Meriden Merchants after his days at Maloney. A mainstay of the Expos since the team’s inception, Hesseltine remains a part of this season’s 1-2 pitching punch with J.D. Tyler.

Sporting a few grey hairs in his beard these days, Hesseltine has combined with Tyler for six of the Expos’ eight wins so far this season.

“It makes it so easy when he’s on,” Hendrickson said of Hesseltine. “When all his pitches are working, he makes things so easy on everybody.

“Today everything was working for him and he was hitting spots,” Hendrickson added. “He was on his game today.”

2020 Pat Barnett Vernon Orioles Pitcher GHTBL

Preview: Opening Day & GHTBL’s 2023 Season

On Tuesday, May 23, 2023, the GHTBL will open its 94th season for local amateurs, student-athletes, ex-professionals and prospects. Wood bats will start cracking on Opening Day with a 6 PM matchup at Frank J. McCoy Field in Vernon between the veteran Vernon Orioles and the Manchester-based Rainbow Graphics. Jason Valliere, a longtime contributor to the Tri-County Legion program will assume in-game duties as Head Coach for Rainbow Graphics this season.

It will be anyone’s guess as to which players, new or old, will make an impact on Opening Day. One might think it would be the players fresh off their college season, but it would be a mistake to overlook experience. Dan Trubia and Tony Trubia of the O’s and Evan Chamberlain of Graphics have nearly 60 years of combined experience of twilight ball. At the same time, it will be interesting to see how rookie players will fare for both teams and throughout the league.

The second game of Opening Day will begin at 7 PM at Rotary Field in South Windsor. The Meriden-based Record-Journal Expos will play the South Windsor Phillies under the lights at one of Greater Hartford’s most unsung baseball diamonds. You’d be hard-pressed to find any player who doesn’t enjoy playing at Rotary Field.

A core group for Manager Ron Pizzanello and the South Windsor Phillies since forming in 2018 has included Aedin Wadja, Jake Petrozza, Patrick McMahon and a few others returning in 2023. AJ Hendrickson, 2022 GHTBL MVP, has stepped into the Expos manager role in place of Charlie Hesseltine, who had served as manager since 2017. Hesseltine has been a dominant pitcher for Meriden since 2004 and will continue to pitch for the team this year.

Over in East Hartford, the 3X Playoff Champion Jets will take flight on Thursday, May 25 at home against their main foe, the Vernon Orioles. O’s Manager Jack Ceppetelli will square off against the Jets and their newly re-appointed Manager Chris Kehoe. Both Ceppetelli and Kehoe are the most tenured GHTBL contributors behind Tom Abbruzzese – who is going into his 48th year as manager of the “Bankers” franchise – now named M&T Bank.

There is however, a newcomer in charge of the recently consolidated Middletown Mets. A sixteen year old named Ryan Ruggiero of Xavier High School will become the youngest manager to lead a GHTBL team. As an Assistant Coach for the Hartford Colts in 2022, Ruggiero welcomed the opportunity and the idea of moving the franchise to Middletown – a closer location for its players and an upgraded home field with Palmer Field and Buzzy Levin Field. Fixtures for the Mets are expected to be Albertus Magnus standout Sean Jefferson and former Keene State right-hander Alex Koletar on the mound.

The Bristol Greeners are entering their third GHTBL season and have managed to book one of Connecticut’s best ballparks, Muzzy Field, for a majority of their home games. They return under the direction of another young manager, Trevor Mays, in his second year at the helm. New additions to the Greeners will include Gabe Zamorano Jr., a freshman at University of St. Joseph and Robert Bibisi, a graduate of Utica University.

Last but not least, M&T Bank are once again expected to have the league’s best left side of the infield: former professional Willy Yahn at shortstop and Eastern Connecticut’s Brendan Lynch at third base. Along with a contingency of players from Elms College, Tom Abbruzzese seeks to regain his title-winning ways in a new sublimated, double-sided, M&T Bank uniform.

Note: a new uniform rule will take effect this season as voted on by GHTBL managers. Any player out of uniform (wrong jersey, wrong hat, different color pants, etc.) will earn their team a $50 league fine.

On behalf of President Holowaty, thank you to all of our league sponsors, fans, families, spouses and friends who support the twilight league!

Expos & Jets, Regular Season Co-champions

Now that the 2022 Regular Season has come to a close, the Record-Journal Expos (18-6) and the East Hartford Jets (18-6) have agreed to split the Season Title. Both managers elected to share a co-championship this year. According to GHTBL By-laws this scenario takes place when two teams tie for first place in the standings:

VIII. Postseason Playoff 

C. In the result of a tie for Regular Season champion, a one game playoff will be scheduled to determine the champion. This game may be eliminated if both managers agree to a co-championship. If a co-Championship is elected, then seeding for the playoff will defer to:

  • 1) The Co-Champions head-to-head regular season record.
  • 2) If the head-to-head record also result in a tie seeding will then default to a coin flip conducted by the Executive Committee.

D. Season records determine the remaining seedings. If there is a tie for any seeding, regular season head-to-head record will prevail; if head-to-head record results in a tie a coin flip will then be implemented conducted by the Executive Committee. If there is more than two teams for any seeding position the process then be selected by lot. 

The Expos swept all three games from the Jets this summer, therefore Record-Journal will be the top seed in the upcoming Playoff Tournament. The playoff bracket is published on the homepage of www.GHTBL.org (scroll towards bottom).

As a recap of the Record-Journal Expos at M&T People’s game last night here’s an original article by Ron Buck, Special to the Record-Journal:

R-J Expos drop regular season finale, but still lay claim to Greater Hartford Twilight pennant.

HARTFORD — Even in defeat, the Record-Journal Expos won Thursday night.

Already secure in the knowledge they had wrapped up the No. 1 seed in next week’s Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League playoffs, the Expos dropped their regular-season finale 1-0 to People’s Bank at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.

The loss prevented the Expos from winning the regular season outright and ended a six-game winning streak by the Meriden squad. The Expos finished the regular season 18-6.

People’s Bank, which scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the sixth inning, finished the season 14-9.

The Expos’ regular-season record is good enough to be, at the least, co-champions with the East Hartford Jets. The Jets (17-6) were on their way to tying the Expos for the regular-season title. At press time, they were leading the Hartford Colts 7-0 in the fourth inning of Thursday night’s nightcap of the Twilight Stadium Series 4 Sandy Hook Promise

The Expos, however, will earn the playoff’s top seed via a sweep of the Jets during the regular season. Looking to win Meriden’s first GHTBL tournament title since the Meriden Merchants went all the way in 2014, the Expos begin their quest Tuesday night at Palmer Field.

This is the second regular-season championship for player/manager Charlie Hesseltine, who saw his club win the 2019 pennant.

“The 1 seed was more important to us,” said Hesseltine. “I would have been nice to win. Justin (Marks) pitched great. Our bats were (just) hit and miss.” 

“But playing at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, everyone is trying to square one up and hit it a mile. It was a fun game,” added Hesseltine.

The Expos had one regular-season contest remaining — a game with People’s Bank on Tuesday at Ceppa Field was suspended by rain tied 2-2 in the top of the third — but they voted after Thursday’s game to forfeit the makeup. The decision was based on both teams’ desire to save their pitching for the playoffs.

“Our goal from the beginning of the year was to win the (postseason) championship,” said Hesseltine. “Regular-season standings never really matter because you have to beat everyone in the playoffs, but we played well all season.”

“We have four solid arms,” he added. “So as long as we hit, we have four pitchers for four games (in the playoffs).”

Marks, a tall lefty from Woodland High School, has shown why the Expos have the arms to win it all this season. He entered the game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park at a perfect 4-0 on the season with a 1.54 ERA, and he threw four more scoreless innings Thursday.

Marks hit the mid-to-high 80s in striking out seven.

“Our mindset is we got our loss out of the way (tonight) and we are ready for the playoffs” said Marks, who was making his seventh start of the season. “Tonight gives us confidence that we can beat anyone.”

Hesseltine picked up where Marks left off and struck out the side in the fifth inning.

People’s Bank scored, however, in the sixth after Hesseltine pitch brushed the jersey of Willy Yahm, who stole second and scored on a single by Brandon Lynch.

The Expos had their chances to score and, even in their final at-bat in the seventh, put a runner at second base with two outs via a ground-rule double by A.J. Hendrickson.

But Jason Sullivan struck out to end the game.

The Expos managed just four hits against four People’s Bank pitchers. And when they did come up with a few early hits, aggressiveness on the base paths were costly. A pair of Expos were thrown out at the plate in the third inning. 

Johnny Walter was out attempting to score from first base on Nhasean Murphy’s double into the left-field corner. Murphy was later called out at the plate on a close play trying to score after Sebby Grignano grounded out to shortstop.

The Expos also threatened in the second. Hendrickson singled sharply to left to start the inning. Sullivan then lined out to left field ahead of Shawn Remillard, who was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single into a double. 

Hendrickson moved to third base on Remillard’s ball into the right-center gap, but Will Kszywanos grounded out to third base to end the inning.

People’s Bank had its own struggles at the plate, managing just three hits off Marks and Hesseltine. The Expos’ hurlers allowed just two runners to reach second base before People’s broke through in the sixth inning.

This is the second regular-season title for the Expos in four years. The Expos, however, lost in the 2019 playoffs as the top seed. The Vernon Orioles won it all that year, while the Jets have won the past two championships.

“This year is a different group of guys,” said Kszywanos, who played for the 2019 Expos. “We are younger, more resilient and have a lot more chemistry.

“We have been together for so long, since Legion days,” added the first baseman. “And some of the younger guys are really stepping up at the plate. But pitching is going to win it, and Justin has been lights out. If we can string five or six hits together, we’ll be fine.”

The Jets and Vernon Orioles had been chasing the Expos all season. The O’s lost Wednesday night to the Wallingford Cardinals and finished 17-7. With a win later Thursday night, the Jets (17-6) were poised to earned the No. 2 seed.

Visit Record-Journal.com for more stories on the Expos from this season.

Massicotte No-hits Cardinals

On Friday night, Jeff Massicotte steered the Record-Journal Expos to the franchise’s first no-hitter in nearly a decade. Massicotte’s gem came against the Wallingford Cardinals in an 8-0 victory. Massicotte is going to be a senior next year at St. Peter’s University where he plays Division-I ball. He’s from Meriden, Connecticut, and graduated from Maloney High School. He has been a part-time member of the Record-Journal Expos since 2016.

The last time a no-hitter was thrown by the Expos, it Kevin Jefferis in 2013, when the club was called the Connecticut Expos. Today, the team is currently a game back from the first place East Hartford Jets.

Orioles Outdueled 6-2 by Hesseltine

By Joshua Macala
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After meeting each other this past Sunday in Vernon, the Record-Journal Expos and Vernon Orioles were ready to do battle once again. Only this time on the Expos’ home turf. The Orioles won the game on Sunday but the Expos were coming off of a win over Rainbow Graphics, who are having a good season start. The Expos went into this game with a 4-2 record while the O’s were 6-1.  

This game had a lot of implications, such as if the Orioles lost they would have two losses – same as the Expos – and the Jets would become the only team with only one loss. As the O’s did lose, this put them at 6-2 and the Expos at 5-2 which seems to put them closer together in the rankings. Had this game gone differently the Expos would’ve seemed to dropped down.

This game started off with both teams getting runners on in scoring position but nothing coming of it. The first two innings saw nothing happen on offense and only behind the pitching of Charlie Hesseltine did the Orioles seem to not be able to even get a hit off. The first two innings alone saw four strikeouts for Hesseltine who was on his game in the best possible way this evening.  

In the bottom of the third the Expos got the bases loaded and then on a wild pitch a run would score- the first run of the game. It would take all the way until the top of the fifth inning for a single to score a run for the O’s and it was all tied at 1-1. This would not last very long as the Expos needed some insurance runs going into the last two innings for the Orioles and they were going to get them in grand fashion.

AJ Hendrickson brought in the go ahead run in the bottom of the fifth inning. This would keep the bases loaded and another run would walk in. Jonathan Walter would hit a huge single to drive in a runs. Justin Marks would also RBI in another run, the fifth and final run of the inning. This would put the Expos up 6-1, and it appeared the O’s were all but through. The burst of offense really broke the game wide open and it was so great to see.

With this win, the Expos continue their battle for second place as they face the first place East Hartford Jets on Monday in East Hartford. The Orioles are off to face the Bristol Greeners in a doubleheader on Tuesday and even though the odds seem to be in favor of the O’s, with doubleheaders you never know who might prevail. Next week seems like it could reshape the standings depending upon who wins and who loses. 

Expos Clip Jets, 4-3

By Joshua Macala
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Baseball is such a wild game. After watching a GHTBL game on Wednesday in the rain, then being rained out on Thursdaynwith the sun shining, I thought for sure this would be the game without rain. A big, dark cloud came over Ceppa Field but it didn’t threaten any rain at first. Part way through the game, that same cloud opened up and the rain went from a drizzle to near downpour. Yes, for the second time in week I was caught in the rain watching a baseball game.

The Record-Journal Expos and East Hartford Jets both came into this game undefeated. The Jets had played one more game than the Expos, so the Jets were 3-0 while the Expos were 2-0. What’s notable about their records? Well, had the game not been postponed due to weather the night before, the Expos may have beaten the Bristol Greeners, so both teams could have gone into this game at 3-0. But this rain really has been something else this week and it amazes me that the baseball continues during the deluge.

In the top of the first inning, Jets shortstop Jeff Criscuolo made it to third base but after two strikeouts from Expos ace pitcher Justin Marks the inning would come to an end without any runs. The bottom of the first inning was a different story entirely for the Expos. Kyle Hartenstein was walked onto first base. Jason Sullivan hit a huge double to put the runners onto second and third. And then AJ Hendrickson came up to the plate and smashed a three run homerun.

Knowing where that ball went over the fence near left field, I was looking for it near the road but couldn’t find it. Someone was sitting on the road in their car and there was another random person just walking by. I assumed at that point perhaps someone had just been like “Oh! A baseball!” and picked it up. But I followed what I felt like was the flight path and sure enough I found the home run ball that Hendrickson smashed. It was across the street and in the yard of the house there.

The rest of this game was a stalemate. Jets pitcher Cole Lalli seemed to have two modes: either throwing all strikes and thus a strikeout occurred or throwing all balls and thus, a walk. It was either hard down the middle or it was bouncing in front of the plate. Both teams played a tight defense leading up until the final portion of the game. The top of the third saw two great catches by Will Kszywanos and Justin Marks, while runners got on base for both teams but were unable to score. Marks stuck out the side in the fourth inning – and into the fifth, two more strikeouts probably made him the player of this game.

The Expos scored another run in the bottom of the fifth making it 4-0 (they ended up needing that insurance run). The Jets then plated a runner in the top of the sixth as Charlie Hesseltine would come in to pitch. As the game headed into the bottom of the sixth, the rain picked up. The rain started off where you just felt some droplets and it wasn’t too big of a deal, but it quickly grew consistent. If you were in it for a minute or so you’d be soaked. Nearly everyone in the stands took cover where they could and somehow the game persisted. I’m always worried about the ball being able to be gripped in the rain, but the Expos and Jets played on.

At one point, one of the Jets lost control and their bat went flying because it was wet. This felt like one of those signs that playing in the rain was a tad dangerous but no one was stopping the game. The umpires were getting as soaked as the players! In the bottom of the sixth it felt as if the inning was cut short and I felt like the game was either going into a rain delay or being called early but apparently there were three outs. The Jets put up a run in the top of the sixth and had the momentum they to have a chance at winning.

In the last inning, with the score at 4-1 in favor of the Expos, Charlie Hesseltine had a hard time controlling his fastball. At one point, the ball even got away from catcher AJ Hendrickson. It was a bit of a mess and back-to-back doubles scored two more runs, putting the game at 4-3 and the Expos still leading. The last out came as a strikeout and it sealed the fate for the Jets, who were quite amused in the dugout with the way this game was going. While the rain was also making it darker and hard to see, it was making it just so difficult to control the ball and I think that was really the story of the end of the game here.

Now let’s be realistic. The Expos were at home. If the Jets managed to either tie this game or go ahead, then the Expos would still have their final at bats and the Jets would have been the one’s pitching in the rain. It seemed like it was a lot easier to hit the ball while the rain was coming down than it was to control a fastball. The rain actually started to let up a little bit before the game ended, but it certainly did feel like a factor in the end of this game. A 3-0 game turned into a 4-3 final after the rain and it made for an exciting ending.

With the Orioles taking a 1-0 loss to the Jets, this game was actually a battle between the last two undefeated teams in the GHTBL. By winning this game, the Expos now are solely in first place and the only team yet to face defeat. 

In the week ahead they’re looking at two opponents they’ve already beaten, the Wallingford Cardinals, in Wallingford on Wednesday night and the South Windsor Phillies will come back to Ceppa Field on Friday, June 10th. However, before all of that the Rainbow Graphics come to Ceppa Field for the next Expos game on June 7th, which could be interesting because the Graphics have a history of being a tough opponent for the Expos. Rainbow Graphics are also 3-1 on the year so it should be a good game to watch.

Expos Expose Phillies, 7-0

By Joshua Macala
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Exactly one week after their season opener, the Record-Journal Expos returned to Ceppa Field to take on the South Windsor Phillies and scored 7 runs once again. The Phillies and Expos have quite the rivalry going, and so this was promising to be a stellar matchup. Both teams have, in recent seasons, finished in first place even though the then champions would go on to become either the Orioles or Jets. Some teams are at the top of the league, the middle of the league and the bottom of the league. The Expos and Phillies are both top-of-the-league teams, so playing each other should be exciting baseball.

The Expos scored five runs during the bottom of the second inning. It was a deficit from which the Phillies were unable to overcome. A hit-by-pitch, two walks and then a run was walked in as well before AJ Hendrickson hit a deep shot to center field to clear the bases. That double drove in three runs. It would’ve been a grand slam if it went over the fence (I thought it did at first). In the bottom of the sixth inning, Hendrickson would do the same as he hit a long shot out to left field to score two more runs. Five of the seven runs in the game would be AJ Hendrickson’s runs batted in.

While this might not seem like a big deal because players can have big offensive nights, the fact is that AJ Hendrickson was also pitching the entire game and he managed to shut out the Phillies, barely giving up any hits. There were only one or two occasions where it really felt like the Phillies might have a chance to score and then those opportunities quickly got shut down. In many ways, it felt like Hendrickson was doing everything in this game and that just feels even more surreal considering how he played last game, but this was definitely a team effort when you don’t just consider the statistics of it all.

For one thing, the Expos have a new player in Javon Malone and he not only drove in a run but also had a few well-made defensive plays. Everyone seemed to step up offensively for Record-Journal; taking the walk when they needed to, and going that extra mile defensively to make it so that the Phillies couldn’t score. To start off this season with these first few games, everything is clicking for the Expos and their offense and defense are both delivering the way they should.

But with this game it should also be noted that the Phillies played well. The second inning was their biggest downfall and aside from that the combined pitching efforts of Noah Shaw and Connor Egan left the Expos scoreless for five innings. Offensively, the Phillies were missing Brody Labbe and Mike Lisinicchia, as well as Trevor Moulton as a pitcher, but these are just things which happen at the beginning of the season. Jack Rich has yet to play for the Expos as he is off doing great things with the ECSU Baseball team.  

With only two games into the season for the Expos (and the most games being played is three) it might be a bit early to see this as being a runaway season for the Expos. What the standings look like now- with the Expos, Jets and Orioles on top. But it is interesting to see that the new team of the Cardinals is 0-2 while the somewhat new team of the Greeners is 0-3. Whether they can turn their seasons around or not remains to be seen but there is a lot of baseball to be played still so it’s anybody’s game.

While the Expos only had one game last week, they play three this week. They go to Muzzy Field on Thursday night to take on the Greeners, who will be looking for their first win. Then on Friday night they welcome the Jets to Ceppa Field – a matchup to anticipate because the Jets are the reigning and defending Twi Champions. Baseball is one of those unpredictable sports though where it seems like the Greeners should be an easy win but they might not be. I’ve seen it before where first place teams fall to last place teams (mostly the Mets in previous years) and it doesn’t make sense but it happens.  

So even though it feels like Thursday should be an easy win and Friday will be more of a competitive game, anything can happen and you never really know until that game happens. The historic Muzzy Field is a great place to watch baseball and these two games just feel like they’re going to set an important tone for the rest of the season. Either way, win or lose, it’s a nice time of year to be outside watching baseball again. 

Bernie Williams Began his Career in the Twilight League

Before achieving stardom with the New York Yankees, Bernie Williams spent a summer in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. The story started when Williams was 16 years old. He was discovered by Yankees scout Roberto Rivera in Puerto Rico, however the right-handed outfielder was too young to sign a contract. The Yankees decided to stash Williams in Connecticut at Big League Baseball Camp on the campus of Cheshire Academy. His camp instructor, Frank Mohr, recruited Williams to play for GHTBL’s Katz Sports Shop team in the summer of 1985.

Bernie Williams’ signed Katz Sports Shop jersey, 1985.

As a teenaged prospect, Williams saw limited playing time in the twilight league among college-level competition. In 20 at bats for Katz Sports Shop, he had 4 hits. The team’s player-manager, Dave Katz once reminisced of Williams: “He was a really nice kid. He was shy, like he is now. He was so quiet, you didn’t even know he had a Spanish accent. Everybody on the team took to him. One thing does stick out in my mind. I hate to mention this; he dropped a routine fly ball in one game. But I remember my first baseman telling me that people at the camp said Bernie had all the tools.”

Bernie Williams, Outfielder, New York Yankees, 1993.

The Yankees signed Williams as an undrafted free agent by September of 1985. It was the start of a 20-year professional career, solely with the Yankees. Williams played rookie ball in Florida’s Gulf Coast League and spent six years in the minors developing into a switch-hitter. He broke into the majors in 1991 and became a fixture in center field at Yankee Stadium until 2006.

Bernie Williams featured in Record-Journal, 1996.

Williams was a 4-time World Series champion with the second most postseason home runs (22) in major league history behind Manny Ramirez (29). Williams compiled a career .297 batting average, 287 home runs, 1,257 RBI, 1,366 runs scored, 449 doubles and a .990 fielding percentage. He earned five All-Star selections and four Gold Glove Awards, a Silver Slugger Award, the 1996 AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player Award and the American League (AL) batting title in 1998.

Bernie Williams, Outfielder, New York Yankees, 1998.
Bernie Williams, Outfielder, New York Yankees, 2005.

Known for consistency and postseason heroics, Bernie Williams is considered one of the best switch-hitters in baseball history. He is also an all-time New York Yankees great. The team honored Williams by retiring his uniform number (#51) and dedicating a plaque to him in Monument Park in 2015. Nowadays, he is an accomplished jazz guitarist. Following his retirement from baseball, Williams released two jazz albums and was nominated for a Latin Grammy.

Record-Journal newspaper excerpt, 2015.

Author’s aside: The baseball world took Bernie Williams for granted. We did not realize the magnitude and depth of his career while he was an active player. What a story and what an interesting character. Much love Bernie!

Sources

  1. Bernie Williams page on Baseball-Reference.com

2. Record-Journal newspaper database on Newspapers.com.

DiPietro to Enter Berlin High School Hall of Fame

Soon-to-be Berlin High School Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, Ryan DiPietro attended Eastern Connecticut State University, was drafted by both the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals. He later played in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League for five seasons with the Meriden Merchants franchise, now known as the Record-Journal Expos.

Published August 17, 2021 in the Record-Journal

The Berlin High School Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held Sunday, Sept. 12 at the Aqua Turf. Leading up to the event, The Citizen is highlighting the accomplishments of the Hall of Fame Class of 2021. This week: Ryan DiPietro.

A member of the Class of 2002, DiPietro made an immediate impact on the baseball field. As a freshman in 1999, he stepped to the plate in the second round of the CIAC Class L state tournament and homered on the first pitch he saw. That also happened to be his very first varsity at-bat.

The Redcoats went on to claim the Class L crown, and DiPietro was on his way to legend status.

“My baseball roots are right here in Berlin,” DiPietro said. “We took pride in the success in town, Little League on up. And that 1999 state title team continued that tradition.”

Ryan DiPietro, 2001.

While DiPietro was a fine hitter and centerfielder, he is best known for his work on the mound. The lefty set BHS’s seven-inning  strikeout record (17), was 7-0 with a .085 ERA with two one-hitters as a junior and went 6-2 with a .050 ERA and 94 strikeouts as a senior.

DiPietro was an All-State and all-conference performer, and was selected MVP of the 2002 Senior All-Star game held at Fenway Park. Also in 2002, he led Berlin to the American Legion state championship, and was named tournament MVP.

DiPietro was selected by the the New York Mets in the 42nd round of the 2002 MLB draft, but he opted for college.

DiPietro would attend Eastern Connecticut State University, where he compiled a career record of 29-3 and, in 2004, helped propel ECSU to the national title game.

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Eastern Connecticut, 2004.

A NCAA Division III All-American and Pitcher of the Year selection, DiPietro set ECSU records for strikeouts in a game (19), strikeouts in a season (162) and consecutive victories (19). He ranks second in career strikeouts (336) and starts in a season (15).

DiPietro was the sixth-round selection of the Kansas City Royals in 2005 and would play minor and independent league ball for seven years.

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Burlington Bees, 2006.

DiPietro now works as an environmental inspector. He lives in Wallingford with his wife Rachel, sons Chase and Cal and daughter Hailey.

Also entering the Hall of Fame this year are Katelyn Zarotney (Class of 2010, basketball and volleyball), Max DeLorenzo (Class of 2010, football and basketball) and Cliff Landry (football and basketball coach 1954-61.)

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Meriden Merchants, 2016.

The ceremony for the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 was called off due to the coronavirus, so it will be inducted along with the Class of 2021. The Class of 2020 includes Steve Baccaro (Class of 1947), Phil Perretta (Class of 1961), John Steurer (Class of 1980), Cynthia Gozzo Dastoli (Class of 1990), Robert Manzo (Class of 1990), Allison Murphy Semenuk (Class of 2002), Matt Carasiti (Class of 2009), and the 1999 and 2000 state championship wrestling teams.

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Meriden Expos, 2016.

Alex Cornell is Lighting Up the Pecos League

Alex Cornell is currently wrecking Pecos League pitching with a .500 batting average. He’s mashed 27 base hits in 54 at bats with two home runs and 14 RBI for the Bakersfield Train Robbers.

Cornell, who hails from Columbia, Connecticut, is in his rookie Pecos League season. He finished up his college career this past spring at Limestone University in Gaffney, South Carolina. As a utility player for the Saints, he hit .386 with 8 home runs and 36 RBI and was 2021 All-South Atlantic Conference Honorable Mention. In the summer of 2018, he played under player-manager, Charlie Hesseltine of the Record-Journal Expos.

Cornell played all four years at E.O. Smith High School where he became the first player in program history to be named All-State as a junior. He posted a .410 batting average with five home runs, led the state in doubles and guided the Panthers to a conference championship. He was named team captain as a senior and batted .400 with seven home runs while earning All-Conference honors.

The GHTBL wishes Alex all the best on his bright future in professional baseball.

Alex Cornell, Bakersfield Train Robbers, Pecos League, 2021.

“The Pecos League is an independent baseball league which operates in cities in desert mountain regions throughout California, New Mexico, Southern Arizona, Kansas, West Texas and Colorado. Pecos Teams play in cities that do not have Major or Minor League Baseball teams and is not affiliated with either. The Pecos League has two divisions which stretch from the plains of Kansas to the Oceans of California to the Mexican Border of Texas. The two divisions with the Mountain Division and the Pacific Division.”

From the Pecos League website, www.pecosleague.com.

Cinderella Story Playoffs?

Evan Chamberlin and Rainbow Graphics upset Expos 5-2.

The Rainbow Graphics baseball club of Manchester shook up the first round bracket with a 5-2 win over the 2nd seed Record-Journal Expos. Veteran, 30 year old pitcher, Evan Chamberlain earned the win by throwing a 2 hitter through 6 innings with 1 earned run. Edison Galan went 3 for 4 with 2 runs and an RBI. Ryan Pandolfi went 2 for 4 with an RBI on 2 doubles. Max Quinn went 1 for 4 with 2 RBI’s. Co-Managers, Tyler Repoli and Ryan Pandolfi will lead their team to Playoff Game #6 at Ceppa Field in Meriden, CT on Thursday at 6:30 PM.

Follow the Rainbow Graphics team on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/rainbow_graphics_ghtbl

Check out the team’s sponsor Rainbow Graphics at: https://rainbowgraphicsct.com/

Expos, Outlaws Face Off in Winner’s Bracket

Both teams are 2-0 in the GHTBL Playoff Tournament.

The Record-Journal Expos and the Middletown Outlaws have each won two straight playoff games to advance to the Winner’s Bracket. The Expos, led by Charlie Hesseltine and the Outlaws, managed by Tony Franco will match up for the fifth time this season.

Meanwhile, the Vernon Orioles and the Marlborough Braves will decide the winner of the Loser’s Bracket.

Best of luck to all remaining teams!

R-J Expos Down Ulbrich Clippers in Pitchers’ Duel

GHTBL Playoff Tournament Game #1: Expos 1, Clippers 0.

By Joe Boyle, Special to the Record-Journal

HARTFORD — It was a battle of the aces Thursday night at the Trinity Baseball Complex as Charlie Hesseltine and the Record-Journal Expos nipped Matt DiNello and the Ulbrich Clippers 1-0 in the opening game of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League playoffs.

This was an all-local duel. Hesseltine is from Meriden, DiNello from Southington.

Another Meriden product, A.J. Hendrickson, scored the game’s lone run when he tripled in the sixth inning and scored on Hector Gonzalez’s ground-rule double.

The fifth-seeded Expos advance to play the top-seeded Vernon Orioles on Friday night at 8 p.m. The fourth-seeded Clippers drop to the loser’s bracket and will play again Monday night at 6 p.m.

On Thursday, Hesseltine went the full sevening innings. He struck out six, walked three and allowed five hits.

“I started to get tired there around the fourth,” said Hesseltine. “It’s the playoffs; you push through it. This team has relied on its starters this season. I just stayed out there as long as I could and hit my spots.

“My command felt good,” the left-hander added. “My velocity isn’t there, so spotting is the only way I can succeed now.”

Charlie Hesseltine, Pitcher, Record-Journal Expos.

DiNello also went the full seven innings. He struck out four and allowed just three hits.

“He pitched phenomenal too,” said Hesseltine. “It’s fun to watch and it’s fun to be part of. When you’re part of a pitching duel, it brings up the intensity and puts the pressure on each other.”

From the get-go, DiNello and Hesseltine were dealing. Each guy struck out a pair in the first inning to take command of the strike zone and show each team that this one would come down to which ever pitcher made the first mistake.

Ulbrich’s Chris Anselmo did lead off the bottom of the first with a second, but ended up being stranded at second.

DiNello looked to be the commanding pitcher in the battle. His fastball was working well and he owned the strike zone. The Expos didn’t get their first hit until the third inning: a lead-off single from Matt Fusco. Fusco was erased on a fielder’s choice and a runner never left first base in the inning for the Expos.

DiNello also threw just three pitches in the fifth inning. Each R-J hitter grounded out.

“It was unexpected to see zeros on the board until the sixth,” said Hessltine. “Our team has been hitting very well this season and has consistently in past years, which is good for our starting pitchers. Maybe it was playoff jitters for some of the guys.”

Nick Landell, Shortstop, Ulbrich Clippers.

For a while, it really didn’t look like either team was going to score a run. Fortunately for the Expos, whose lack of pitching depth would have probably been their downfall in an extended game, they figured out DiNello in the top of the sixth.

With one out, Hendrickson cranked a sure double out to right-center, where an Ulbrich outfielder struggled to play it off a good hop. Hendrickson slid head-first safely into third.

At third base with just one out, there was a good chance Hendrickson would score if the next batter, Gonzalez, put the ball in play. Gonzalez did one better. He lined a deep drive to left-center that one hopped the wall, bounced off the flag pole and sent Gonzalez to second for a ground-rule double and the only RBI of the game.

From there, some pressure was taken off of Hesseltine’s shoulders. The sixth and seventh innings were no issue for Hesseltine, who allowed just one baserunner the rest of the way.

The Expos were saved thanks to Hesseltine and just two key hits.

“It was a big weight off my shoulder,” said Hesseltine. “Seven is good enough for me.”