NORTH ADAMS -- After the high school baseball season, players finishing their sophomore year often face a dilemma. Baseball season is over, and their options to continue playing into late June and July are limited.
Too old for Babe Ruth and too young to compete with the 19-year-old players on the American Legion teams, options are slim for 16-year-old baseball players looking to hone their skills in the summer months.
Not anymore. Now players can play for the Berkshire Americans, a 17-and-under squad that plays its games in the Eastern New York Travel Baseball League. The Americans are in the middle of their second season, and last year's team was so successful, they created an 18-and-under team to continue playing in the Eastern New York Travel Baseball League.
"It's a lot more competitive than Babe Ruth is and you get to do a lot of traveling, which is fun," McCann Tech sophomore Sean Davis said. "It kind of helps step up your game a little bit more than it would if we were playing Babe Ruth."
The league not only allows players to develop their skills and continue to play the game, it also challenges them in different ways. It's a wood bat league, different from the aluminum bats players are used to swinging in high school play.
"The first couple of games, we were hitting like crap," Drury second baseman Jake Tatro said. "It was all little bloopers and short grounders. Just a lot of outs. I think we've all slowly gotten used to it."
The challenge of the wood bats is also a draw for players looking for summer time competition. Players can often struggle early on in the season with making the adjustment, so coaches rely on teaching the fundamentals of the game. Small ball and aggressive base running is usually key to winning games early on.
In its July 7 matchup against the Electric City Charge, the Berkshire Americans attempted two squeeze plays to produce runs. One of which was successful.
The coaching staff focuses on teaching players small ball and basic fundamentals to produce offesne while the players adjust to the different feel of wood bats.
"I think people just try to swing too hard at first," Davis said. "But, it's just like the aluminum bats. You have to let the bats do the work. You can't over swing."
This year's 17-and-under squad is made up of four players from Mount Greylock, three from Drury, two from McCann Tech, two from Hoosac Valley and four from Pittsfield.
The season starts in early June and runs until late July. More than 30 games are on the schedule, and that includes double headers nearly every Saturday in Berkshire County. The majority of the team's home games are played at Ugo C. Balardini Baseball Field at Renfrew Park in Adams. However, the team does play occasionally at Alcombright Field in North Adams and even Mount Greylock in Williamstown.
Williams College pitching coach Mike Gladu coaches the team and tries to teach them the mental aspect of a long and tough season.
"It's definitely long, but it's still fun," Davis said. "It always helps when you have a good group of guys and a good coach. I mean, it's an absolute blast."