Few sounds ring truer as harbingers of summer than the crack of a bat or the pop of a mitt, and while the college baseball season takes place in the spring, two Ephs were lured by summer’s sirens back to the ballpark to play in amateur baseball leagues this summer.Stephen Maier ’12, a two-sport standout in baseball and hockey, spent the summer with the Mystic Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL), and Harry Marino ’12, a southpaw hurler and co-captain of the
Williams baseball team, showed off his talents with the Chatham A’s of the Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL).
For these teammates and friends, baseball has always held special significance in their lives due to a strong family history in the sport.
“My dad was really into baseball,” Marino said. “He played in college, and I have a brother who’s a sophomore here, Steve [Marino ’14]. [Dad] took us to games growing up, and I kind of played all sports, but I was particularly attached to baseball.”
Maier recalls a similarly strong history of baseball in his family: “My father played college baseball, and his sister was an All-American softball player. When I was two, three, four, his little sister would come over with all of her college friends … and they would play baseball with my sister and me.”
Along with a family history of collegiate baseball, Marino remembers spending summers watching CCBL baseball with his dad and relished the opportunity to play in the games he had enjoyed growing up. “[CCBL baseball is] kind of an event around town,” Marino said, “so it was cool, having grown up going to some of those games to be on the other end of that. It’s definitely a great place to be in the summer with a lot of people really enjoying themselves everywhere.”
Maier and Marino, who have excelled in their three seasons as Ephs under the tutelage of baseball Head Coach Bill Barrale, were invited to play in the NECBL and CCBL, respectively. Maier garnered his first opportunity in the NECBL his freshman year, and Marino acquired his first contract in the NECBL after his sophomore year, earning a contract in the CCBL after his junior year. “Coach Barrale, during our sophomore year, contacted both of us and said that the guy from the Pittsfield team had offered a contract to both of us,” Marino said. “I know for myself it didn’t really take much time to decide that that was something I wanted to do.”
The Ephs were eager to take advantage of the chance to improve their baseball skills alongside some of the top collegiate players in the country. “The NESCAC is a pretty competitive league, but there’s also bigger and better baseball out there,” Maier said. “Harry and I are always looking to somehow improve our game, so this was an opportunity that presented itself for us to take the next step. It was a huge honor and a great opportunity, so we jumped at it.”
While Barrale was critical in putting his star players in contact with amateur leagues, he was also a strong support system for the men throughout the summer. “You can’t do it without a strong program to come from and the strong support of your coach,” Marino said. Maier recalled Barrale as supporting him throughout the summer. “Your coach could be a guy who would just get you into a place and then go from there,” Maier said, “but [Coach Barrale] wasn’t just the guy who gave us an opportunity to play; he was our support system. He called me after I had a couple good games, which was a shock. He said he had been watching my progress. Getting us to this place and supporting us is the behind-the-scenes work, but it means the most.”
With the support of their coach, the top-notch competition helped the Ephs to fine-tune their game in preparation for their senior seasons. “We knew that the speed of the game was going to be a little bit quicker,” Maier said, “and [other players in the league] will capitalize on your mistakes. You have to be a little bit sharper.” Marino added that playing with new teammates proved especially helpful in keeping him in peak performance shape. “It’s just a tremendous opportunity to learn from people who are really at the top of the college game, and with guys coming from all different programs and all different coaches, they all have different ways of doing things. You try to soak up as much as possible and bring it back here. Hopefully, it’ll help our team this spring.”
In order to keep up with the high level of competition, Maier and Marino got the chance to put their year-long training into practice. “We prepare as hard as we can for the season here, and that preparation is really just extended to the summer season. We’re not leaving anything on the table here. It’s not a matter of putting anything extra in; it’s just a matter of knowing [success] will take a little more execution and there will be a little less room for error.”
While the seniors spent a significant portion of the summer between the lines, they count their experiences off the field as equally important. “I lived with the family who I lived with last summer,” Maier said, “and they were like family to me. Unfortunately, I didn’t see them much because I would go to sleep at two o’clock in the morning coming back from road trips, and then I’d be up at the crack of dawn to get into work by six, where I was doing research on sharks, and then I’d work until I went to the baseball field. After baseball, I would lift, and there was nobody to talk to all day. So it was a long day and a lonely day, but it was a cool summer.” Marino remembered particularly fondly his time working in the CCBL’s summer baseball camps. “I ended up giving lessons to this one kid, and I really developed a close friendship with him and his family. It was cool to be a role model and grow close to these kids. As players, we have a lot to offer them, but they have a lot to offer us as campers. I really had a lot of fun with it.”
With another summer of competition under their belts, Maier and Marino will head into their final season as Ephs with fond memories of summer baseball and with lasting relationships forged over a summer of hard work and new experiences. “Most importantly, I think the experience is going to last a lifetime, and the guys you’re with are guys you may never see again, but [whom] you’ll have the summer of the lifetime with,” Maier concluded.