The Braintree White Sox are nothing if not diverse when it comes to age, a team made up of players from 19 to 35 years old, ranging from college-level to ex-professionals. But they’re united by a confidence formed during a busy summer season that paid off with a trip to the National Amateur Baseball Federation Regionals in West Haven, Conn.
The team was number one in the Cranberry Baseball League regular-season standings with a 22-4 record, and then won the Cranberry Baseball League Championship. They were 2-1 in the regional tournament heading into the weekend.
Since the team competes in an unlimited age division, the younger collegiate players have older, more experienced players to learn from.
“It’s competitive. The guys aren’t just there to mess around. They play every day and I can learn a lot from them as well,’’ said Nick Barker, a 19-year-old sophomore at Tufts University who is the youngest member of the team.
A Weymouth native who was a catcher on Catholic Memorial’s baseball team, Barker spent his earlier years at the South Shore Baseball Club in Hingham learning from teammate Ryan Morgan, 29, also a Weymouth native who played for the Arizona League Cubs. Barker and other members of the White Sox gathered at Braintree High School Tuesday night to work out one more time before the regionals.
Among the group was Frank Curreri, 29, a former catcher for the University of Massachusetts Amherst, drafted in the 41st round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004.
He was named MVP by the Cranberry Baseball League this year and has become a role model to his younger teammates. His 3-year-old son, Frank Jr., accompanied him to practice Tuesday and practiced batting, showing off an impressive stroke for a toddler. Curreri cares more about helping the younger players improve their game than being MVP. “It was my team, not me,’’ he said.
The younger players appreciate his willingness to help them work on their mechanics.
“It’s been a great learning experience, having the guys that played at the highest level. Frank caught Triple A for the Diamondbacks and he’s been just a great role model, a person to follow, a person to get tips from,’’ said Barker.
For players like Michael Crane, 29, who played at BC High with Curreri and Morgan and has been on the White Sox since 2002, helping out the younger players is a rewarding part of the game.
“They know how to play the game. They’ve obviously played at the college level, but it’s showing them the smaller parts of the game just to almost fine-tune their game,’’ said Crane.
Before this weekend’s regionals, the Braintree White Sox won two out of three against the Middleborough Bolts to win the Cranberry Baseball League Championship. The Middleborough Bolts play in the Hackensack, N.J., regionals this weekend, so both teams had a chance of advancing to the World Series.
Kevin Keith, a junior at Colby Sawyer College and a second-year pitcher on the White Sox, was confident that his team would make it to the World Series yet again.
“We won our regional last year and we’re a great team so if we play well no one should beat us,’’ Keith said last year.
While this isn’t the White Sox’ first trip to the regionals, it is their first season with the National Amateur Baseball Federation. Until this year they played for the American Amateur Baseball Conference. They made it to the World Series in Houston the past two years, placing third in the country in 2010, but were eliminated in 2011 after losing their first two games to the Palo Alto Oaks.
This year the team competes in the major unlimited age division of the regionals. The NABF Northeast Regionals consist of 10 teams from Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Braintree represented Massachusetts. The White Sox played two games on Thursday, one on Friday and were scheduled to play one more on Saturday morning.
The tournament consists of two pools, five teams each and the top two teams in each pool play in the semifinals Saturday and the two winners play each other to qualify for the World Series. This year’s World Series will be held in Buffalo on Thursday.
General manager Peter Thompson is impressed by the teamwork and dedication that has led them to success since the season started Memorial Day. The team played four games a week all summer: a double header every Sunday, followed by games on Tuesday and Thursday. Now that summer is coming to an end the team wants to prolong the season as long as they can.
“This is the exciting part of the year. This is what we all get together and play for,’’ said Thompson.
Lakeville Little League wins a regional title
The Lakeville Little League team had an impressive season as well. The 9- and 10-year-olds won District 7, going undefeated as they beat Middleborough, Sandwich, Wareham, and Old Rochester.
They went on to sectionals to play Swansea in a best of three series, eliminating them after two games.
Next they went to states, playing a round robin, the best two teams advancing. After beating Holden, Parkway, and Peabody North, they got the number-one seed and beat Peabody North in the state finals 9-0.
The state champions advanced to the New England Championship in Cranston, R.I., for another round robin. The team advanced to finals to compete with Connecticut, who they lost to, 7-6. They beat Connecticut, 9-0, and won the New England 10-year-old Championship.
This qualified the team to play in the Eastern Regional Finals against a team from Media, Pa., whom they defeated, 10-5, to win the Eastern Regional title.