Phyllis Mcguire: It's time to play ball - go SteepleCats!

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Wearing royal blue, white and gray uniforms, they ran onto Joe Wolfe Field in North Adams last week for their first home game of this baseball season.

"Joe Wolfe Field is a great spot. You can enjoy the games, day or night," said Allen Hill, president of the SteepleCats. "It's a community activity. You are there with your family and friends. And the scenery is fabulous."

One of the 13 teams in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, which is a showcase for top college-level players, the SteepleCats are scheduled to play 22 games at Joe Wolfe Field and 22 games in other parts of New England.

Ticket prices for SteepleCats home games are $3 for children under age 17, $7 for adults and $5 for seniors age 65 and over.

'We have 30 players on our roster. They come from all over the country," said Hall, who lives in Williamstown. Two players are from Western Massachusetts: Matt Koperniak from Trinity College and Hadley's Evan Delaney from New England College.

A nonprofit organization, the SteepleCats are funded in part by Major League Baseball.

"They are interested in our players and scout them," Hall said.

Since the SteepleCats were founded in 2002, more than 50 alumni have played on major or minor league teams.

"When the college kids come to us, some never have ridden on a bus to a ballpark. It's hard playing 44 games in 60 days and having to travel by bus to 22 of the games. There's a lot of life in baseball; you have to learn to win with grace and lose with grace," Hall said.

The SteepleCats' general manager, Matt Torra, has experience playing for the league, so he knows what the potential professional players go through.

As in the past several years, MountainOne is the SteepleCats' presenting sponsor for the 2018 baseball season. But without host families, no players would be able to come to North Adams and compete on the field.

"The host family/player relationship lasts a lifetime," Hall said. (For information about becoming a host family, email Pat Decker at volunteer@steeplecats.org.)

Hall praised all the volunteers for donating their time and energy to help the team function, lighting the field, taking tickets, operating the scoreboard and the public address system, etc.

"But it's not just about us playing baseball," Hall said. "Brightening someone's day and being positive role models, and highlighting that positive things are going on in our community is what we want to do.

"We as an organization are actively promoting our local community and businesses around northern Berkshire and southern Vermont. For example, we are very excited that Ramunto's will be providing concession — food, beer and ice cream — at the park this year.

"We donate a lot to community-based organizations with either tickets or merchandise, and we sponsor youth baseball and softball teams throughout northern Berkshire and southern Vermont."

And in 2018, the SteepleCats, in partnership with the North Adams Library, presents a Cubs Club summer reading program promoting literacy and hosting activities that will benefit the North Adams community. The program is funded by the generous support of Shine Wire Products in Adams.

"In 1984, it was the North Adams community that embraced the Shine family's idea to start a business and then guided us along the way," said company President Greg Shine. "We always look for ways to give back to North Adams."

When the SteepleCats play in North Adams, fans come from as far as Bennington, Stamford and Pittsfield to see the game at Joe Wolfe Field.

"On July 4, we get 5,000 people at the field," Hall said.

Go, Cats!

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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