MERIDEN — Playing a full season short-handed is not an easy thing to overcome, but that is exactly what the Meriden Post 45 American Legion baseball team is prepared to do this summer.
With 13 players on their roster and pitcher Joey Salafia scheduled for an MRI on his injured elbow, Meriden will likely be down to 12 players.
However, head coach Doug Wedge said his players’ willingness to play multiple positions will help mitigate their small numbers.
“What this team is, is that they are very versatile,” Wedge said. “We got kids that can pitch, play the infield, play the outfield. They can play anywhere.
“These guys are very big into the team concept. They think, ‘If I could do something to help the team, then I will do it.’”
The team added six new players, but Wedge said the team’s chemistry could not be better.
“The chemistry is really good. I'm really happy with the chemistry of the team,” Wedge said. “These guys get along great. They work very hard and, from that standpoint, everything is good. Now, how will that translate onto the field? We will see, but I’m optimistic. They are good ballplayers, but sometimes the first time out of the gate, it’s a little difficult.”
Jake Baker returned to Post 45 after playing travel baseball for two years. Wedge said Baker, Platt’s shortstop, is another player who is willing to play any position. He is a natural infielder, but he will also be asked to play some outfield.
CCSU commit Elliot Good, the Maloney shortstop, has a solid bat and can play anywhere in the infield. Good’s power arm will also allow him to see some time on the pitcher’s mound.
“He can play anywhere in the infield — third and short,” Wedge said. “We also use him to close games. Elliot throws very well and he is a very good hitter.”
Getting his team to buy into playing multiple positions was easy for Wedge. The coach said he told his players if they want a bat in their hands, they have to be willing to play wherever they are needed at any moment.
“They bought into the fact, when we talked to them, that the more positions you can play, the more valuable you are,” Wedge said. “In a case like this, its really true. Even though it is a small roster, we have a lot of guys who can do a lot of things.”
On the pitching staff, Sean Dupuis from Wilcox Tech is someone to keep an eye on. Although the southpaw doesn’t overpower hitters, his pitches have late break and movement that batters struggle to recognize, Wedge said.
Tanner Raymond, a year removed from Maloney, will also be a key component of the pitching staff, but he will also see playing time behind home plate.
Peyton Thiel and Cameron Germe, who comprised the right side of Platt’s infield this spring at second and first base, respectively, are two players who have the ability to lead by example with their intense work ethic, Wedge sai. As is with most players on the squad, the manager said they are each willing to play wherever they are asked to.
“I don't have big name superstars on this team, but what I got are 12, 13 kids who are pretty gritty,” Wedge said. “They will battle you and keep working hard all the way. I can name every kid on this team who will be a contributor.”
After Connecticut American Legion Baseball re-zoned the entire state and then set up divisions within zones, Meriden learned it would be migrating from Zone 3 to Zone 2, within the Eastern Division. Wallingford, Branford, Madison and Cheshire are also in the division.
The new playoff format will feature top two teams from each division and the third-place team with the best record. However, since Ceppa Field is again hosting the state tournament, Meriden will automatically have a spot.
While Wedge said he would have preferred to stay in Zone 3, he is looking forward to the different competition that Post 45 will be facing this season.
“It’s going to be a learning experience for us as far as learning these teams,” Wedge said. “We are going from one zone where we kind of knew everybody and now we are in a whole new zone. So it’s a learning experience that we will embrace.
“But, it’s still baseball. I tell our guys not to worry about the other team and just worry about themselves. Just play the game. If we do the stuff we are supposed to do, then we will be successful.”