Starfires set to take flight

WESTFIELD – All of the hype, anticipation, and excitement surrounding the Westfield Starfires’ inaugural summer season in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League has led to this – Opening Day and the first pitch of the 2019 regular season.
On Friday night, under the lights at Bullens Field, the Westfield Starfires will welcome the Pittsfield Suns. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30. A brief ceremony and player introductions will precede the event.
“Friday will be yet another way to continue celebrating the great history behind the City of Westfield,” Starfires Director of Baseball Operations Evan Moorhouse said. “We have seen over the past few days how unified our community is and we hope Starfires baseball will be another way to continue bringing those people together on a nightly basis. I truly think everyone that comes out Friday and beyond will have a memorable experience.”

Westfield Starfires head coach Bill Sandillo provides instructions to his players during Thursday’s practice. The Starfires open their summer season Friday night at Bullens Field at 6:30 p.m. (Photo by Marc St. Onge)

It should be truly special for a group of young ballplayers who grew up playing ball in the Whip City, former Westfield High players such as pitcher Mason St. Pierre (American International College), first baseman Sean Moorhouse (Westfield State University), outfielder Sean Murphy (Gettysburg College), and catcher Anthony Clark (AIC).
Ryan Towle, a pitcher from Fitchburg State University, also a former Bomber, was expected to pitch for the Starfires, but is now likely to miss most if not all of the season due to injury.
Westfield State University pitcher Vincenzo Camera is also on the Starfires current roster.
According to team officials, players on the Starfires, much like their counterparts on the Valley Blue Sox (Holyoke), of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, have aspirations of one day playing in the Cape Cod League, the Arizona Fall League, Triple-A, and eventually in MLB.
“You may be looking at a future Major Leaguer,” said Westfield Starfires manager Bill Sandillo, a West Springfield native who now resides in Arizona. “Catch them on the way up.”
The Futures League serves as a proving ground for several Division 1 players, who have been overshadowed by bigger name prospects, underutilized due to circumstances beyond that player’s control, lacked playing time, or redshirted due to injury.
“Scouts are looking for that diamond in the rough,” Sandillo said.
The Starfires manager said it is critical that the residents of Westfield and surrounding communities attend games on a regular basis at Bullens Field.
“Westfield has always been a huge supporter of Tri-County League Baseball, and the high schools,” he said. “The reality is if people don’t support this, it goes to another community.”
Early indications are encouraging with two home sellouts already logged, and a buzz building around Opening Day.
Said Sandillo: “The Futures League is a huge opportunity to play summer baseball at a high level. …There’s that intangible stuff you see with second tier kids. Combine that with a solid work ethic and the grind. If they make their bones, you just never know what might happen.”

The Starfires run through drills Thursday. (Photo by Marc St. Onge)

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