No hunting for Hunt, just find a baseball field
No hunting for Hunt, just find a baseball field
It was a far cry from Fuessenich Park in Torrington but it was still a baseball field. The exact place you would expect to find Gregg Hunt during the summer months.
Hollow Park in Woodbury is about 20 miles give or take a few Prince Fielder home runs or two from Fuessenich and if you’re not familiar with the beaucolic antiques town, you would just drive past it on Route 6 and into tomorrow.
But lo and behold there Hunt was Friday morning standing on Little League pitcher’s mound throwing some batting practice to bunch of eager young kids with big dreams in their eyes and voices.
I figured I’d track Hunt down and see what he is up to these days because this summer is a bit different than most. For the better part of 15 seasons Hunt was the central figure of Torrington’s collegiate baseball experience.
For 12 seasons he managed the Torrington Twisters of the New England Collegiate Baseball League and for two seasons the Torrington Titans in both the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League and Futures Collegiate Baseball League. Sandwiched in between was one summer as the head man with the Manchester Silk Worms.
High school duties at Wamogo quickly gave way to the wooden bats of summer in early June as collegians descended on Torrington with hopes of taking one more step towards the major league dream.
The summers were some of the best. Baseball every day, working with the likes of Washington Nationals All-Star Stephen Strasberg, helping players get better. For the long-time area coach these were summers the way Gregg Hunt likes them. The way summers were supposed to be.
However, this fall Hunt said it was time to take a break. “It’s just time,” he told the owner of the Titans, Chris Carminucci, and decided to step back. There are no regrets although there is much he misses about the experience.
“I do miss it. I miss the competition and working with the kids,” he told me. But there are also some benefits.
“I’m not complaining about the travel. If you’re going to play at that level you have to learn how to ride the bus,” he noted. “But, I’m not bailing out of here at noon at make a 12:45 bus.”
Yeh, there is bit more of a casual take to this summer but taking a break meant from the rigors of coaching a collegiate team not from baseball. It’s kind of hard to think of Hunt with no baseball so don’t. It’s ingrained in his soul like a sliver six inches deep. It ain’t coming out.
So this is the summer of the camp. Hunt always held baseball camps but there is more focus this summer because there can be. Six weeks, 11 clinics. He travels the area – Litchfield, Winsted, Woodbury, Bethlehem and Cornwall bringing baseball to a couple of hundred kids by his estimate.
It is interesting to watch the no-nonsense Hunt work with the younger set. You play for Hunt, you respect the game. You get there on-time, you stay overtime. You play on the field and help you clean the field. Shirt-tails are in, not out. You pay attention. That is Hunt and will always be Hunt.
Hunt makes the transition, however, to the younger ones, most of whom who proudly wear their Twister tee-shirts and sport gloves big enough for them to take a nap in when the baseball is done. There’s a subtle, “You’re not paying attention,” and “Why do we have two first basemen?”
There’s plenty of positive encouragement and yes, there were shirt tails out and even a mom who volunteered to play center field. Hunt asks for three baseball questions at the end of the day-ending game. He then goes around and asks what each player learned.
No pressure here. Just a fun, learning experience.
“You make an adjustment to the level of players,” said Hunt. “All of these players left camp better than when they came.”
So that’s big part of Gregg Hunt’s summer ‘off’. No rushing four a bus to Martha's Vineyard, the Hamptons or some baseball hooterville. No worry about how many innings this pitcher has tossed and irritating his college coach. No calling for a hit-and-run. None of the duties of the past 15 summers.
Oh, it is still a baseball summer. The camps and baseball at night. He’s been to see some Tri-State games and will catch up with the Titans. He’s been to Fenway and watched his dad throw out the first pitch.
It is a good reprieve, but a temporary one.
“I’m looking to get back into it under the right circumstances,” said Hunt.
I put the notebook away and we spent the better part of an hour shooting the July breeze. This guy, that guy, Naugatuck baseball back in the 1970s, his two tough state championship game losses with Thomaston and Terryville, stories along the summer collegiate baseball trail.
Good baseball talk. It’s a different summer for Hunt but still a baseball summer. Don’t’ think he’s not enjoying it and don’t think he won’t be back. He’ll never be away from the game. He’s long way from Fuessenich this summer, but never left the game. That won’t happen.