Glynn Baron and Hartford Legion Baseball. Story by Gerry deSimas.
Glynn Baron is no stranger to the baseball diamond.
He played at Torrington High School under long-time coach Ezio Bonetti. He played on the P-38s American Legion baseball team for Biff Pond. He played three years at Eastern Connecticut State University when the Warriors went to three NCAA Division III regional finals and the 1987 NCAA Division III World Series.
After graduation, he continued playing baseball. He played 18 years for Litchfield in the Tri-State League where his combination of speed and power earned him a spot in the Tri-State League Hall of Fame in 2011.
Today, Baron isn’t making his mark on the diamond. It’s on the practice field, the dugout and in the coaching box.
Baron is the head coach of the Hartford American Legion baseball team that has won its first two games in the 2014 state tournament beating Avon and Enfield to earn a spot in a best-of-3 series with Zone 1 champion Simsbury beginning on Wednesday at Memorial Field. The winner advances to the Northern Division finals at Muzzy Field this weekend.
Hartford went 11-10 this summer to claim the fifth and final playoff spot in Zone 7. It’s the first winning season and best record for the program since 2001 when they were 15-13. It’s the first playoff appearance for the team in a long, long time. It could be as far back as the 1940s but no one is really sure at this time. Hartford won its last American Legion baseball state title in 1940.
It’s never easy for Hartford. The program vanished in the late 1990s before it was revived in 2001. The team plays virtually all of its games on the road. They had three home games at Trinity College this summer but that was it. They have players from six city high schools. But they play hard. They’re quick, athletic and enthusiastic.
“We’ve arrived,” Baron said after Hartford held on to upset Avon on Sunday, 3-2. “Our goal was to get up early (in the game). We play National League, small ball. We push a run across any time we can. Everything comes from pitching and defense for us.”
It’s been a long road – no pun intended – for Hartford. Baron, who lives in West Hartford, took over the team in 2011. The previous year Hartford had won just once in 24 games. Hartford went 2-22 and 3-21 in his first two seasons before going 9-12 in 2013.
“We’ve matured,” Baron said. “We’ve learned how to hang on and win the close games.” Hartford had an impressive 3-1 exhibition win on July 3 over Branford, a squad that won the state and Northeast Regional title a year ago and went to the World Series.
Against Avon, Hartford used its speed and skill to grab a 3-0 lead. Two singles, a stolen base and a fielder’s choice put the first run on the board. The second run came after a double, a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly. The third run came after a single and a RBI double down the left field line.
Hartford didn’t buckle in the ninth inning. Avon loaded the bases with no outs and scored two runs to trim the lead to one. The bases were still loaded with one out when reliever Meryln Herrera got two Avon batters to fly out to right field and ground back to the pitch to secure the victory. Avon stranded 15 base runners.
It was a similar scenario against Enfield in an 11-4 victory on Monday night. Hartford took a 4-0 lead after three innings, scoring in each inning. Elvin Gonzalez, Angel Moreno, Juan Resto and Glynn Baron III each had two hits in Hartford’s 11-hit attack. Gonzalez and Resto each had doubles. And Hartford had a pair of sacrifices.
Pitcher Olvic Mercedes went seven innings and scattered four hits. And, yes that is Baron’s son, Glynn III is an outfielder on the team. He plays with Hartford because he got a release a few years ago from the West Hartford program.
“We led wire to wire,” manager Glynn Baron said. “We really controlled the temp from start to finish.” Hartford has yet to trail in its two state tournament games.
The challenge will be tougher with Simsbury (18-6), a team that won its first Zone 1 championship since 2008. Post 84 is a solid, veteran team with seven players who attended college this past year. Some played baseball and some didn’t but they’re older, stronger and more mature.
Game one is Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at Memorial Field. Game two is Thursday at 2 p.m. Game three, if necessary, will be immediately after game two.
Hartford (13-10) won’t be favored. But that’s nothing new. They’re on the road again. That’s just business as usual. Hartford is still playing. “We’re really a road team,” manager Glynn Baron said. “We’re conditioned to play on the road. Every field we play on becomes our home field.”