CANTON – For Canton High graduate Tom Dubois, the memories of playing baseball for Canton High at Bowdoin Field were strong and vibrant. So, he decided to create some more.
Dubois is the manager and founder of the Canton Crushers, who made their debut last week in the Tri-State League, an adult wooden bat baseball league with 18 teams, primarily in northwest Connecticut.
“I was talking to my cousin Steve and we were all talking about how much we missed playing at Bowdoin Field,” said Dubois, who played at Canton High before he graduated in 2004. “We all liked playing at Bowdoin. It has character. You have the hill in right field, the rock out there. There is the tree in center field. The field is just nestled in there.”
Of course, one doesn’t form a team to play on a field. That is what pickup games are for. This is a group of players who love the game and the competition.
The Crushers were granted an expansion team last winter and made their debut on Sunday at Fuessenich Park against the Torrington Rebels.
And like many expansion teams, the Crushers were outmanned, at least on this evening. Canton pitchers walked 11 batters and the Crusher defense made 11 errors as the Rebels prevailed by a 17-3 margin.
But Dubois is hopeful that Canton can be among the top 12 teams in the 18-team league to earn a playoff berth. The Crushers are not without some experienced ballplayers.
The most experienced player is Dubois’ cousin Steve, a nine-year veteran in the Tri-State League who has been selected to three Tri-State All-Star teams. Steve will be at shortstop or on the mound. He was team MVP his senior year at Lewis Mills.
Outfielder/pitcher Jim Spirito is a Tri-State League veteran who has played with the Burlington Hunters. He struck out 15 batters in a 2007 game against the Naugatuck Dogs and was drafted to play in the Stan Musial state tournament. Spirito pitched at Canton High and for three years at Eastern Connecticut State.
Outfielder/pitcher Spenser Griffin played five years in the Tri-State League with the now defunct Prospect team. He showed tremendous speed racing down a deep fly ball to center in the loss to Torrington.
Second baseman Mike Bowes is playing in the league for the first time but he was the shortstop for East Mountain AAA in Wolcott for the last five years and his team won two league titles. Pitcher Chris Colon formerly pitched with the Rebels.
Brian Kulik and John Scippa played with Avon in the Greater Hartford Twilight League.
To be competitive, Canton (0-1) will need to reduce the walks given up by their pitching staff and play better defense. They showed signs of it in the opener against Torrington. They just need to be more consistent.
Steve Dubois led the Crushers with a double, triple and two RBI in the game while Griffin, Bowes, Spirito and outfielder Sean Dury each had singles.
The Tri-State League has players who range from 18 just out of high school to into their 50s. Many teams have college players home for the summer. There have been former professional players in the league. There are some experienced, veteran teams including Amenia, N.Y., who has won nine league titles since 1968. Torrington has eight championships since they were formed in the early 1990s while Bethlehem, which dates back to the 1930s, has won six titles since 1998.
The Tri-Town Trojans, a mix of players from Litchfield County, won the league title a year ago by taking the best-of-three championship series, 2-1. Tri-Town beat Naugatuck in the deciding game three, 2-1 in 12 innings.
Each team plays an 18-game schedule and five Tri-State League teams will qualify to participate in the Stan Musial state tournament in July. The league is called the Tri-State League but all but one team (Amenia) is in Connecticut. There were teams from Massachusetts in the league in the 1970s.
Manager: Tommy Dubois, first year (0-0)
Last year: First year as a team
Key players: SS Steve Dubois, 2B Mike Bowes, OF/P Jim Spirito, OF/P Spencer Griffith
Other players: 1B Mark Trotta, OF Sean Dury, OF Wallace Coles, OF Brian Kulik, 3B/P Harold Scheidel, OF/DH Victor Rivera, C Grant Snyder, P Chris Colon, P Cory Miles, OF John Scippa, OF Muweeb Alam, IF Joseph Dubois
Of note: Josh Lamonte will be the pitching and third base coach for Canton. A Lewis Mills graduate, he has coached the Burlington American Legion baseball team and Post University in Waterbury for three years. … Canton will play eight games at home and 10 on the road because they took the opportunity to play Bristol at historic Muzzy Field. … Miles is a recent high school graduate. He graduated in 2012 from Taconic Hills in New York. … Spirito was an All-State baseball player at Canton, graduating in 2000. He was 10-2 in his final two years on the mound with 71 strikeouts. … Former Canton High players on the team include Tom Dubois, Steve Dubois, Spirito, Kulik and Scheidel.
2014 remaining schedule
Sunday, May 25: BURLINGTON, 5
Sunday, June 1: LITCHFIELD, 5
Monday, June 2: at Bristol, 5:45 p.m. (Muzzy)
Thursday, June 5: at Tri-Town (Litchfield), 5:45 p.m.
Sunday, June 8: at Thomaston, 9 a.m. (Thomason HS)
Thursday, June 12: at Wolcott, 7:45 p.m. (BAW Complex)
Sunday, June 15: BRASS CITY, 5
Sunday, June 22: WINSTED, 5
Tuesday, June 24: Thomaston, 6
Thursday, June 26: at Amenia, 7 (Doc Bartlett Field)
Sunday, June 29: at Tribury (Holy Cross, Waterbury), 1
Tuesday, July 1: LAKEVILLE, 6
Saturday, July 12: AMENIA, 1
Sunday, July 13: at Watertown, 5 (Deland Field)
Sunday, July 20: Naugatuck, 5
Wednesday, July 23: at Bethlehem, 6 (Gallup Field)
Saturday, July 26: at Terryville, 1 (old TV HS)