New and higher ceilings should prevent the abundant netting “base hits” of past. This feature will also allow RBI and HR leader, Dave O’Grady, and other power hitters to flourish during the winter season. The facilities size will allow for three simultaneous games supporting a longer regular season and help keep player fees down. Tyngsboro Sports Center is equipped with concessions right outside of the field’s enclosure for convenience. These concessions include but are not limited to; candy, pizza, hot dogs, water, Gatorade, soda and even beer. It remains to be seen if the addition of alcohol will affect game play but I know a certain GM in Flushing Pond as well as a two time first round pick free agent who may have thoughts on the matter.
Other topics of contention are the “Mock Draft” and drafting strategies in general. What was considered a weak draft class early on continuous to see the addition of exciting players and new unknowns. Greig Guluzian was the latest addition and is sure to be on every GM’s radar after his championship performance just a few months ago. As the only returning player from the Billerica Beasts, Greig comes in with high expectations and will look to improve upon his impressive rookie season. Other notable additions are Tadd LeRocque, Steve Buchanan and Paul Sramowicz. These NEAWL Rookies will be unknowns coming into the draft but all have Wiffle experience. Tadd and Steve include pitching in their drafting reports which may make them early first round selections on November 21st. The Cheifs, Tribe, Butter Tongues and Bassholes should all be looking to bolster their pitching rotations this season and the Cheifs are in the best position to do so with that first overall pick. Lowell GM Jon Gryckiewicz has tough decisions ahead but will likely target Mike Thompson, David O’Grady or take a chance on a rookie pitcher. Mike Thompson was favored to receive the first overall selection but reports of a shoulder injury make him a risk for clubs that desperately need a pitcher.
The Worcester Weemen look to rebound from their disappointing summer season and have a great foundation to do so. The late addition of Kirk Monbleau last season is a giant leap in the right direction but also keeps GM Amidon’s options open in the draft. The Weemen will enjoy the rare luxury of not needing to pull an additional pitcher into the rotation. This makes David O’Grady a natural fit for the squad if he slips past the number 1 pick. Division rival Bay State Butter Tongues are the polar opposite of this situation. GM Matt Mullen loses League MVP and starting pitcher Nick O’Keefe to the Woonsocket Nockers. Mullen further suffers as the number two in his rotation, Kyle DeFrancesco, will not return, leaving Mullen without a franchise player entering the season. Mullen struck gold a year ago by selecting an unknown in the draft and may hope to repeat with his mid first round pick.
The Leagues newest expansion team, The Nockers, enter the NEAWL as instant contenders. O’Keefe may be a rookie GM but comes off an MVP season giving himself both a great batter and ace. The Nockers league acquisition, Dave Niemanszyk, looked to be no slouch in pre-season action earlier this year. The Woonsocket club inherit Billerica’s last pick in the first round but likewise receive the first pick in round 2. It is unlikely O’Keefe will be able to add pitching in this position but comes into the draft with a strong base and may only need to add situational players. Question mark of the bones division will continue to be the XL Tribe. The Tribe were a surprise in the franchises first season and hoped to fill some holes in their game during the draft. Tribe head honcho Phil Naylor was sidelined by serious illness recently but is optimistic about the up coming season claiming "I need to lead my team to victory, it's my breakout season!!!". Even with the Tribe on the mend look for the Weemen and Nockers in Bones divisional championship.
The Grenade division is more likely to finish out in the same fashion it did this Summer. Defending Divisional Champs, Flushing Pond Bassholes, franchised Tim McGeown who shared innings with Michael Thompson last season. Both GM Dave Sullivan and McGeown will enjoy the high ceilings in Tyngsboro and hope to continue to be an offensive force in the league. Division runner up, Nashoba Valley Sasquatch, keeps their number one and two pitchers but lose bullpen depth as O’Grady’s franchise tag expires. With the sixth overall pick in the draft they likely look to pick up a fielder who can service in the batters box as well. Blaze number one pitcher Devin Amidon announced his return just before the franchise deadline, much to the delight of GM Mike Taft. This puts the Blaze is a great position to improve with the number 3 pick. Taft himself pitched a no-hitter last season and has proven to be an adequate number 2. The Blaze may pick up a pitcher to add depth or as a bargaining chip in trade talks later on. While the Chief’s are expected to improve this year I still like Nashoba Valley and Flushing Pond in the divisional play offs. Burlington Blaze should be considered a serious Dark Horse and could knock of either of the other top dogs.
- Commissioner Anderson