Lori Riley: Plenty Of Needling Before Enfield Baseball Reunion Festivities – Hartford Courant
Brian Riley was the shortstop for the Enfield baseball team that won its last nine games to qualify for the state tournament. That was in 1994.
Freddy Medina was the pitcher who won a school-record 38 games for Enfield and helped the Raiders to the 2001 Class L championship game against Staples, where they lost 6-3. Riley helped coach that team.
Nobody knows exactly when the trash-talking started, maybe a few years after that. Riley, who now lives in Arizona, maintained the 1994 team was better.
Come on, Medina would say, everybody knows the 2001 team was the best.
They talked about having a reunion game but it never happened. Riley created a Facebook page, tracking down Enfield baseball alumni.
Then last year, it did happen. And Riley was vindicated. The 1994 team won, 7-3.
A year later, there are 88 players involved. There was a draft. On Aug. 5, there will be four Enfield baseball alumni teams – with the 1994 and 2001 teams mixed in – playing in “The Battle of Powder Hollow” at Powder Hollow Park.
Medina, now 32, and Jay Gaucher, the pitcher for the 1994 team who now coaches the Enfield baseball and girls basketball teams, were at Powder Hollow Friday. Naturally, there was a little trash talk.
“There was no way a team that was .500 was better than the 2001 team,” Medina said.
“But last year we were,” said Gaucher, who is 40. “We were in a little better shape. Who won the game?”
“The ’94 team,” Medina said.
“Who was the winning pitcher?”
“Gaucher, right here.”
“Who was the losing pitcher?”
“Umm…” Medina had to think about it.
“Medina,” Gaucher said.
“Was I the losing pitcher?”
“Yes, you were.”
“I gave up one hit, no earned runs and we lost,” Medina said. “We had no defense. We didn’t show up ready. We were like, ‘These old 40-year-old guys? Come on. How many hip replacements and knee replacements are going to be on the field?’ They showed up, man. We looked pretty bad.”
They both laughed. Riley may not want to admit it but Gaucher will: the 2001 team, the first one to reach the state final in the 103-year history of the Enfield baseball program, was the best.
“We did prove our point,” Riley said. “2001 was a phenomenal team. I have so much respect for that. But the competitor in me says we’ll beat them now and we’ll beat them in 10 years. I think we can beat them any day of the week if we have Gaucher on the mound.”
The tournament may have been the brainchild of Riley but it’s a tribute to former Enfield baseball coach and current East Granby coach Bob Bromage, who coached at Enfield for 39 years starting in 1967. Players from all the eras will be back, including Randy Ladd, who played on Bromage’s first team. Ladd is 67 years old, lives in Wellfleet, Mass., and is still a catcher in an over-30 league on the Cape.
Bromage drafted him for his team. Ladd will catch for Medina, who was the top pick in the draft, which was broadcast live on Facebook.
“Bromage drafts me and Freddy goes, ‘Oh, good, we finally got a catcher,'” Ladd said. “Bromage is sitting there with that grin on his face. Freddy says, ‘What year?’ Bromage said, ‘1967.’ Freddy’s eyes just bulge out of his head. ‘What? He’s older than my father. He’s older than my grandfather.‘
“I instant-messaged Freddy right away. I told him, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll have my walker with me to get out to the mound.'”
In his 30s, Ladd was a bullpen catcher for a senior league in Florida; he caught for Cincinnati’s Jack Armstrong, who was the starting pitcher in the All-Star Game in 1990, and helped Mets reliever Neil Allen, now the Twins pitching coach, during a rehabilitation stint.
“I did an incredible amount of catching,” Ladd said. “Because of that, catching Freddy, or in the league I’m in now, is easy. What’s hard is running.”
He hasn’t been back to Enfield in 50 years. He’s looking forward to the reunion.
Brad Tweedlie, a 1990 Enfield graduate who was drafted by the Reds in 1993, still lives in Enfield but hasn’t pitched in years after rotator cuff surgery and a torn labrum. He and his wife own a landscaping business in town.
“I started throwing maybe six months ago and my arm feels good,” said Tweedlie, 45, who played in Double A ball for the Red Sox in the late 90s. “I hadn’t played in forever. I told Bromage I’m in. It’s going to be interesting. These are people I haven’t seen in 20-25 years.”
Medina came to Enfield from Hartford as a Project Choice student. He had played AAU baseball, but he wasn’t ready for Bromage’s tough love approach.
“I had some rough edges,” said Medina, a 2003 Enfield High graduate who lives in Manchester. “I had to learn respect quick. He was hard on me. He wanted me in shape. He wanted me to compete.
“It was like family with him. He was one of the best coaches I played for. Brom was always a call away, anything I was going through in life. He always had words of wisdom, put you in the right direction. At first when he came there: ‘Why is this guy always on my case?’ I became part of this community, the Raider family.”
The championship game in 2001, Medina remembered, was tough: he pitched a no-hitter through the sixth inning. He hit a home run. But Enfield lost.
“I can still throw,” he said. “I’m a little heavy but I can still throw.”
Gaucher: “He’s Bartolo Colon now.”
Medina: “Yeah, Bartolo Colon.”
Gaucher: “Who was the guy who used to pitch for the Red Sox? Rich Garces? El Guapo? We called him that last year.”
Medina: “I went 2-for 3, I just want to throw that out there…”
Gaucher: “You did go 2-for-3, but he couldn’t get past first base because he couldn’t run to second.”
“The one inning, I think he paid off the umpires because the strike zone got the size of a stamp,” Gaucher said.
“We have the same crew,” Medina said.
“No!” Gaucher said. “I’m like, ‘Hey, Freddy, can you tell them this is an alumni game for fun?'”