New season for old field leader
By Mal Boright
Some 12 players are gone from the 2012 Vermont Division 1 baseball champions, but the 2013 edition of Champlain Valley Union High’s unit will be getting veteran direction from behind the plate.
Senior catcher and tri-captain Kirk Fontana will once more be calling the pitches and handling all the other brainy duties for which catchers, the only one of nine defensive players who can see the entire field, are uniquely suited.
“He will control the field,” said head coach Tim Albertson of his senior receiver. “Kirk will continue to run the infield, call pitches and the defense. He should be a good leader.”
After a series of scrimmages, the Redhawks open the season next Thursday (April 18), with Route 116 neighbor Mount Abraham Union of Bristol coming to Hinesburg.
Monday afternoon, Fontana and no doubt all teammates were hoping to get into the sunshine and swing some bats.
“We have been outside a couple of times but we have not hit yet,” he said.
Now in his third varsity year, Fontana said he has taken a shine to catching since being shown the ropes by admired uncle Mario Fontana, who was a catcher.
“He taught me about catching. I always looked up to him,” the Redhawk backstop recalled. “Blocking was a big thing.”
In this case, it is blocking pitches in the dirt, where these days, as Fontana acknowledged, many curve balls bounce given the pitching culture of keeping everything low, low, low.
Working with pitchers means effectively communicating with various personalities, often in stressful moments.
“All pitchers are different,” Fontana said. “I have to know how their pitches break and what pitches they are comfortable throwing in different situations.”
Last year, Fontana teamed with hurler Curt Echo, who was masterful in pitching CVU through the playoffs and into the championship game, where he blanked Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans. Echo is flinging strikes this spring for St. Michael’s College.
Though Echo is gone, Fontana feels good about the pitching staff for the new season.
Big, hard-throwing Davis Mikell, a senior tri-captain, is back and can start or close. Dylan Ireland, the third tri-captain, is another veteran chucker, along with Rayne Supple. And there are others.
“Our pitchers have gotten stronger over the winter and are throwing very well,” Fontana observed.
Looking ahead, he added that this is a team that can throw the ball.
“This can be a good year,” he said.
For Fontana, it was a quick turnaround from hockey, where his Redhawks went to the Division 1 championship game, and the start of baseball. But no problem. Having baseball start right away, he agreed, was better than climbing the walls when one season ends and there is a time lapse before the next one gets underway.
Count Fontana among those players and coaches who believe there are not enough games in the Vermont high school schedule. But starting Thursday next, they will take them one at a time.