By Johnny Maffei
After a successful summer in 2020, the Futures Collegiate Baseball League did not step off the gas this offseason as they added two new teams including the Vermont Lake Monsters.
The former Oakland Athletics affiliate was a victim of recent downsizing across Minor League Baseball and had to find a new solution to, simply put, exist. A familiar face then stepped up to the plate in Brockton Rox owner Chris English, who acquired the team and brought the FCBL to the Green Mountain State.
The Lake Monsters’ play their home games at Centennial Field in Burlington, VT. One night to mark on your calendar is “Hot Dog Hysteria” night where you can buy a hot dog for just 25 cents!
Not only did the league expand from six to eight teams, but they also extended their schedule to 68 games for each team, which helped recruit former MiLB teams.
Vermont will be coached by former Georgetown Hoyas skipper Pete Wilk. Wilk, a Rhode Island native, is excited for a summer up in Burlington. Despite being at the helm of the Hoya baseball program down in the nation’s capital from 1999 to 2020, he certainly knows a thing or two about summer baseball up in New England as he is a former assistant coach in the Cape Cod League and coached at Harvard University and Boston University before his time at Georgetown.
Wilk couldn’t start recruiting for this upcoming summer last August, which would fit a mainstream timeline, so with everything becoming official for the Lake Monsters late this past winter, it’s been a scramble for Wilk and Director of Baseball Operations Morgan Brown.
One unique thing about expansion teams is the player might have more experience in a league than some or all of his coaches and front office staff. This is the case for pitcher Leif Bigelow (University of Maine), who calls Guilford, VT home. Bigelow played for the Westfield Starfires in 2019 and is now representing his home state along with fellow Vermonters Owen Kellington (University of Connecticut) and Tom Vesovsky (University of Southern Maine).
Wilk will also be coaching a pair of Middlebury Panthers as pitcher Evan Stewart and catcher Mitch Schroeder are making the short drive up from school for the summer.
In addition to Schroeder behind the dish, Matt Deprey (Xavier University) and Ethan Firestone (University of Southern California) will show the ropes to incoming freshman backstops Tyler Favretto (Crowder College) and Ethan Anderson (University of Virginia).
Pitchers Joe Henry and M.T. Morrissey, infielder Pat DeSalvo and outfielder Andrew Bergeron are all reuniting with Wilk for the summer, as they were all either recruited by or played for the Lake Monsters manager during his last few years at Georgetown.
Bergeron, who just hit a walk-off single against Butler on May 20, is part of an outfield corps that Brown put together to “cover the big gaps at Centennial.”
Another storyline that cannot be ignored is five Ivy Leaguers making their 2021 debut after not having a season to play this spring. This group includes senior Tyler Fagler (Dartmouth College), who didn’t just miss this spring, but also what his Dartmouth Big Green had of a 2020 season and a lot of the 2019 spring due to injury.
FCBL Commissioner Joe Paolucci said in an interview with Back To The Futures that giving these Ivy Leaguers an opportunity to play “is what it’s all about.” He also noted how last summer, by being one of the only leagues to field a season, they “did a lot of right things by the players… this is what they were born to do.”
The FCBL certainly earned a reputation for giving kids opportunities last summer and are strengthening this reputation with the help of English, Lake Monsters Senior VP CJ Knudsen, and the rest of the organization and the league expanding for even more roster spots to be filled, innings to be thrown, at bats to be taken, and memories to be made all right near Lake Champlain in Burlington at Centennial Field with high expectations to be a pillar of summer baseball not just in the FCBL, but across the nation.