Around the Horn
---- — LYNN — Salem High junior Anthony Halle has been through a lot in the last two years, and some of his memories at the ball park have faded.
This summer, he’s getting the chance to make a million new ones.
The North Shore Navigators of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League have signed Halle, 16, to be part of the team this summer through Team Impact, a non-profit group that pairs kids facing illness with sports teams.
Halle had the majority of a softball-sized tumor removed from his brain in June of 2011. He had some complications after surgery and still has some weakness and paralysis in his left hand that prevents him from playing baseball.
Sitting with Navs manager Jon Cahill and general manager Bill Terlecky at Frasier Field on Sunday night, looking at his Navs cap, jersey and a nameplate that will hang over his locker in the clubhouse, Halle felt thrilled to have the chance to get back in a dugout.
“I’m really excited,” said Halle. “When everything was happening, I kind of pulled away from baseball. Some of my memories are pretty hazy. It’s pretty exciting to be able to get back involved.”
Halle played second base and spent part of his life in Florida and Nevada before moving back to his native Salem when he was in ninth grade. After his surgery to treat Astrocytoma, a cancer of the brain, he spent weeks in physical and occupational therapy learning to walk again.
In doing so, the youngster is already making an impression on his future Navigator teammates.
“I don’t know what I’d do if someone told me I wouldn’t be able to play ball again,” said Justin Peluso, a Navs infield who gradauted from St. John’s Prep and plays for Wheaton. “Anthony’s fight and determination through his rehab really inspsired me.”
Joined by enthusiastic siblings, including a brother that plays second, short and pitches in Salem Little League, at Sunday’s event, Halle counts Alex Rodriguez as his favorite big league player, though his favorite team is the Red Sox.
What his his favorite part of being part of a baseball team?
“I liked hanging out at the field. I like getting to know the guys on the team, being with friends,” he said. “And I liked the winning.”
Halle hopes that he can be a baseball coach someday, and being around high level college players with the Navs and being part of Cahill’s braintrust can only help him learn the game from a coach’s point of view.
“I know our guys are looking forward to the opportunity to play this great game with Anthony and really put some things in perspective,” said Cahil, a standout at Peabody High and UMass-Lowell who is an assistant at Endciott and is entering his first season as Navs manager.
“I’ve been getting e-mails from guys that I haven’t even met yet talking about Anthony and how they’re already looking to him up, probably as much or more than he looks up to them.”
The Navigators play their home games at Frasier Field in Lynn and travel all over New England for FCBL contests. They went 32-20 last season, falling in the FCBL Finals against Nashua, and have a host of locals on the roster including Peluso, Peabody’s Joey Gruntkosky, Lynn’s Kyle Devin and Kyle Gauthier, and draw high-level college players from as far away as Florida, California and Texas.
“Growing up on the North Shore, watching when the North Shore Spirit played at Frasier, I always wanted to play there,” said Peluso. “Having Anthony at Frasier this summer will be great; He can be part of the game we all love in a special way.”
Team Impact has helped connect a number of area teams with kids, including the Salem State hockey team and the Endicott baseball team. The North Shore baseball club and Halle seem like a perfect match.
“He’ll experience why we all love being around the ballpark. He’ll have all the same privleges as our players,” said Terlecky. “It’s great to be able to help him get back where he wants to be, and there’s no lack of things to do at the park that’s for sure.”
Few players have been as strong in the seventh inning as Bishop Fenwick senior Brian Burke, who is getting it done late with both his bat and his pitching arm. Besides soem go-ahead hits adn homers, Burke has been saving games for the Crusaders, who are 8-2 and an impressive 4-0 in games decided by two runs or fewer.
“The way its worked out, Brian has settled into our closer role and that’s been great because it was between him and Gianni Esposito, our catcher,” said Fenwick coach Kevin Canty. “Its funny because a lot of the damage Brian is doing is helped by Gianni hitting in front of him and getting on base.“Brian is very good handling the bat. He does a great job controlling the head of that bat and he has rare power to the opposite field.”
Swampscott began the season 1-5 but has opened some eyes by winning three of their last four, all in Northeastern Conference play where the Big Blue are 4-4. They’ve beaten some solid competition with wins over Lynn English and Marblehead, though they’ll have to play well to keep it going with games against the likes of Peabody and Lynn Classical upcoming.
“We’re in a much better place than when we started,” said first-year coach Jason Calichman. “We’re starting to do things the right way and we’re starting to compete. These guys all want to do well and they want to compete.”
Al Wallach has been a great pitching find for Swampscott and the return of Trevor Massey (12 strikeouts against Salem Monday) gives the Big Blue a solid 1-2 punch. They also have a rock behind the dish in Ryan January.
Plan to get to tonight’s super showdown between Peabody and Danvers on time. First pitch is slated for 6:30 at the Twi Field and based on the way both teams have pitched and played defense you have to expect a quickly paced, crisp game.
The Tanners will certainly throw ace Pat Ruotolo, who’s yet to allow a run this season. Danvers could come with Ray Arocho, who’s had some success against Peabody in the past, or submarining Brandon Hyde; they’re both lefties with good moves to first that will be crucial against Peabody’s running game.
The teams enter tonight with a combined 20 game winning streak. Danvers is perfect at 11-0 and Peabody (10-1) has won nine straight. They are also the lone remaining unbeatens in NEC play, so there will only be one club capable of running the table in the league after tonight.
The Falcons have won three of the five meetings between the teams and each of the games has been decided by two runs or fewer.¢¢¢
Around the Horn, a column on North Shore high school baseball, appears in The Salem News every Wednesday during the spring sports season. Contact assistant sp
rots editor Matt Williams at 978-338-2669, MWilliams@salemnews.com and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN. #StrikeOutALS.