By Matt Williams
---- — Scott Hovey would’ve gladly played his college baseball anywhere. As a New England native, though, he knows there’s something special about playing close to home, and the unique challenges Northeast baseball schools face.
A senior-to-be at the Salisbury School from Danvers, Hovey gave a verbal commitment to pitch reasonably close to home at the University of Massachusetts late last week.
“I’m really excited that my parents and my little sister will be able to watch me play,” said Hovey. “I’ve always wanted to go to a big, Division 1 school with a big campus and lots of sports, and that’s what UMass is. They also have my planned major, sports management, and they’re ranked in the top 10 in the country for that.”
A two-time Northeastern Conference all-star at Danvers High, Hovey transferred to Salisbury to repeat his junior year for 2012-13. He’s grown a bit since his NEC days, now standing 6-foot-2 at 215 pounds, and has added a few miles per hour to his fastball.
He also garnered attention from college scouts while playing for Steve Lomasney’s Show Baseball Academy team, which has traveled to New Jersey and Georgia among other locales, for tournaments this summer.
“I had a pretty wide slate of options, and it kind of came down to UMass, Quinnipiac, Holy Cross, George Mason, Albany and William and Mary as the big ones,” Hovey said. “UMass saw me throw really well in a game for Salisbury, and I went for a visit in June. I loved the coaches and the facilities right away, and they made an offer after a Show game last weekend. I took a day but I knew that’s what I was leaning towards.”
Mike Stone has been coaching UMass baseball for 26 years and has recruiting a number of North Shore prospects over the years. In Hovey, he’s getting a power pitcher whose fastball tops out in the 87-89 mile per hour range. He’s the type of hurler that attacks the strike zone and isn’t afraid to challenge hitters, and he says the extra year at Salisbury helped him hone his off-speed stuff.
“That’s been my biggest improvement,” Hovey said. “The lifting program I’ve been on has helped me be more flexible and loose, and I’ve been doing something to get better everyday. It’s been a general maturity thing, learning how to throw different pitches in different counts, and how to control the strike zone.”
Hovey pitched and played both corner infield spots for coach John Toffey at Salisbury. He helped the team win the Western New England title, homering in the playoff semifinals, as the Knights finished 22-1. Salisbury had significant talent, including Georgetown’s Ryley MacEachern, who was drafted by the Phillies.
“We had probably five or six legitimate Division 1 players just in the junior class, so any given game a different school was there to see one of us, and they’d see us all,” said Hovey. “The baseball team at Salisbury went to Florida in March, we played 10 games down there with a lot scouts and against a lot of talented prep schools from other parts of the country.”
Hovey also played defensive end for the Knights football team, who completed a perfect 9-0 season last fall and won the Jack Etter Bowl was one of the NEPSAC New England champions.
“My coach jokes that I’m a baseball player with a football mentality,” said Hovey. “I think academically Salisbury is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The academic structure has been great for me. All the teachers and coaches are very helpful and I’ve met a lot of people from all over the country and really been able to broaden my horizons.”
Also thankful to his dad for always finding new avenues to help him improve, Hovey is looking forward to trying to help the Knights win two more New England titles in football and baseball as a senior. In the distant future, he’s hoping to one day get the chance to pitch at Fenway Park for UMass in the Baseball Beanpot.
“Being a Division 1 pitcher is incredible to think about,” he said. “Everything has really worked out for me and I’m pretty grateful for that.”