To say that 2010 was a disappointment for baseball would be an understatement, but 2011 brings a new spring with bright spots as well as challenges for what was once a dominant program.
The Hornets’ 9-11 record was the first under .500 in more than a decade and a far cry from the more than two dozen squads that have won Cape Ann League pennants during manager Frank Carey’s four decades coaching in North Reading.
Carey doesn’t want to use the “R” word (rebuilding), but with losing ace Ryan Warnock to graduation, the veteran coach realizes that what was once his team’s greatest strength is now a weakness that must be addressed if the Hornets are going to be in contention this season.
“In the past 10 years, I can probably say I’ve had eight All-League pitchers, and when you have that type of pitching it can carry a team, and to be sure, the pitchers I had last year weren’t All-League,” said Carey. “But right now, I don’t have any pitchers that have any varsity experience.”
And yet, Carey’s boys took the metamorphosis from touted juggernaut to scrappy underdog in stride, nearly pulling off another trip to the postseason last year until a late-May losing streak doomed their chances.
That mentality, the belief that any game can be won, will be crucial if the Hornets are going to show any signs of success in the 2011 campaign.
“Last year we were in every game except for two. With a base hit in the last inning in a few games, we could have been 14-6 very easily,” said Carey. “In that aspect, we were excellent in not laying down when we were down by a lot or up by a lot. There was a very good indication of perseverance.”
That tenacity was something not usually associated with North Reading baseball during the glory years of Carey’s reign, when the Hornets generally clobbered their opponents. But it appears that retaining that spirit will be the key this year.
That is something that may come easy to the longtime skipper, since he has generally put his focus on what his squad is thinking versus what might be on the minds of the other teams in the league.
“Over the years, I’ve never really preoccupied myself with other teams. I’ve always focused on my team,” said Carey. “Outside of two or three real standouts, I couldn't tell you who’s on the other teams, and to be honest with you, I don’t really care; I’m focused on getting my real ready to play.”
Returning seniors Bobby Rosano and Eric Maltacea will lead the Hornets into action as they open the season at home against Hamilton-Wenham on Tuesday.