The hot stove league embers were flickering at Rutland’s Post 31 on Friday night and Reece de Castro was basking in the glow. de Castro picked up some prestigious awards and high praise from new Post 31 baseball coach Mike Howe at the team’s annual banquet.
de Castro was the recipient of the MVP honor, the Hustle Award and won the team batting title with a mark of .402.
“It is pretty fun watching Reece play. He is a very special player,” Howe said of the infielder/pitcher who is a member of the Castleton University baseball team.
Josh Beayon and Ben Simpson received the MVP Pitcher awards.
Alex Cornelius picked up the Bill Flory Coaches Award and the Most Improved Player accolade.
The Ray Murphy Defense Award went to Nate Hudson.
Griffin Briggs received the Rookie of the Year honor. The Ray Regimbald Sportsmanship honor went to Justin Aker.
Marcus McCullough and Cole Blanchard were each presented the Paul Terenzeni Dedication Award.
The Utility Player Award went to Ethan Coarse.
Beayon, Reilly Shannon and Luc Vitagliano were presented their awards for making the All-Tournament Team at the State Tournament hosted by the Colchester Cannons.
Sam Major and Jamie Briggs will be assisting Howe with the 2020 edition of Post 31 baseball.
Major was on Howe’s Otter Valley staff that won the Division II state championship this past season. Howe referred to Major as “a baseball guy.”
Tony Cirelli, a former baseball coach at Post 31, Mount St. Joseph Academy and Burr and Burton Academy, regaled the audience with stories of his own Legion baseball playing days for Herkimer Post 38 in central New York.
Cirelli was a member of the Post 38 team that captured the New York State championship and then won its first two games in the Northeast Regional in Warwick, Rhode Island, before bowing out and missing out on a trip to the American Legion World Series in Ely, Minnesota.
Honolulu, Hawaii won the ALWS that year. Sid Fernandez, who would pitch for the New York Mets, won two games for the Islanders in the ALWS.
The Mets also provided a storehouse of memories for Cirelli as he grew up in New York State and attended many games in Little Falls, New York, where the Mets had a minor league affiliate. Those Little Falls clubs boasted a number of future Mets, the most famous of which was Dwight Gooden, who won 197 major league games.
Cirelli’s father took the measurements of the in-ground dugouts at Little Falls Veterans Memorial Park and sent his son the dimensions. Cirelli and supporters of St. Peter’s Field, the home of Rutland Post 31, installed the dugouts that sit at St. Peter’s today to those specifications.
Cirelli told the crowd that during his stint as Post 31 coach from 2002 through 2008 “I gained a great appreciation for the Post.”
Cirelli paid tribute to all veterans and their service, asking them to stand and be recognized.
He also stressed to the Post 31 players their obligation as role models to younger players and fans watching them.
“You are always being watched,” he said, underscoring the importance of their decorum on the field.
Post 31 Athletic Director Ron Fairbanks encouraged players and parents to have an open dialogue with him and to come to him with any problems that might arise.
Longtime coach and former Vermont Legion Baseball commissioner Stub Sherman spoke about the dedication that Post 31 has always had to baseball.
Post 31 has the most state championship (15) of any post in the state.