ANDY THERIAULT (left) and Tad Skelley have spent the summer running the Brockton Rox.
Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
August 14, 2017BROCKTON, Mass. — To say Tad Skelley and Andy Theriault are dedicated to their job might be an understatement. In fact, as the summer comes to a close, the two found themselves sleeping on air mattresses in a suite in a baseball stadium in southern Massachusetts.
Baseball has always been in the blood for both of them. Growing up, they played in local leagues and then moved on to Kingswood Regional High School. Skelley finished his high school career at Holderness School.
Not wanting to leave the game behind, both young men have progressed into coaching, with Skelley serving as an assistant coach at Northwestern University and Theriault serving as the head coach of the Brewster Academy baseball team.
This summer, however, the two paired up to lead the Brockton Rox of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League to the top regular season record in the league. A few hours before the team's final regular season home game of the season on Sunday, Aug. 6, Theriault and Skelley took a few minutes to talk about their experiences this summer.
"We have a really good group of kids," Skelley said. "I wasn't shocked (that they had the best record), but it's not easy to get there."
The roster features more than 30 kids who are culled from colleges and universities across the country. Over the course of the season, the team has had close to 50 players come through the clubhouse.
Skelley was hired as the team's manager last fall and three weeks later he brought Theriault on board. While they have a couple of local assistant coaches, they handle most everything on their own.
"It's been the two of us, we're a two-man crew," Skelley said. "We do everything."
Over the course of the school year, they talked to college coaches from around the country and got a feel for a bunch of kids that they wanted to bring on board.
Skelley said his coaches at Northwestern thought that managing in Brockton would be a great experience for him.
"So they gave me the summer to come out and do this," he said.
Skelley noted that a friend of his coached at Brockton a couple of years ago and recommended it to him.
"A lot of guys have done this for a summer or two," Skelley noted.
However, both former Knights came to the realization that they would be dealing with things a bit differently in Brockton than in their regular coaching gigs. The Rox owner uses a unique pitching program that essentially uses two starters each game. Once the starter gets through the lineup twice, he is replaced by another pitcher. If it's in the middle of the inning, a reliever, what Skelley and Theriault call a "fireman" will come in and finish the inning and then a new starter will come into the game to start the next inning.
The duo said that they had to get used to the situation and in the process bring along a lot of arms for the season. It was also an adjustment for many of the kids.
"For a lot of the college kids, they're used to throwing one game a week," Theriault said. "Now they're essentially in a five-man rotation so they have to get used to throwing twice a week."
When he was hired, Skelley knew he wanted someone familiar with him on the bench and his thoughts went to his Kingswood friend.
"I wanted someone I could trust and someone I knew was going to work hard," Skelley said. "I immediately though of Andy.
"I knew he'd have my back and support me," he continued. "And I knew Andy knows the game."
For his part, Theriault was surprised and excited by his friend's offer.
"I was shocked," Theriault said. "It was a good opportunity, I'm super thankful Tad reached out."
Theirault was also excited for the opportunity the job presented for Skelley.
"I'm really, really happy for him," Theriault said. "And I wanted to work hard for him.
"I know how hard he works and I want to see him be successful," he added.
Theriault also pointed out that coming to Brockton could only benefit his Brewster team.
"For sure, I thought it would be something I could bring back to Brewster," Theriault said. "We're trying to get kids to collegiate baseball, so to be around it, I hope I can bring stuff back that can help us to be successful and help my players make the jump to college."
The coaches' familiarity was important since they didn't know any of the kids coming in, but both guys were sure the work was going to be put in by them and in turn, by the team, which they believed would lead to success.
"I felt like we were going to outwork everyone in the league at the end of the day and that's all we could control," Skelley said. "It's such a short time frame to build trust.
"You're trying to get kids to trust you and believe in you in just two weeks," Skelley continued, noting there were 56 games in two months.
The season began on June 1 and the regular season wrapped on Aug. 6, with the Rox finishing as the top team in the east division and as the team with the top record overall in the league, earning the Rox the top seed in the playoffs and a bye in the first round of the six-team tournament.
Both coaches thanked their wives for being so understanding of their pursuit of their love of baseball. Theriault's wife Corey and Skelley's wife Josie are both in the Wolfeboro area while their husbands toiled away in Brockton.
"We're very fortunate," Theriault said. "Corey told me that she'd kick me out of the house if I didn't take the opportunity."
Theriault said he is hoping to simply follow in the footsteps of the coaches who helped him along the way, starting with his father, Bob, and moving through local youth leagues and middle school and on to coaches Chip Skelley and Bill Rollins at Kingswood.
"I've always been blessed with guys who are coaching for the right reasons," Theriault said. "That really rubbed off on me.
"Hopefully I took something from everyone who impacted me that I'm going to take back," Theriault added.
And they continued their hard work into the playoffs, though admitting at times it doesn't feel like work at all.
"But it doesn't really feel like work," Skelley said.
As for the sleeping on air mattresses in the stadium, the two coaches had a pretty good reason.
They booked an Air BnB for June and July but that ran out at the end of July so they had to find a new place and found themselves in the air-conditioned comfort of one of Campanelli Stadium's suites.
Being dedicated to the job and working hard every day seems to be the recipe for success for these two former Knights.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 279-4516, ext. 155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.