GEORGE STEVENS of the Red Sox avoids the tag of Met catcher Andy Theriault during action on Sunday in Wolfeboro. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
June 18, 2012CARROLL COUNTY — Before this summer, the last time Tom Zotti played organized baseball was so long ago that he doesn't even remember what year it was.
"My last organized baseball game was in Babe Ruth in either 1979 or 1980," said Zotti, who at 48 is the oldest player in the newly-formed Carroll County Men's League Baseball (CCMLB).
The CCMLB began play earlier this summer and features four teams playing games each Sunday at 4 p.m. at three fields around Carroll County. The league was formed by former Kingswood athlete Andy Arsenault, who had a desire to get back on the baseball diamond.
"I just wanted to play baseball and I wanted something in the Carroll County area," Arsenault said. "And I had a lot of friends who wanted to play too."
With leagues available on the Seacoast and in Concord, Arsenault knew the options were out there to play, but in December of last year, he decided to form a league a bit closer to home.
"I figured, why not start something around here?" Arsenault said. "It gives people the opportunity to come out and play baseball."
He noted that he pretty much stinks at golf, so getting a chance to play a sport he enjoys was a key factor in getting the league going.
Getting things started was a lot of work out of the gate, but Arsenault said he found a few people interested in coaching and the group started meeting every week to get the league up and running.
The league looked at other leagues and borrowed some ideas, but decided to do a few different things as well.
Instead of having team sponsors, the many local businesses that have stepped up to the plate sponsor the entire league. Each team wears replica uniforms from Major League teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers and Mets) and the teams for the first season were chosen following tryouts and a draft.
Arsenault said the draft was a pretty cool event as well, as coaches were put on the clock and more than 30 players showed up. The picks were posted on the league's Web site (www.ccmlb.net) live so those unable to make the draft could see where they were heading.
To date, the season is five weeks old, but each team has played only four games, as the games on June 3 were rained out. The league plays every Sunday up until Aug. 5, and the top three teams make the playoffs on Aug. 11 and 12.
"It's going pretty smoothly," Arsenault said. "And there's been quite a few e-mails from people wanting to jump in."
While the rosters can not be added on to during the season, Arsenault is hopeful that the folks who have shown interest as the season has worn on will be coming around next year so the league roster can expand and possibly add some teams.
"I think there's going to be a lot of interest next season," Arsenault said. "Hopefully we'll be able to add a couple more teams."
Zotti, who in his "real life" serves as the Deputy Fire Chief in Wolfeboro, had been playing some pickup softball games and had been looking around for a softball league somewhere.
And then, like it seemingly does with everything these days, Facebook came into play. One of Zotti's friends "liked" the league's Facebook page and he checked it out.
Admittedly, Zotti was a bit apprehensive, concerned about what the competition would be like.
"If there was going to be college kids throwing 95 under my chin, it was not going to work," Zotti said.
And while there are college players on numerous teams, including former Kingswood players David Hersey and Casey Reed, Zotti has absolutely enjoyed his time getting back into baseball.
"Number one, it's fun," Zotti said. "Number two, everybody I've seen is having fun.
"If everyone's attitude is out to have fun, then I'm there," he said. "And so far it's been a blast."
After years of hitting slow softball pitching, Zotti said it took him a while to get adjusted to the speed again, but time in the batting cage has paid off, as he continues to contribute to his team, the Mets.
"I've had to spend a little time in the batting cage, but once I've gotten a better handle on slowing things down, I am putting the bat on the ball," Zotti said.
He said his teammates have been willing to help him out, as they get together during the week and get in some batting practice, which is helpful as he gets acclimated to the speed of the pitching.
"If I see live pitching or batting practice, I feel pretty good," Zotti said.
The league follows basically the same rules as Major League Baseball. There is no DH, but teams can bat an extra batter if they so choose, allowing another person to bat. Managers are urged to get every player into the field and a plate appearance. The league uses wooden bats and is open to anyone who is 18 years of age or older as of the start of tryouts.
For Arsenault, who plays for the Red Sox, the league has made Sundays a lot more fun.
"I look forward to every Sunday personally," he said. "Just getting the feeling of competition again, that used to be my favorite feeling."
The Carroll County Men's League Baseball plays at 4 p.m. each week (this Sunday, June 24, features a doubleheader, starting at 1 p.m.) and games are played at the new Kingswood baseball field in Wolfeboro, at the Wakefield Ballparks on Route 153 in Wakefield and at the Brett School field in Tamworth village.
The Brewers are managed by Eric Goldblatt, the Mets are managed by Bob Theriault, the Red Sox are managed by Joseph Duchesne and the Yankees are managed by Bob King.
The team rosters, standings and schedules can be found on the league's Web site at www.ccmlb.net.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 569-3126