By Jon Mettus
July 26, 2015
COTUIT —Trey McCall sat on the bench in the Kettleers dugout looking out at a dark Lowell Park. Some players came over to shake his hand, others received hugs, and all thanked him for his time with the team.
He emerged from the dugout and leaned his back up against fence in front it. Members of the organization and fans came over now to say their goodbyes. McCall met each one with a jolly voice and a smile.
“Thanks for everything, Coach,” someone shouted.
“Thank you,” he replied. “And good luck to you.”
After 21 games with the Kettleers this season, McCall’s tenure as assistant coach came to an end Sunday night with a win over Orleans.
“It’s always sad because you come here and Cotuit’s like family,” McCall said. “When you go home from here you miss that … You build a real love for this place and the people. It’s sort of sad to leave here.”
McCall was part of the coaching staff in 2013 — the last time the Kettleers won the championship. He couldn’t say no when Roberts asked him to come back.
Off the field, McCall is quiet, he admits, but in the dugout during games he seems to be the loudest one. “Battle now,” or some version of it, booms from the Kettleers bench several times each game in his thick southern accent.
When he speaks, the players listen, Roberts said, and he brings a great deal of maturity.
“When you’ve got players who have dreams and goals of the draft, he can communicate what that’s about and also what kind of player you need to be to be in that situation,” Roberts said. “I’ll struggle with him driving out the door in the morning.”
When McCall arrived on June 29 — late because he was coaching at Emory & Henry and teaching summer school — Cotuit was a 6-12 team that had lost seven of its last eight games. But now, the Kettleers have won two in a row and are half a game out of third place in the West.
But despite everything McCall may have taught the players on the field, he has other concerns.
“I’d rather they not say, ‘Boy, is he smart about baseball,'” McCall said. “I hope what I bring is (the knowledge that) you have to be in love with the game to succeed. You’ve got to be in love with it when you’re 0-for-4, when you’re the goat, when the press writes bad things about you.
“At the end of the day — whether you make it or whether you don’t — you’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror and the only way you can look in the mirror and say, ‘Man, I gave it my all’ is if you were in love with it. That’s what I hope they learned from me. It should be fun.
“You get to work the rest of your life. You get to wear this for just a short period of time,” McCall added, tugging at his Cotuit jersey.
After missing four games because of an injury, Branden Berry (Cal State Northridge) returned to the Kettleers lineup on Sunday. He started at first base, batting fourth, and went 1-for-2 with a single and two walks.
“He is a really good defensive first baseman,” Roberts said. “… It gives us a lot of confidence to have him back over there. I love watching him play. I told him, ‘There’s nothing better than a big dirt dog.’ And so I really like that and he is a big dirt dog.”
Prior to Cotuit’s loss to Chatham on July 21, Berry was hit in the head by a throw during infield/outfield drills. He attempted to backhand a throw that bounced to first, but it hit the lip of the grass and struck him in the side of the head.
Berry was removed from the lineup that day and didn’t play until being medically cleared on Sunday.
On one play in the fifth, Berry did a complete split to catch a long throw from Mike Paez (Coastal Carolina), preventing a leadoff infield single. On a similar play in the sixth, Berry picked the throw out of the dirt for a catch.
KETTLEERS HOLD 8 A.M. PRACTICE
Mike Roberts tries to go to church every Sunday. But this week, he had “church at the field.”
Roberts and his coaching staff held batting practice from 8 a.m. until about 11 a.m. on Sunday morning — a first in his 12 years as the head coach of Cotuit. Players hit in three different groups, each one lasting about an hour.
“I just felt like we were off yesterday with the All-Star game and that the weather was supposed to be nice and I felt like it was a good time to get all of the offensive players in,” Roberts said. “They came in with a marvelous attitude starting at 8 a.m. Even a couple of the guys asked for the earliest time.”
Roberts worked on each player’s swing and switched between using a pitching machine and pitching to the players himself. “Is there anything more beautiful than Lowell Park,” he exclaimed early on in the day.
“I had a lot of fun, I think the players did, all the coaches did and we wanted Coach McCall to work a full day his last day,” Roberts said with a laugh.