Coach Mark Baldwin, Northampton looking forward to baseball season

  • Aidan Chapdelaine, of Northampton, hits a single during a scrimmage against Smith Voke, Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at Northampton High School. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tucker Scott, right, of Smith Voke, fields a hit from Aidan Chapdelaine, of Northampton, as Devin Kellogg advances to second during a scrimmage Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at Northampton High School. Aidan Pike stands at second to take the throw. Both players were safe. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Friday, April 13, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — On one of the first days of spring that saw the temperature rise above 45 degrees, the Northampton baseball team took the field for a preseason practice. As the players warmed up in the outfield, coach Mark Baldwin was loosening up his arm along the third baseline with assistant coach Scott Savino.

It wasn’t anything new for Baldwin. He is in his 20th season at Northampton High and he is approaching his 200th win for the Blue Devils. But, he doesn’t seem to think that is a big deal.

“It just means that I’m getting old,” Baldwin joked.

Despite the quip, it’s clear that Baldwin has been doing something right. He has 190 wins for Northampton and 240 in his career. He has earned the trust of his players and coaches.

“He’s definitely a character. He knows how to rile you up, but you know, he’s always your friend,” shortstop Devin Kellogg said.

Assistant coach Scott Savino has been with the team for 10 seasons. Savino, the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association 2016 Assistant Coach of the Year, received a lot of praise from Baldwin, and Savino was complementary of Baldwin as well.

“He is probably one of the best teaching coaches I’ve ever been around,” Savino said. “He really has a full knowledge of the game.”

These two elements, the knowledge of the game and his ability to connect with players, was on display at practice.

For most of the session, Baldwin spent time instructing players on how to properly execute a rundown, how to properly turn on a double play, and how to focus on hitting balls to the opposite field. Baldwin offered constructive criticism while occasionally joking around with the players. There was this exchange between Baldwin and a pitcher during a pickoff drill.

“Sorry coach, I forgot there was a man on third.”

“Yes, that would be the ‘third’ part of the first-and-third drill.”

That elicited a chuckle from the team, and the pitcher as well. They all know that the humor and criticism is just part of the coach’s style.

“We enjoy it. It’s not like the usual coach. He gets fired up and that’s what we want. We want a coach that’s emotional and fired up,” Kellogg said.

Senior pitcher Andy Grygorcewicz agreed.

“Some coaches don’t really know how to put it, and he’s really good with constructive criticism and helping you get better as a player,” he said.

Baldwin doesn’t like to take much credit. He is quick to deflect attention to other members of the squad. He spoke highly of Savino and mentioned the work of junior varsity coach Ryan Parent, who has been with the Northampton program for most of Baldwin’s time with the team. But most of all, Baldwin spoke highly of the players.

“We win games when we have good players,” Baldwin said. “Coaches can’t really win you games. They can kind of only lose them sometimes, and we’ve had good players. It’s really about them.”

Following a rash of weather-related postponements, Northampton (2-0) is scheduled to play its third game, Saturday at 2 p.m. Hampshire Regional. As the regular season slowly gets started, Baldwin is optimistic. Northampton has a senior class with a lot of talent and Baldwin has one goal on his mind: He wants to win. Not for himself, but for the players.

“We’re all excited about the season,” he said. “Our expectation is that we should be pretty good.”