Valley Blue Sox boast mix of new, familiar faces as 2023 NECBL season set to begin

By HANNAH BEVIS 

Staff Writer 

Published: 06-06-2023 8:29 PM

As they prepare for the 2023 New England College Baseball League season, the Valley Blue Sox are relying on a mix of new and familiar faces to get through the summer grind.

The NECBL is a league that often features different players on the roster over the course of the summer, and the Blue Sox have just three players slated to return this year – pitcher Terry Murray, outfielder Antonio “AJ” Guerrero and catcher Kohtaro Shimada. However, the entire coaching staff is returning this season, including head coach Pedro Santiago and assistant coach Phil Guidrey, as are general manager Tyler Descheneaux and president and owner Matt Drury. 

Santiago and Guidrey spend all year coaching together – when they’re not with the Blue Sox, the pair are assistant coaches for the Elms College baseball team. The chemistry between the two makes working together a breeze, something that could give the Blue Sox a leg up in what is a shorter summer season. 

“I worked with him all year at Elms and we seem to be able to read each other's minds,” Guidrey said of Santiago. “Our philosophies have melded together. He coaches the right way and I just try to keep up with him.”

The coaching staff gets an idea of who’s coming into the team ahead of time and scouts ahead, but with injuries and roster changes, the opening day roster isn’t always what they expect. But regardless of who suits up for the team this season, they know they’re getting a high caliber of player. 

“I expect them to do some good things,” Santiago said. “They're still high level, regardless of who's coming in or not, best in the country and the best on their teams collectively, so they should do some really good things.” 

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Though he might miss some of the earlier games of the season, Guerrero is one of the players to watch for the Blue Sox. The outfielder came in during the middle of the summer last year and made an immediate impact offensively, finishing the year with a team-high .378 batting average. Guerrero plays with the University of Washington during the school year, and his team was just eliminated from the NCAA tournament during the regionals on Sunday. Once he arrives in Holyoke, he should pick up right where he left off. 

In the meantime, the newcomers will look to gel together quickly. 

“With summer ball, you're really just linking up with 40 random strangers for two months from all over the country. Everyone has the same goal to get to the next level, but really to just glue it together and play as a team, because it's hard to play as a team over the summer,” said Murray, who plays at Rhode Island College. “The teams that do gel together and have a great time and have fun, those are the teams that really succeed.” 

There are some new things this season that should pay immediate dividends. The biggest is an indoor facility that the team has access to, where they can throw and hit when the weather is less than ideal; it also has a weightlifting gymnasium that the team will be able to use.

For fans, the team is introducing an in-game radio headpiece that can be purchased for $15 that will broadcast the team’s radio broadcast without a delay. And of course, the team’s new logo and uniforms will be on full display this season after the team announced a re-brand during the offseason

The Blue Sox will open their season on the road against North Adams on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. before coming back to MacKenzie Stadium in Holyoke for a four-game homestand. The team’s home opener is set for Thursday against Bristol at 6:30 p.m. 

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