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AMATEUR BASEBALL

National pastime in Afghanistan t

Amateur player keeps game alive while serving as Army specialist in Afghanistan

Brett Rudy

Photo courtesy of Kevin Bell

W

hat are you thankful for this holiday season?” It’s a question asked quite often this time of year. Of course, we’re all thankful for friends and family. But this year especially, I’m appreciative for what our troops continue to do overseas as they fight for our freedom back home. Perhaps that is because one guy I’ve played baseball with for seven years was noticeably missing this past season. Kevin Bell, affectionately known as “K-Bell,” has played in the Boston Men’s Adult Baseball League since 2004. He began his amateur career with the Quincy Grays, swapped to the Boston Orioles in 2006, and found a home with the Boston Blue Jays in 2009. This past season, even though he was still

listed on the Jays’ roster, K-Bell missed the entire baseball season to serve as a specialist in the U.S. Army, a firefighter with the 530th Engineer Detachment stationed at Forward Operating Base Sakari Karez, outside of Kandahar, Afghanistan. The U.S. Army always has been a part of K-Bell’s life. At the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Kevin’s father, Tim, already had served 20 years in the Army. Bell was a freshman at Brockton High School, where he tossed three no-hitters for the Boxers and was heavily recruited to play baseball for Boston College. He turned down this collegiate baseball opportunity and others to start a family and stay with them at home. Today, K-Bell is 6,579 miles

from home, and a world away from his wife, Abby; his 6-yearold daughter, Kaylee; and his 2-year-old son, Zack. His father also is home, having just retired from the service one month before his deployment. It is only fitting that if Kevin isn’t throwing smoke in the MABL, he’s putting out fires in Afghanistan. Kevin explained via Facebook Chat: “Other than playing for the Red Sox, becoming a fireman was just one of those childhood dream jobs that I’ve always had my heart set on doing,” he wrote. “The Army was an easy decision with my Dad having served for 27 years.” In the desert, Kevin and his seven-man unit are first responders in charge of reacting

24   New EnglanD BASEBALL JOURNAL  November-December 2011

to whatever happens on the airfield, ranging from containing chemical spills to putting out fuel fires to medical emergencies. Through it all, Kevin is thankful for his family and baseball. “I follow Jays games and headlines on the website, and I still keep in touch with all the guys on Facebook and through email,” he wrote. “I do still feel

Care packages Those wishing to send care packages to Spc. Kevin Bell may ship to: SPC Kevin Bell 530th EN DET (firefighters) FOB Sarkari Karez APO AE 09313

Kevin Bell (center) recruited fellow New Englanders and members of his 530th Engineer Detachment, including (from left) Joey Blais, Rusty Chesanek, Chris Elliott and Mike Bellizzi to play ball. like part of the team. The guys all keep in touch and send me random messages just to see how I am doing out here.” K-Bell added: “Baseball and family gets our minds off the obvious. Going out and throwing the ball around is a real good stress reliever. That and keeping in touch with my family since we’re not with them to help out with anything that goes on back home.” K-Bell even brought the national pastime with him to remind him of home. “In coming out here, there was only so much room for personal items to bring,” he wrote. “My glove and a bunch of baseballs made the trip with me. We don’t have any baseball bats, but we did manage to make our own using broomsticks.” Kevin and the guys in his unit play baseball whenever they can. While Kevin is the only member of his unit playing ball competitively back home, he was able to recruit Joey Blais (Campton, N.H.), Rusty Chesanek (Acworth, N.H.), Chris Elliott (Wilmington, Mass.), Mike Bellizzi (Candia, N.H.) and Arron Rochette of (Ashland, N.H.) to join him for a Kandahar-take on sandlot ball.


“Some nights we pull the fire truck out and put the scene lights on so we can play catch,” he wrote. “We have good games of Wiffle Ball and stickball a few nights a week. During the day, it usually doesn’t go much further than a game of catch, or throwing groundballs and stuff like that to each other.” Kevin even kept up with the Boston Red Sox’ collapse. “Unfortunately, we were able to keep up with the Sox in September. The fire inspector here is from New York and a Yankees fan, so he helped us keep up with it,” Kevin joked. Of course, the Sox and Yankees are both home now with their families for the holidays, as are the rest of us local ballplayers. I’m thankful for guys like Kevin for allowing that freedom. Friends and family are able to send care packages to the soldiers. It takes only about a week for packages to be delivered. At least one company, Axis Sports, recently sent real baseball bats to support the 530th once they heard Kevin’s story. Lou Ledoux, the founder of Axis Sports, often helps raise funds for troops and other worthy causes. “After hearing about local guys playing baseball with broomsticks because they didn’t have baseball bats, I immediately cut bats for them and put their bats ahead of every order on our production schedule,” Ledoux said. Axis Sports provided each soldier in Kevin’s unit a camouflaged bat. On top of that, Axis is supporting the USA Military All-Star Baseball Team, and also is working on a specific type of bat that will be used by Wounded Warriors, a nonprofit that provides support to the families of those who have been wounded, injured or killed during combat operations. Meanwhile, K-Bell expects to return home next spring. “Neither Kaylee or Zack have made their way to Fenway Park,” he wrote, “so hopefully next season when I’m home for good, that will be their first time. As for the Jays, I plan on being there Opening Day, ready to pitch.” Brett Rudy is the founder of the Boston Amateur Baseball Network. He can be reached at bostonbb@bostonbaseball.com

New England’s amateur baseball champions There are more than 80 amateur adult baseball leagues with more than 700 teams scattered across New England. Leagues offer a broad range of competitiveness, from weekend warrior to aspiring professional. Some leagues have short and condensed schedules over the summer, while others are spread from spring to fall. Some consist of young men just starting out life on their own, while others cater to the seasoned gentleman with families of their own. The one thing they all have in common is that they are filled with athletes continuing to live the dream of playing baseball as long as they can. Provided are your 2011 league champions:

MASSACHUSETTS

CONNECTICUT

League

Team

League

Team

BAmBUU

New Hampshire 603’s

Bridgeport Senior City

Fedell’s Mechanics

Baseball Clubs of Cape Cod (35+)

Dugout Dawgs

Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League

Southington Shock

Boston Amateur Baseball League (38+)

Norwood Red Sox

Connecticut North MSBL (A)

Marlborough A’s

Boston Amateur Baseball League (48+)

Waltham Braves

Connecticut North MSBL (B)

Colchester Thunder

Boston Korean Adult Baseball League

Cambridge Bananas

Fairfield County MSBL

Monroe Top Hats

Boston Men’s Baseball League (18+)

Boston Cutters

Greater Hartford IBL

Rockville Royals

Boston Men’s Baseball League (AL 30+)

Milton Breakers

Greater Hartford Twilight League

Ferguson

Boston Men’s Baseball League (NL 30+)

Scituate Tides

Housatonic Valley Baseball League

Western CT Outlaws

Boston Men’s Baseball League (Masters)

Acton Orioles

Mohegan Sun ECML

Goldy’s Restaurant

Central Mass Adult Baseball League

Worcester Vipers

Northeast Baseball Association (38+)

Thomaston Opticare Spartans

Central Mass Over 40 Baseball

Richardson & Son Dodgers

Southern CT Bridgeport NABA

Bridgeport All-Stars

Central New England Baseball Association

Chelmsford Merchants

Tri-State Baseball League

Litchfield Cowboys

Cranberry League

Braintree White Sox

Wallingford Twilight League

Total Renovations

Diamond Baseball League

Brockton Reds

West Haven Twilight League

American Steakhouse

East Cost Amateur Baseball League

Needham Phillies

Fall River Independent Baseball League

Fall River Royals

Intercity League

Lexington Blue Sox

League

Team

Intertown Twilight League Baseball

Rowley Rams

Pine Tree Baseball League

West Paris Westies

Men’s Night Baseball League

Shamrocks

Southern Maine Men’s Baseball League (AL 25+)

Braves

MetroWest ABL

Triboro Cubs

Southern Maine Men’s Baseball League (NL 25+) Orioles

North Shore Baseball League

Peabody Champions

Southern Maine Men’s Baseball League (35+) Diamondbacks

Over Thirty Baseball

Red Sox

Over Thirty Baseball, Night

Diamondbacks

Park League

Carlson Club

Pioneer Valley Over-Thirty Baseball

Dirt Dogs

Quabbin Valley Over 30

Athletics

Royal Rooters

Boston Knights

South Coast Baseball League

White Sox

Tri-County Baseball of Western Mass

DiFranco Realty

Valley Wheel

Orioles

Veteran’s League

Orleans Pirates

Wakefield Twi League Baseball

Loafers

Western Mass Wood Baseball League

Southwick Dirt Dogs

Yawkey League

Somerville Alibrandis

NEW HAMPSHIRE League

Team

Coastal New England Baseball League

Northeast Electrical A’s

Concord Sunset League

Glove Works

Granite State Baseball League

Lawrence Pirates

New England Legends Baseball League

NH Mets

New Hampshire Baseball League

Bow Falcons

Seacoast New Hampshire MSBL

Cubs

Southern New Hampshire MABL

Raphael Club Black Sox

MAINE

RHODE ISLAND League

Team

George Donnelly Sunset League

Brother’s Oven

Island Baseball League

Sakonnet River Royals

Rhode Island Charity Baseball

DeadCat Gallery

Rhode Island Independent ABL

Premium Tile

Rhode Island MSBL (22+)

RI Mariners

Rhode Island MSBL (32+)

RI Riptide

Rhode Island MSBL (42+)

RI Salty Dogs

Rhode Island MSBL (50+)

RI Red Sox

VERMONT League

Team

Connecticut River Valley Baseball League

Saxtons River Pirates

Green Mountain League

South Burlington Expos

Green Mountain MSBL

Colchester Lakers

Vermont Senior Baseball League

Burlington Cardinals

— COMPILED BY BRETT RUDY, BOSTON AMATEUR BASEBALL NETWORK

November-December 2011  baseballjournal.com  25 

National pastime in Afghanistan  

Amateur baseball players keep the game alive while serving in the Army in Afghanistan.

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