It was a little more than four years ago when former Post 188 baseball coach Bob Corradi stopped by Fenton Field after church to check out the latest installment of the Clark-Haddad American Legion team.
What he saw he later described as discouraging.
“I had heard they were struggling and might not be able to field a team,” Corradi said. “There were only eight or nine players at the time I stopped by the field.”
The program was essentially bankrupt after previous caretakers let the program slip away from them. Fees were piling up and the legion post was prepared to let the program drift into the sunset, according to multiple accounts. And with it the rich tradition of a summer baseball program that had won 12 District 10 titles and three state championships would also disappear.
“Those were some tough times for 188,” Corradi said.
But a group of dedicated individuals swooped in at the 11th hour to save the program from extinction and bring it back to relevancy. Since that day when Corradi saw a whittled team wearing the blue and maroon colors of Post 188, the program incrementally grew, culminating this past summer with both a junior and senior program going a combined 48-7. Both teams won the District 10 titles, with the senior team coming a game away from the state title game, after entering the tournament undefeated. The junior team placed second in the state tournament and finished third in the New England regionals.
This is the story of how the leadership of senior coach Brian Tomasini, junior coach Larry Shell and general managers Andy Boli, Chris Fitzgerald and Carl Cavossa turned a nine-man team in 2016 into a program that got more than 60 players to try out for the junior and senior teams in the spring of 2019.
Tough Times Don’t Last
Boli had previously been successful running a junior legion program out of Gray Gables when he decided to spearhead cleaning up Post 188. He had a group of players, including his son Drew, who went on to play at the collegiate level and had racked up a few good years, including a state tournament appearance.
Once that group outgrew his junior team, they naturally gravitated toward Post 188, despite its financial issues and rumors of being dismantled.
His reasoning was simple.
“I watched a bunch of kids who deserved to play and because some adults didn’t handle their affairs, the kids were going to lose the opportunity to play unless we didn’t do something,” Boli said.
He was able to pull some strings with friends in high places to clear the road for the 2016 season and put up some money to clear the fines to allow the team to play that season. Now he just needed a coach.
Tomasini had just wrapped his first season at the helm of the Sandwich High School baseball program when Boli approached him about coaching. He wasn’t a grizzled, old coach but rather a young guy who could relate to the players. After all, he was a Sandwich High graduate and an alum of Post 188 himself. And it didn’t hurt he was familiar with the area’s players, being a high school head coach.
“He was just the best fit. He was younger and more relevant to the age group,” Boli said.
Tomasini added, “I just wanted to get involved in any way I can. I had just finished helping out the Hyannis Harbor Hawks as a bullpen coach and I wanted to coach a team that did so much for me growing up.”
He recruited Fitzgerald, who had served as an assistant coach at Sandwich and is the general manager of the Falmouth Commodores, to help out with the team. He also pulled in Kevin Conrad, the former Post 188 head coach when Tomasini was a player, to fill out his staff.
With the addition of Boli’s junior team players and the Post 188 players already in place, the team was ready to tackle the season and get down to baseball.
“It didn’t turn out to be the best of terms to walk into. There was one year of that,” Fitzgerald said.
Corradi added that the team ran into on-field issues that first year, with three kids getting hurt right away. And in American Legion ball there is a hard roster of 18 players. If they go down, you can’t replace them.
“They were dealt a tough hand right away,” Corradi said.
But the foundational pieces had been laid for Year 2, regardless of how well the results were in the first year. By 2017, Fitzgerald had assumed the GM duties from Boli, and Post 188 was ready to compete. They finished the year, 14-5, a game behind District 10 champion Barnstable Post 206. And they were well on their way to getting the program back to where it belonged.
“District 10 runs through 188. That’s what used to be a phrase we said back in the day,” Tomasini said. “There’s pride in our tradition and a tradition of excellence. There’s such a winning tradition around this program. It’s what I think separates itself from other summer programs.”
This is the first installment in an ongoing series about the rebirth of the Post 188 American Legion baseball program.