Thursday, June 21, 2007

ITL Gets Some Press

This article ran in the Community Newspapers this week, including the Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle and Beverly Citizen.

The Twilight Zone
- For close to 80 years, the Intertown Twilight League has provided some of the finest amateur baseball not only on the North Shore, but across the United States.
Recognized by Major League Baseball as the oldest amateur baseball league of its kind in the nation, it’s still going strong and is slowly emerging as the place to be during the long summer months.

“It’s the cheapest ticket in town,’’ said fourth year president Terry Post. “It’s the oldest league in the country, and the crowds have been great. The support among the towns is phenomenal and the competition has top quality. We’ve had some guys who’ve been signed to minor league contract and have gone on to have some success at the professional level.”

While the league is mostly comprised of recent high school graduates and college baseball athletes, the variety spreads the gamut, ranging from players in their late teens to players in their mid to late 30s.

“We have guys who have recently graduated high school, to guys who are coming back after their first year of college,’’ said Post. “But we have players who have been around and have played in the league for a long time, and they love it.”

During the 1980s, a pair of notable athletes ventured off to the professional arena. Wenham native Joel Nies, who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox, signed a minor league deal, while Joe Mountain developed into a budding prospect in the Seattle Mariners organization. Currently, the ITL has close to 200 members in its Hall of Fame.

“We’ve had quite a lot of (good players) come and go in the league,’’ said Post. “The talent here has been phenomenal, and everyone works hard and has a lot of fun. They play for the love of the game, and it’s a great family type atmosphere.”

Formed in 1929, the league originally consisted of four teams, the Hamilton Generals, the Ipswich Chiefs, and teams from Manchester and Essex. Despite the Great Depression and World War Two, the league continued without interruption.

In the 1950s and 1960s, teams in Beverly, Rockport, and Topsfield were formed and disbanded. But over the last 20 years, the league has continued to expand, growing into its current format of seven teams.

Along with the Hamilton Generals, the league is made up by the Beverly Giants, Manchester-Essex Mariners, Ipswich Chiefs, Rockport Townies, Topsfield Torries and Rowley Rams.
The Giants, one of the league’s newest teams, has only been in existence for four years after breaking away from the Generals.

“We were all one team,’’ said Generals’ coach Tom Jones, who’s also a member of the league’s executive board. “But the Beverly guys wanted to form their own team, and once they had enough players for a roster, that’s what they decided to do. It’s been a lot of fun, and the guys just go out there and play for the love of the game.”

While most teams in similar leagues welcome players from different towns, the ITL requires that 90 percent of the team’s roster is comprised of town residents.

“A lot of guys want to play for their town, and there’s a lot of pride,’’ said Jones. “It’s different in this league, where 90 percent of the roster of the team has to be residents of that town. In the (North Shore League), guys can pretty much play for whoever they want, but its different here.”
While the idea of an All-Star game has been abandoned since 2001 due to scheduling and time conflicts, the Home Run Derby will take place on Aug. 4 at Patton Field. After a long absence, the Home Run Derby successfully returned last year as Manchester-Essex’s Nate Bertalino claimed the championship.

“It was great to have it back,’’ said Jones about the Home Run Derby. “We’re looking forward to it, and we’re hoping it’ll be a success.”