Friday, August 22, 2008

Mariners Celebrate

Mariners Celebrate Like It's the Good Old Days After Claiming ITL Title
By Jason Brisbois


Last week may have been like stepping back in a time machine for fans of the Manchester/Essex Mariners.

There was a time that Memorial Field in Essex was once the hottest of baseball hotbeds on the North Shore. The Essex Shipbuilders, one of the very first Intertown Twilight League baseball teams to even exist, were the biggest game in town. Locals would flock to the field down by Town Hall to watch the team every Wednesday night. The crowds were big, the atmosphere was festive and the team was good – the Shipbuilders won three titles in the 1930’s and one more in the 1950’s.

So it must have brought back quite a wave of nostalgia for many of the locals who were on hand to witness the Mariners defeat Hamilton in game three of the ITL’s 2008 championship series, giving the communities of Essex and Manchester bragging rights once again. That, however, wasn’t the only “blast from the past” the communities experienced last week.

“It was amazing to see the support, to see all the faces from around town,” explained Manchester/Essex player/coach Bryan Lafata, an Essex native who watched many a Shipbuilders game growing up. “When I was a kid, that’s what it was like. The families were up on the hill watching. Every Wednesday night was Essex Shipbuilders’ night, and the people go to watch because of the great rivalries. It’s getting to be like that now, where Tuesdays are Mariners nights, and Rockport has their night.”

The large crowds on hand to watch the local team achieve the ultimate victory weren’t the only throwback to a bygone era seen last week. It was always a tradition for the Shipbuilders to hop onto a town fire engine that would take them down the main road, celebrating major victories with sirens blazing and horns honking.

“It’s great to win down there, and it’s funny because I’m the only one on the team, other than Bobby Whynott, maybe, who knew about that,” said Lafata. “My grandmother lived in Essex when they won those titles, and they had the time ride fire engines through part of the town. It’s an old tradition, and people in town knew what it was going on back then. It was good for these guys to get up there – they all looked at me kind of funny, wondering, ‘Why are we getting on this fire engine?’”

While Essex’s ITL baseball history runs fairly deep, Manchester has also fielded teams in the ITL on over the years, most notably making their mark by winning 16 titles in a row from 1986 to 2006. While the two towns merged as a Manchester/Essex unit recently, many of the former Manchester players were just as excited as the former Shipbuilders.

“As far as Manchester, I’ve gotten a lot of emails and calls from former Mariners as well,” said Lafata. “They had some nice stretches in the nineties. Those guys were just as supportive as the Essex guys. The guys who passed it on to me had done a great job building this organization It’s good for both communities, as far as the league and the team, to only see it get better and gain more interest for the future.”