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Nighthawks notebook: Reworked front office has area flavor

  • Phil Chaput.

  • Pitching coach Mike Coss (40) of the Upper Valley Nighthawks poses for a portrait at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, June 15, 2019

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Upper Valley Nighthawks founder Noah Crane was starting to feel the burnout. Luckily, he had several folks on deck willing to take over some of the duties involved in running his New England Collegiate Baseball League organization.

The Nighthawks, who were founded in 2016, added Phil Chaput, a Hartford resident who also serves as the head baseball coach at Thetford Academy, as the club’s general manager and Matt Wright, a 2013 graduate of Springfield High, as the assistant general manager. Crane remains as the organization’s founder and president.

The idea, Crane said, was to start spreading out some of his responsibilities to others. The Lebanon resident and Woodstock native wore many hats during the team’s first three seasons in the NECBL — managing player contracts, running game-day operations, coordinating interns. The addition of Chaput and Wright mean Crane can focus on what he does best.

“I’m kind of exhausted,” said Crane, who held almost all of responsibilities during his six years running the Lacoina/Winnipesaukee Muskrats. “Not that there are aspects of our organization that are less important than others, but there’s stuff I need to do as the face and stuff that I like to do — the crowd interaction, the music. I can do that stuff now knowing that the other stuff that needs to be done is being taken care of.”

Chaput was an intern with Upper Valley last summer, assisting the team’s coaching staff with statistics and the game-day interns with responsibilities around the ballpark, as part of an athletic leadership masters degree from Castleton University. He graduated in May. The position with the Nighthawks, he said, is paid with a stipend.

“I really liked the family atmosphere. I really like the baseball, I liked working for Noah,” Chaput said of working for the team last summer. “I liked being able to work with a lot of D-I athletes and coaches and pick their brains for my own coaching.”

Chaput, as general manager, serves as Crane’s right-hand man. He is solely responsible for game-day operations and has a seat at the organization’s board meetings in the offseason. He also runs the Nighthawks camps for youth baseball players throughout the summer.

Wright was a outfield coach at Southern Maine Community College this past spring while he worked to complete his degree from the University of Southern Maine. He initially signed onto the Nighthawks as an intern, working in analytics with the coaching staff. He later was hired as an unpaid assistant general manager.

“I give them advance stats, reports every few days on how the team is doing, opponents, spray charts, that kind of thing,” Wright said. “Another part of it is going to be player contracts, dealing with transactions. With kids getting hurt, we’re going to have to bring in new guys. I’ll handle the contracts to get them here.

“It’s kind of taking the weight off of Noah’s shoulders. Phil is focused on more of the game-day operations. Noah can just oversee everything.”

Wright will also help compile information for Major League Baseball scouts who travel to the Upper Valley. The chance to work with NCAA Division I athletes, he said, was too good to pass up.

“I went from varsity (at Springfield) to Legion (Ludlow Post 36) to juco (Southern Maine Community College),” Wright said. “To get involved in this, it’s all professionally run. … For a 24-year-old to work with professional scouts is a thrill. It’s a game of relationships and connections. This is how I’m going to meet people.”

Pitching changes: Valley Blue Sox pitcher Cooper Bradford threw an 11-inning, 149-pitch no-hitter against the Sanford Mainers last July. It was an accomplishment that got him promptly shut down by his coaches at North Florida, sending Bradford on the next flight home.

One year later, the NECBL has implemented new pitching rules to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Strict pitch counts determine the amount of rest a pitcher must be allotted before he can return to the mound for another appearance. Any appearance under 30 pitches requires no rest; 31-45 pitches requires one day of rest; 46-60 pitches is two days rest; 61-80 is three days rest; any appearance 81 pitches and over is four days of rest. A pitcher also cannot pitch three days in a row.

Nighthawks pitching coach Mike Coss said the new rules have changed the way he’s thought about using his staff.

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.