Devoid steps up to fill a void

  • Nighthawks manager Justin Devoid, right, and pitching coach Chad Sturgeon watch pitcher Jace Kaminska warm up before the start of their game with Keene on Friday, June 18, 2021, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

  • Nighthawks manager Justin Devoid watches the game with Keene on Friday, June 18, 2021, in White River Junction, Vt. Catcher Raphael Pelletier is on the left. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Nighthawks manager Justin Devoid talks to outfielders, from left, Andrew Walker, Brett Callahan and Alan Roden before the start of their game with Keene on Friday, June 18, 2021, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/18/2021 10:59:57 PM
Modified: 6/18/2021 11:00:07 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Coaching was not always in Justin Devoid’s future.

After graduating from Hartford High in 2013, Devoid played baseball at Colby-Sawyer College while studying to become an athletic trainer. He even worked in that role for a year at Hartford after college.

But at some point during his Chargers career, Devoid had an epiphany. The current Upper Valley Nighthawks manager realized he relished his on-field leadership role and enjoyed working through technical aspects of baseball on his own.

“As I got older, I started kind of coaching myself, working through mechanically what I was doing wrong, working through my approach at the plate, fielding, and talking to my teammates about it,” Devoid said. “I really enjoy the game of baseball. So every single aspect, I’m trying to learn more about. So I think once I got into it a little bit more, then I was like, ‘Oh man, OK, this is a job?’ ”

Devoid coached at Springfield High before going back to Hartford as an athletic trainer in 2019. But as baseball season crept up in 2020, before the pandemic wiped it out, he decided he wanted to be back in the dugout, and left Hartford.

After COVID-19 caused the cancellation of high school baseball in 2020, Devoid was looking around for new positions. He came across an opening for a graduate assistant at St. Lawrence University in New York. He took that job, to advance his coaching career and to obtain a master’s degree in leadership and education.

When Bryant Bowen backed down from the Upper Valley Nighthawks head coaching position for 2021 due to the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s vaccination requirement for coaches and players, Nighthawks founder and president Noah Crane was left in a bind. He needed a new manager with about a month until the first game of the season.

He called Devoid, a one-time Nighthawks player. And Devoid stepped up.

“We’re really happy to have Justin here,” Crane said before the season began. “I think it’s a really good story. I think he’s going to do a great job. I certainly will miss having Bryant because he’s a friend and he played for us. But we found an excellent replacement, and one who is a local, so it makes it even easier.”

Devoid, 26, began working with the Nighthawks just days before the season started. He was nervous before the first day but acclimated quickly as he met his team.

He came into the season with a growth-based mindset. He’s using this summer to help the Nighthawks become better baseball players, as well as to personally improve as a coach. His coaching style is centered around adapting to meet each of his players’ needs.

“Each guy is different; everyone learns differently, so whatever I can do to help them,” Devoid said before the season. “Some guys like to get here early, some guys want to stay late. Just being available for them is probably the most important piece.”

As Devoid has settled in more through the first few weeks of the season, that approach has remained. And his players have noticed. Outfielder Andrew Walker (Xavier) said Devoid is loose on the field and doesn’t ask the guys to play outside of their strengths.

Walker added that Devoid has put in a lot of effort getting to know the players and picking things up from them to make himself a better coach.

“He cares a lot. I could tell that, and a lot of guys know that, for sure,” Walker said. “He really cares, and he generally wants to help us become better baseball players. And he wants to become a better coach, any way he possibly can.”

Devoid’s has led the Nighthawks to a 7-3 start (heading into Friday’s game against Keene).

Long-term, Devoid plans to continue his pursuit of a baseball coaching career. He wants to eventually land at a more distinguished college program, with an experienced head coach he can learn from. Beyond that, he’d like to someday work within player development for Major League Baseball or in the minors.

This summer, however, is about development. Though he knows the Nighthawks have a strong roster and have the potential to win a lot of games, he’s more focused on his players progressing.

“I want them to go back to their programs having learned something, and they just keep getting better,” Devoid said before the season. “When I played here, we had a couple guys get drafted, and that’s the thing. We want these guys to progress and get better on and on with their careers. And that’s what I would like to do is produce as many guys out of Upper Valley that come here and play and want to come back, and their coaches want to send guys back here so we keep having baseball in the Upper Valley.”

Seth Tow can be contacted at stow@vnews.com.




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