BRISTOL - The Futures Collegiate Baseball League truly resembles its name.
Across the seven teams competing in the league, there are players of all different levels and ages.
“It’s really cool, you can learn from everybody,” Bristol Blues outfielder and Emory University sophomore Richard Brereton said. “Whether it’s guys just going into their freshman year or whether it’s guys that are going to be a fifth-year senior, we have a bunch of different guys. You can learn from everybody. I think it’s a really cool dynamic that this league creates that you can get guys who are 18 years old and also have 22-year-olds in the league. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know guys from different places and all different ages.”
On the Bristol Blues’ roster, four recent high school graduates are hitting in some of the most critical spots in the order.
Justyn-Henry Malloy (Vanderbilt University), Emmet Sheehan (Boston College), Patrick Winkel (UConn) and Jimmy Sullivan (University of Virginia) have all produced for Bristol this season.
Winkel, Sullivan and Malloy have all hit near the top of the batting order and have had roles in winning games this season.
Winkel is hitting .262 in 42 at bats, Malloy is hitting .259 in 54 at bats and Sullivan is batting .188 in 16 at bats.
While the marks are average in terms of the Bristol lineup, evaluating the three hitters based upon batting average isn’t as important as the number of plate appearances.
“It’s extremely valuable,” Blues manager Ronnie Palmer said. “For the hitters to be able to see guys with a little bit more experience and seasoned that have played a year or two of college baseball, with how they have command and some of the velocity they get to see. The command these guys have with breaking balls and hitting their spots, I think you can’t replace that experience for them to get ready for college ball, which is right around the corner.”
Sheehan is the only pitcher at that age level, but has also been one of the most dominant Bristol pitchers this year, showcasing why he’s Boston College-bound and going to be pitching in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
In 23 innings pitched, Sheehan has a 2.34 ERA, fourth best on the roster and the lowest ERA for a pitcher with the number of innings that Sheehan has thrown.
He’s flashed dominant stuff on the mound and will be a key piece if Bristol makes a championship run.
“For Emmet to be able to compete against college hitters gives him a parameter to measure himself by for when he’s getting ready to go away for fall ball,” Palmer said. “All fall he’s going to be facing guys that have been in Boston College lineups and guys who have played in the ACC. So the experience to be able to play against [players that] have gone through a college season and such, you can’t replace the value of that for them, to set them up for good things to come when they get to school.”
While looking at the numbers is one thing, just getting in reps on a regular basis is something that makes the Futures League extremely valuable, especially for players such as the four future freshmen that are preparing for Division I baseball.
“I think they’ve acclimated well ability-wise,” Palmer said. “Obviously they’re all going to very good baseball schools and have done well at the high school level and travel ball and such. So the baseball ability is there for them, but the biggest struggle for them is showing up to the field every day. Just trying to get acclimated with the schedule and adjusting to that has probably been the biggest challenge.”