NEW BRITAIN - It has been a wild couple of weeks for former Goodwin Tech baseball player Justin Lemanski.
Lemanski was one of the best pitchers in the Empire League this season. In 17 games, the reliever gave up just 14 hits and four runs. His 1.44 ERA was second in the league only to Matt Quintana’s 1.39 mark. He clearly earned the trust of the Wild coaching staff - Lemanski pitched in 26 games, tied for the most in the league.
“As a reliever, I kind of just took it one day at a time, one game at a time,” Lemanski said. “I knew my role was late-inning, high pressure situations - close game, runners on base. I knew I would have to help our team get out of tough situations, and I’ve always thrived in those roles. I like pitching in that type of atmosphere. So I think being in those moments helped me pitch my best.”
His performance with the Wild was good enough to earn him the honor of Reliever of the Year for the league. It also drew the attention of the Quebec Capitales of the Can-Am League. Quebec signed the New Britain native days after the Empire season ended to fill a roster spot left by an injury.
But due to an injured pitcher coming back earlier than expected for the Capitales, the team chose to release Lemanski after appearing in only one Can-Am game.
At the same time, Lemanski is taking any positive he can against a higher level of competition.
“I just wanted to go in and do what I do,” Lemanski said. “I wanted to show these teams what I can do. And I think I did that, even though I only pitched once. I had one perfect inning, so those teams got a little taste of what I can do.”
Still, the move leaves Lemanski uncertain of where his baseball career goes next, but he is still appreciative of Quebec giving him a chance to put his name out there, even if it was only for three days.
“At the very least, I made connections,” Lemanski said. “The managers [in the Can-Am League], they know my name now and they have my number. So it’s really not about being upset that I got released. It’s good now that I’m getting my name out there more, especially to these higher leagues. Maybe if these teams are on a playoff push, they can add me. Or next year, if I do go out to their spring training and tryouts, they’ll know who I am.”
Lemanski also said he got a chance to meet players who have been in MLB organizations before, including former Major League pitcher Mat Latos.
“I would say more than half the rosters [in the Can-Am League] have all played affiliated baseball. Just to even be around those guys - getting to talk to them and gain some knowledge - it was a pretty cool situation.”
Lemanski said he has heard some interest from other Can-Am teams, including the New Jersey Jackals, but has yet to get a call asking him to take the mound again.
“I’m just waiting for the phone to ring,” Lemanski said. “But when it does ring, I know I’ll be ready.”
The former Gladiator said he has no intention to give up on his goal of one day pitching in Major League Baseball. He knows playing in the Can-Am League this season, even if only for one inning, was a big step in the right direction for his baseball career.
“Getting to this league this year, even though I did get released - I don’t know if I’ll get signed back or not - is just another step,” Lemanski said. “I knew earlier in the year that I had it in me to get to a higher league. I accomplished one of those goals because I had a good enough season [with the Wild] to get looked at by a higher league, which is awesome. Maybe with harder work, maybe next year I start on a Can-Am team, or get called up earlier. Then, I would just have another goal of getting to a higher league.”