Slow-Pitch Alive, Well in Montauk

The plug was pulled in Amagansett
Alan Iscoe, the 76-year-old player-manager of the Montauk Fire Department team, gathered his players about him before taking the field last Thursday. Jack Graves

   The rumored demise of the East Hampton Town men’s slow-pitch softball league, whose games have been played since the late 1960s at the Terry King ball field in Amagansett, is not premature: The league is, in fact, dead. Though the prospect of a resurrection someday is not entirely out of the question, Rich Schneider, the league’s spokesman, said this week.
    But the good news is that the women’s league at Terry King is alive and well, and while it could play pretty much any time it wants, that league, said Lori Schultz, has decided to retain the traditional Tuesday and Thursday night doubleheaders, “because a lot of the players have those nights off.”
    Meanwhile, men’s slow-pitch is thriving in Montauk, where teams play once a week under the lights on the Little League field.
    “I don’t think it’s that slow-pitch is no longer popular — people just don’t want to commit to playing three times a week,” said Andy Tuthill, who now plays, along with other former Amagansett players such as Rob Nicoletti, Ray Wojtusiak, Joe Sullivan, Sonny Sireci, and Andrew Foglia, with the Montauk Fire Department, a team that topped the Bluefish division with a 6-0 record as of Monday.
    Wood bats are used in Montauk’s games “for two reasons,” said John Ward. “One, they’re safer — there have been deaths around the country because of the speed the balls come off the metal bats. And, two, wood bats make our games more competitive.”
    The base paths in last Thursday’s game between the Fire Department and Gig Shack were of Little League distance — five feet shorter than those used in slow-pitch, though Ward said they’ll be lengthened, now that the regular Little League season is over, to the slow-pitch distance of 70 feet.
    Ward said there are two five-team divisions in the Montauk league — the aforementioned Bluefish division comprising the Fire Department, the Raptors (4-2), the Vineyard (3-3), the Ravens (2-2), and the Coast Guard (2-3), and the Striped Bass division comprising Sloppy Tuna (6-1), Liars (no record available), Shagwong (3-3), O’Murphy’s (1-5), and Gig Shack (1-5).
    Alan Iscoe, the Fire Department’s 76-year-old player-manager, “almost put on the spikes” as he waited anxiously last Thursday for the arrival of Sireci, who had been at the Montauk coed beach volleyball league’s opening night of informal games at Gurney’s Inn.
    “This league is very competitive,” Tuthill said. “The games are generally low scoring, and if the score is high, the game is close. There are no slugfests, no home run derbies, which can get boring even if you’re winning.”
    Tuthill said he thought the fees charged to play at Terry King had had something to do with the league’s demise there, as well. “It was two grand [per team] the last I heard, and some of the guys couldn’t afford that. Schenck Fuels paid for everything for us, but not every team did that.”
    The plug was pulled on the Amagansett men’s league after it became evident there would be only four teams. Sag Harbor’s modified-pitch numbers have been dwindling as well, though four teams are playing there, at Mashashimuet Park.
    Iscoe said that “some teams have some women on them, though it’s not a coed league.”
    The Fire Department was cruising along at 6-1 entering the seventh inning of last Thursday’s game “when Gig Shack put a scare into us, loading the bases with no outs,” said Iscoe. “They had scored two runs and had a chance for two more when, with two outs, Tyler Devries-Wallace, our second baseman, dove into the hole between him and first to field a hot grounder. He rolled over, but made the throw and got the game-ending out at first.”
    Sloppy Tuna and the Montauk Fire Department are to meet on July 16 at 6 p.m., which is the league’s usual starting time.
    As for the women’s league in Amagansett, Schultz, one of that league’s veterans, said “there are five teams — Groundworks, Provisions, which used to be Bostwick’s, the P.B.A., Grazina Orthodontics, and a new one, Bono Plumbing. We got a late start because of all the rain — there are five rainouts that need to be made up. We’ve also been having trouble with the lights on the third-base line. There are only one or two bulbs that are working, out of five. We’ve been trying to get them fixed. . . . The field’s not in very good shape either.”
    Men at Work, largely a team of collegians that never quite lived up to its potential because of the demands of summer work, did not enter a team this season.