Brian Tuthill is no stranger to pain. He dislocated his shoulder more than once and suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder, an injury that cost him his junior season last year with the Greenport High School baseball team. Still, what was really painful for him was having to sit and watch and not be able to do anything about the errors he saw being made by the Porters.
“I saw things that we need to work on,” he said somewhat charitably.
Fielding was a problem for the Porters, who needed to win four of their last five games last year in order to reach the postseason. They lost all five to finish with a 6-14 record. In one game — a 12-1 loss to Pierson/Bridgehampton — the Porters committed 11 errors.
Coach Chris Golden said filling positions is not so much an issue for the Porters this year as “our ability to make plays in the field, not make errors. Last year we hurt ourselves.”
And the player who was hurt, Tuthill, should help alleviate that pain with his defense.
Tuthill played shortstop for the Porters as a freshman and as a sophomore, and has returned for his senior season. He said he is fully recovered from the injury to his non-throwing shoulder. “The doctors were confident in their work, and that kept me confident,” he said.
Tuthill is regarded as an asset to the infield. Golden said Tuthill was a standout as a sophomore and “he’s looked very good so far.”
One of the problems the Porters encountered last year was inclement weather, which limited their practice time outdoors and had an obvious affect on their fielding.
“And then what you’re doing [by making errors] is you’re racking up the pitch count,” Golden said. “The bottom line is it’s just disheartening, it really is. So for us this year it’s about minimizing those errors in the field.”
With a focus on fundamentals, the Porters were out on their field Thursday in the bitter cold (a temperature reading said it was 32 degrees, but it felt colder), fielding ground balls and making throws to first base.
“You got to bundle up,” said Austin Hooks, the senior pitcher/first baseman who had most of his face covered to protect him from the elements. “It’s really cold.”
In addition to Tuthill’s presence, the Porters should also be aided by the Baseball Heaven indoor facility in Yaphank, which they will use for an occasional practice. “With the weather being the way it is, for hitting, it’s a huge benefit,” said Golden.
Speaking of huge benefits, the Porters have eight returning players, including All-League selections Christian Angelson, a senior catcher/outfielder, and Matt Drinkwater, a junior pitcher/infielder. And there are others, too, like Timmy Stevens, who can play any position; John Drinkwater, Matt’s twin who pitches and plays first base; and Eddie Rogers, who can play any outfield position.
“I think we’re going to have a pretty strong team,” Angelson said. “Everyone has gotten better. We definitely matured a little bit.”
No wonder. All 12 of the Porters are either seniors or juniors.
Golden, who is in his third year coaching the team, has noticed a change for the better, off the field as well as on it. “The first two years it was about changing the culture from one that was not conducive to a student-athlete type of situation, if you will, or environment,” he said. “Now we have the right culture here in terms of standards and expectations.”
The Porters never made it to the playoffs, according to Golden, and that is something they want to change.
They did come close, within one game, during Tuthill’s freshman year. At the time, Tuthill said, his attitude after falling short of the postseason that year was “we always have next year.”
Now there is no next year for Tuthill and the rest of the seniors. “We have to make it happen now,” he said.
In the meantime, Tuthill sounds determined to savor every moment of his senior season as a healthy player.
“No matter if we’re running or we’re picking up balls at 6 o’clock after practice,” he said, “I’m just happy to be on the field.”