Baseball: Standish has a good reason to feel right at home

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | North Fork third baseman Darrin Standish tagged out Riverhead's Josh Smith during a game last month.

Some teams enjoy a home-field advantage, but when Darrin Standish talks about a home-field advantage, he isn’t kidding.

The Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League draws players from all over the country, so it’s not unusual every now and then for someone to ask the North Fork Ospreys third baseman where he is from. When that question is asked of him while he is at the Ospreys’ home field, Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic, Standish has a ready answer: He lives a mile down the road.

Talk about convenient.

If Standish is as comfortable as he sounds, it’s for good reason. Having grown up in the area, familiarity is not a problem for him. Standish knows Jean W. Cochran Park inside out. He played games there as an all-county senior shortstop for Southold High School in 2010. Now, after two years of playing for Southern New Hampshire, he is in his second summer season with the Ospreys.

He knows the area. He knows the people.

“Everything here is the same,” Standish said. “I don’t do anything different than any other summer, just meet new friends.”

Aside from Standish, the only other returning players the Ospreys have back from last year’s squad are pitchers Mike Czenszak and Vaughn Hayward. Standish is familiar with another one of the Ospreys, outfielder Eric Romano, not only because Romano played for the Riverhead Tomcats last summer, but because Romano’s college team, Franklin Pierce (N.H.), is a rival in the same conference as Southern New Hampshire.

So, Standish met a lot of new teammates this summer, and he has been the go-to guy for those new to the North Fork.

“The first thing they say is: ‘Are you from around here? What’s going on? What should we do?’ ” he said. “They always count on me to bring them somewhere or tell them what’s going on.”

The Ospreys’ first-year coach, Bill Ianniciello, said: “He’s a little bit of a leader from a program standpoint, as is Mike Czenszak, who has played here with him for a couple of years. It’s valuable to have guys like that who know the league and the territory.”

It turns out that Standish is a player with multiple roles: third baseman, tour guide, and even unofficial assistant general manager. His father, Jeff Standish, is the Ospreys general manager who enjoys the rare treat of watching his son play for his team.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Darrin Standish, left, with North Fork coach Bill Ianniciello.

“He loves it,” the younger Standish said. “He loves watching me play. The only downfall is I always have to get the gear back to my house and I’m in charge of everything.”

Perhaps one of the more valuable things Darrin Standish has learned is to loosen up on the field. He knows how it is to be tight. That was how he felt sometimes last year, he said, with Southern New Hampshire and the Ospreys.

“Your whole body stiffens up, and it’s the worst,” he said. “You get mental.”

With the Ospreys, Standish said, he felt the pressure of playing in front of the hometown fans. He finished that first season with the Ospreys with a .175 batting average, no home runs and two runs batted in from 29 games. On the defensive side, he recorded 21 putouts, 35 assists, made six errors and had a .903 fielding percentage.

This summer, though, Standish has noticed a difference. He said he is calm and relaxed. He points to progress he has made in terms of strength, experience — and confidence.

“Last year I had a little [case of the] jitterbugs,” he said. “Now I kind of go out there, ‘Oh, it’s just another day, another game.’ I’m so comfortable now. I don’t have to worry about any nerves raking into me. When I get at the plate, it’s just another at-bat.”

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Standish, who has been timed in the 60-yard dash in 6.7 seconds, had a slow start at the plate this summer. Through the first 12 games he played, he had a .171 batting average, no homers and six RBI. He had three errors from 20 fielding chances, with five putouts and 12 assists for an .850 fielding percentage.

One of the nicest plays he made in the field came on Saturday night in a 7-5 win over the Westhampton Aviators. In the sixth inning, Standish made a nice diving stop of a hard-hit ball by Matt Kriss before throwing to second base for a forceout. Standish also delivered a run-scoring single in the eighth.

“Darrin’s playing well,” Ianniciello said. “He’s swinging the bat well. He started off slow at the plate. He’s been getting some clutch hits and hitting some line drives.”

Standish’s college-playing experience at Southern New Hampshire has been limited to seven at-bats over the course of his freshman and sophomore seasons. He has been used as a utility infielder by the Penmen, who reached the NCAA Division II College World Series this year, ending up with a 43-15 record.

Standish, who is majoring in psychology and has a 3.9 cumulative grade-point average, quickly learned that playing in college means playing against men, not boys. “You really have to prove yourself in college baseball, and it’s every day,” he said.

As it turned out, Standish has become acclimated to facing good pitching, by his own team, nonetheless, in practice. Southern New Hampshire had one of the best pitching staffs in the nation. At least two of those pitchers are looking forward to bigger things. Tim Flight, a left-hander, was selected recently by the New York Yankees in the 17th round of the Major League Baseball Draft. Another lefty, Zach LeBarron, signed a free-agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Standish said that facing pitchers like that in practice made him feel as if “you weren’t going to see any better.”

Although Standish has played mostly shortstop for Southern New Hampshire, he has developed a preference for third base, where there is little time to think, and reaction is the name of the game.

“I feel like I’m getting better and better every game,” he said. “I love third.  I’m so comfortable with it now. It’s definitely the better position for me.”

Sounds just like a player who feels right at home.

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