By Tom Yantz, The Hartford Courant
HARTFORD — There are no dugouts or bleachers on the baseball field at Weaver High School.
There is one aluminum bench on the visitors’ side for players, and two benches on the home side. Portions of the metal chain-link fence in front of the benches are curled up, leaving gaps at the bottom, though none as large as the gap between Weaver and the rest of the state in baseball.
Weaver has lost 70 consecutive games, the longest current streak in Connecticut high school baseball. Its last victory was in 2010. Since the start of the 2007 season Weaver’s record is 2-128.
The average score of Weaver’s losses this year is 17-2. The Beavers have been shut out nine times. Their two victories since the start of 2007 were against Bloomfield: 7-5 on May 8, 2009, and 15-14 on April 12, 2010.
Juan De La Cruz is the lone senior on the team and the only player to have experienced a win.
“I was a freshman against Bloomfield,” De La Cruz said. “We scored four runs in the last inning. I’ll never forget it.”
How could he? Dan Livent would like that feeling, too.
“No one likes to lose; it really bothers me,” the junior first baseman said. “We’ve never won a game during my time here.”
Yet, there’s hope.
“A good play, a hit, that’s what we take away and hopefully keep building on those,” left fielder Odane Campbell said. “It’s like life, up and down.”
Absorbing such one-sided losses, though, has tested the resilience of everyone.
“Sure I could have quit,” De La Cruz said. “But listen, I told some of the guys to come out for the team over the years. There’s no way I’m going to introduce them to the sport and then leave.”
On May 3 there was early optimism that perhaps a victory could happen, with Weaver trailing South Windsor 1-0 after two innings. Weaver made some nice plays — shortstop Stalys Delos Santos darted behind second to field a grounder and flipped back to second for an impressive forceout in the first, and catcher Luis Majias sprinted back to chase down a foul pop in the second.
Then it quickly dissolved into yet another blowout loss as South Windsor scored eight runs in the third. Three scored on wild pitches, and Weaver dropped three pop-ups. The Beavers went on to lose 14-0.
Weaver has 18 players, but generally no more than 14 make it to a game. Five are playing baseball for the first time; most have little experience.
The Beavers had 10 players for the South Windsor game.
“It’s tough to play this game, period, but it’s really tough when you’re first learning the game here,” said Markel Adams, a fullback/linebacker for the Weaver football team who has played baseball for eight years.
Dropping pop-ups, such as what happened in the South Windsor game, happens too often.
“I can’t yell at them,” De La Cruz said. “They’re trying. If they can’t do it, they can’t do it.”
They can’t do it for a bunch of possible reasons. Weaver is one of only 10 schools of the 173 in the state that play baseball not to have a freshman or junior varsity program. And, if practice makes perfect, that is another issue at Weaver, where the average number that make it to practice is six to eight players.
“Work, have to be home to drive mom or somebody to an appointment,” Livent said. “Then if someone doesn’t have enough money for a [city bus] fare home, he might not be here, either.”
Coach Jamie Verab understands and says if he dismissed players from the team for missing practices, he wouldn’t have enough to play a game.
Weaver doesn’t have a big pool of students to choose from, either. With more students attending magnet, parochial or other high schools in the Hartford and Greater Hartford area, the Weaver boys enrollment has dropped from 409 in 2010 to 220 this year.
Verab, in his second season at Weaver, is also the school’s boys soccer coach. He played soccer, football, baseball and basketball at Naugatuck High School, and goalie for the UConn soccer team from 2001-04.
“High school, college, you don’t miss practices,” he said. “That’s the way it was for me. When I first got here, it was tough for me to accept, guys missing practice.”
Verab, a teacher in the Journalism & Media Academy at Weaver, detests losing games. But he recognizes the talent level of his team does not approach that of fellow CCC North teams South Windsor, East Hartford, Glastonbury, East Catholic-Manchester, Wethersfield, Windsor and Manchester.
Most of those schools are larger. Weaver and East Catholic are in the lowest classification (Class M) among CCC North teams because of their enrollments. South Windsor, East Hartford, Glastonbury, Manchester are in the highest classification, Class LL. Windsor and Wethersfield are in Class L. Weaver has one voluntary assistant coach Jerry Nazario, while most of its opponents have more than one assistant.