Holman Stadium feels like home for Merrimack native Gasper

NASHUA – Mickey Gasper looked around the stands and the rest of the surroundings as he finished stretching.

"It’s been a while since I’ve been at Holman," the former Merrimack High School standout said. "Awesome, it’s beautiful. It’s a great stadium."

Gasper has, in some respects, come home. He helped lead Bryant University to an NCAA regional, but that run ended in Charlottesville, Va., and he joined the Nashua Silver Knights late last week. In five games, he’s hit .294 with a homer and four RBIs, after a spring in which he hit .392 with two homers and 22 RBIs in 34 games. The former Tomahawk catcher is intent on making the most of this summer after not playing last summer due to an injured shoulder.

"It’s great, my parents get to come and watch me play," he said. "I get to catch 35 games this summer (sharing time with St. John’s Anthony Fava), it’s a real good experience for me to get better."

"He’s very good, I’m really happy with him so far," Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett said. "He’s a switch hitter, but boy he’s really hammered some balls from the left side the two games we’ve had him.

"I like his at-bats. His at-bats are really good, he grinds it out."

Gasper is no stranger to the Silver Knights as a fan. He would come and watch former Tomahawk Tom Hudon pitch for Nashua, and Merrimack’s Logan Gillis as well.

"I watched a lot of games here; it was a good thing to do after my game (in the evening), just come here and watch baseball," he said. "It’s exciting. A lot of people in town say they’ll come watch me, check out the games."

And Gasper has picked up, after taking just a day off, right where he left off at Bryant.

"It was a real good year for us, a historic year," Gasper said. "It didn’t end the way we really wanted it to, we thought we had a shot to win the regional, but it just didn’t happen this year."

But it may happen in the future if Gasper has anything to say about it. He was hurt his freshman year, but this year, "I had some opportunities and made the most of it."

In the regional, Gasper said he saw a lot of elite pitching, and struggled with it. "It was a great experience but there was a lot of failure for me there," he said. That’s why he’s looking forward to using this summer as a bit of redemption.

"I feel like coming here, I’ll be ready to go," he said. "I saw some elite pitching and I struggled. But we lost our starting catcher, who I was battling with. Hopefully this will prepare me for next year."

Gasper hopes to DH at times when he’s not catching and get his at-bats. Meanwhile he’ll hone his catching skills, working with some talented, but unfamiliar pitching.

"We’ve got some really good arms on this team, people I haven’t seen before," Gasper said. "It’s always good to work with people you don’t know."

"He looks really good behind the dish," Neverett said. "Between he and (Fava), we have a real good situation with our catching."

Neverett likes the way Gasper approaches the job of a catcher.

"He’s a little fireball back there. He handles the pitchers well but he frames pitches well. He’s going to steal some strikes for us. … There’s a few guys with a fire in their belly, and I like that."

Silver Knights in the draft

According to FCBL Commissioner Chris Hall, 23 players who have played or are playing in the Futures League were selected in the Major League Amateur Draft over the weekend.

For Nashua, the biggest name was Southern New Hampshire University’s Manny Cruz. Cruz, who was going to play shortstop for Nashua this summer, was taken in the 23rd round (678th overall) by the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds had actually drafted him three years ago out of high school but he didn’t sign.

"He’s going to sign now, that’s definite," Neverett said. "So he won’t be coming here. I’m happy for Manny. This is why we do this, so we give these kids a chance to move on. This is why they play all summer, after playing for their schools all spring, so they get noticed. It’s a chance for them to have an opportunity to get to the next level. We’re really proud of him."

Meanwhile, Dante Baldelli, set to join the team later this week, was selected out of high school (Bishop Hendricken in Warwick, R.I.) in the 39th round by the Phillies, but according to Neverett he’s not interested in signing. "He’s coming," Neverett said.

Also, another member of the Penmen, Tim Viehoff, who pitched for Nashua in 2014, was selected in the 12th round (357th overall). The Derry native went 8-2, 2.91 for the Penmen this spring and was the highest draft selection in the history of the SNHU program.

Power and pitching

An incredible feat occurred the other night in one of Nashua’s wins against North Shore. The team had four players lead off an inning with home runs: Cam DiSarcina, Cam Cruz, Gasper and John Toppa.

"I’ve never seen that before," Neverett said. "And Cam’s (DiSarcina’s) was on the second pitch of the game, an absolute bomb."

The pitching is still being sorted out, Neverett said. Drew Fischer will go on Tuesday night at Holman versus North Shore, while Mike Geannelis will pitch the Wednesday 10:30 a.m. game at Lynn’s Fraser Field (Nashua’s third game there in less than a week). The bullpen will work the annual exhibition game against the Lowell Spinners on Thursday, while Nashua North alum Ricky Constant will pitch on Friday.

When two other high schoolers arrive in the next week, both pitchers, Sean Mooney will start and Gavin Hollowell will relieve.

Pitching coach Kyle Jackson will manage Tuesday night’s game as Neverett will be watching his daughter, Hannah, the Nashua North senior shortstop, play in the annual Senior Games at Plymouth State Tuesday night.

Pitcher Alex Dhionis, who made one start but had been dealing with injuries, has been shut down by his college coaches at LeMoyne.

The first celebrity appearance at Holman for the summer takes place on Saturday night when former Red Sox standout infielder Rico Petrocelli, who has been no stranger to the Nashua area over the years, throws out the first pitch and signs autographs.