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Baseball: Massa brings his glove back to Westhampton

Westhampton catcher Jack Massa 061416

Jack Massa has the glove. Now he wants a bat to match.

Defense is a point of pride for Massa. As for hitting, well, that’s a work in progress, and part of the process involves a second straight season in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League with the Westhampton Aviators.

The Aviators are happy to have Massa back, and the former Shoreham-Wading River High School player sounds happy to be back. In a league where the turnover rate is high and returning players are in the minority, having a known commodity like Massa is a bonus.

“He’s the same guy, and a little better than what we had last year,” Aviators manager Dan Luisi said. “He communicates well with pitchers. He calls a good game. We give him a lot of leeway.”

Massa, a junior at Canisius College, had a rough start to this past college season, but a fine finish. He broke the middle finger on his right hand, his throwing hand, at the start of the season and was out of action for a month. He hit .224 with 11 runs batted in during the regular season, but shined in the postseason. Massa made the All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament Team with eight hits in six games and three RBIs.

As a freshman, Massa appeared in 56 games for Canisius, starting 42 of them. For his college career, he has a .260 batting average with a homer and 41 RBIs.

In the four games he has played for the Aviators this season, Massa is hitting .273 with one RBI.

The real number that stood out for Massa this past college season, as well as with the Aviators this season, is 1.000. That is his fielding percentage.

“I take a lot of pride in that,” Massa said of his defensive work. “In the beginning, personally, it was never a strong point of mine. I always tried to work at it, though.”

When he was in high school, Massa was a two-time All-League player for the Wildcats and a two-time Gold Glove award winner as the best defensive catcher in Suffolk County.

As for his hitting, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Massa said it has been “a little rough. I’m just a little uncomfortable with my swing, but other than that, like I said, it’s a process.”

Last year with the Aviators, Massa hit .289 with seven RBIs. His fielding percentage was .989.

Luisi has no complaints about Massa’s defense.

“He’s been great for us behind the plate,” the manager said. “He embodies everything that I talk about: accountability, effort, work ethic.”

The focal point for Massa this summer is his bat work.

“I just want to feel good with my swing,” he said. “I don’t want to think about it. I just want to go up there and be confident, know what to do and how to do it.”

Easier said than done. If Massa has learned anything during his college experience, it’s that pitchers at this level have good control with a variety of pitches. “Hitting,” he said, “is never easy.”

“Pitchers can throw anything at any count,” he continued. “They throw you off a lot. You might be expecting a fastball, they’ll throw you a curveball. Scouting reports help pitchers a lot, so as a hitter, you just got to adjust to that.”

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Photo caption: Former Shoreham-Wading River High School catcher Jack Massa is back with the Westhampton Aviators for a second year. (Credit: Garret Meade)