SOUTH PORTLAND — Playing catch together is nothing new for Nick and Sam Troiano.

The brothers have been doing that since they were little kids.

So on the first day of their final season together as South Portland High baseball players, it was only natural that Nick the senior catcher and Sam the junior pitcher would pair up.

“We throw every day. We do it at home, the baseball field, practice, inside,” said Nick Troiano. “A couple of inches of snow on the ground we were throwing in my backyard. Yeah, just to get the arms loose a little bit. You don’t want to come in here and have it be the first time you throw.”

Monday was the first day for pitchers and catchers to participate in coach-supervised conditioning and throwing for high school baseball and softball players in Maine. In past years, only eight pitchers and two catchers were allowed. This is the first spring where coaches can invite an unlimited number of players to participate in the first week “Pitcher/Catcher Conditioning,” period as the MPA Baseball Bulletin terms it.

“It’s not (just) the pitchers getting the arm injuries and some (teams) have more than eight pitchers,” South Portland Coach Mike Owens said. “We’d been fighting this for four, five years, and got some orthopedic surgeons involved, and did the science of it and why this was important.”

South Portland is the defending Western Class A champion, losing 5-4 in the state final to Bangor.

Sam Troiano is the only returning starter to the South Portland staff, and he and senior reliever Griffin Kelley are the only experienced varsity arms.

Owens was pleased he could invite five extra players for the first week. Any more, he said, would have made the workout too crowded in a gymnasium.

The first-week practices are quite restrictive when it comes to allowed activities.

No batting, fielding drills, pickoff moves, base coverage, base running or situational simulation is allowed. Players can throw and stretch. It’s up to the coaches to get across the ideas and philosophies they believe allow the players to throw and stretch properly.

“What we’re trying to do is get the general ideas and kind of our expectations – we’re here on time, we’re going to work hard – that are going to carry on for the entire season,” Owens said. “We take it really slow and we go over everything exactly. This is a really good chance for us to nit-pick some of the small, minute, mechanical things, but really it’s just about getting the tone set.”

Full-scale practices begin next Monday for baseball and softball. Lacrosse, tennis, and track and field practices also begin then.

South Portland was one of the few schools that held their scheduled baseball and softball practices Monday. Most schools in the Portland area were closed due to the early-morning snowfall. South Portland did not cancel classes.

“We’re not going to win the state championship today,” Owens said, laughing. “But it does keep us on schedule.”

Owens said he believes his squad again will be in the mix to contend for a championship.

The Troiano brothers will be a critical component.

Nick Troiano is a three-year starter at catcher. Sam Troiano, who started in the outfield as a freshman, emerged last season as one of the better pitchers in the SMAA. He was named to the All-SMAA second team as both an outfielder and pitcher, and was also an All-Defensive pick.

“Sam’s future, if you were to project it, is as an outfielder,” Owens said. “He throws really hard. He has a strong arm and he’s developing as a pitcher.”

Sam Troiano said his brother deserves some of the credit for his improvement.

“He can kind of tell me what’s wrong on the mound,” Sam Troiano said. “Like if I’m pulling off or something. He’ll tell me. He’ll tell me, ‘fix this, fix that,’ and it usually works pretty good.”

Nick Troiano said one of the keys to working with his brother is gauging how much to say and how it should be said.

“What’s easier because he’s my brother is I don’t mind saying some stuff to him that I probably wouldn’t say to most people,” Nick Troiano said. “What’s harder because he’s my brother is saying stuff that I probably shouldn’t be saying to him. It works both ways.”

This year South Portland will need both Troianos on the same wavelength – and Nick Troiano to help develop some new arms. Henry Curran, the staff ace a year ago and Maine Sunday Telegram Player of the Year, is now on the University of Southern Maine roster.

Sam Troiano said, “I just want to try to do what Henry did last year, be efficient and get wins.”

“The staff is going to be deep this year,” Nick Troiano said. “The difference is last year there were a lot of seniors and this year there’s a lot of sophomores and juniors. We’re going to have to rely on younger kids.”


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