Down the stretch run of the ’99 season, southpaw pitcher Matt Devine started coming out of the bullpen on a regular basis as a situational specialist for Harvard University’s baseball team. Heading into a new millennium and his senior campaign, the Hingham product and South Shore Baseball Club alumni has a legitimate shot at filling the set-up/closer role for the Crimson.
“Matt was on our JV his first two years and he made the varsity last season as a left-handed set-up man,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said. “He didn’t get into too many games early last season, but he got his control down and appeared in each of the last eight games. All were regionals, playoffs or must games for us. He found great command with his breaking ball and can throw it for a strike on first pitch.
“Matt became a very effective pitcher who we’ll rely on in crunch time. Going into this season, he’s going to be an important part of our staff. Last year, we brought him in as a specialist, to pitch to left-handed batters. We’re confident that he can get right handed hitters out by setting ‘em up with his curve ball. We plan on using him in a flip-flop role, set-up man and closer. He has ice water in his veins and that’s something you can’t teach.”
An Atlantic Coast League all-star as a senior, Matt started going to the South Shore Baseball Club when he was 10 years old and he later worked there. “New England high school seasons are so short, maybe 20 games, and it was good to have a place to go year round for hitting lessons, clinics and getting my arm in shape. Every one of the kids who worked out there (during the off season) was ready to go once the high school season started. I went to the Florida Spring Training Camp before my senior year. In high school, you can’t get individual attention and coaching like you can at SSBC.
“I took pitching lessons with Vin Hillyer for a few years and later with Steve Almonte. Those two guys taught me a lot at 13 to 15 that was repeated to me by my college coaches. I learned to pitch instead of just throwing. I don’t throw 88-90 miles per hour. I have to know where to throw the ball.”
Devine has come a long way in a relative short time. The last two years he has pitched during the summer in the competitive Boston Park League and posted an impressive 7-1 record last year as a starter for Flanagans. “He’s not overpowering,” Coach Walsh noted, “but he has a very effective breaking ball. It’s a 12-to-6 breaking ball, breaking from the armpit to the kneecap. That pitch reminds of Greg Harris, the former Red Sox pitcher.”
Not recruited out of Hingham High, Coach Walsh was tipped off about Devine by Frank Niles, president and director of SSBC. “Matt was at The Club as a young kid with his brother and dad,” Niles remarked. “He always worked hard and enjoyed the game. Although he was real serious, he always seemed to have fun playing. It’s great to see a kid like him combine a great education with the lasting memories of a terrific college baseball experience. It’s really what it’s all about.”
Perseverance is a key for this 6-0, 185 pound portsider. Despite not being recruited and spending his first two years at Harvard on the junior varsity, Matt never stopped believing in himself or his goal of pitching for the Crimson varsity. Last season, he had a 0-0 with 16 innings on the mound and 11 appearances, and this season he’ll see considerably more action.
“Matt came here recommended by Frank Niles,” Coach Walsh commented. “He wasn’t recruited, but Frank had him picked right on the money. He’s developed into a good pitcher for us. He pitched well in the Boston Park League, got his confidence up, and started locating the strike zone with his fastball. He’s always had that big breaking ball. A great kid and when we didn’t keep him on the varsity, it disappointed the other 30 guys on the team. Matt supports everybody, but he wasn’t ready until last year. We’ll use him a lot more this year.”
When he’s called in from Harvard’s bullpen this spring, Matt Devine won’t be toeing the rubber merely as a left-handed specialist. He’s going to be the man – the stopper- for the Crimson in 2000.