It began, says Nick Comei, during his junior season on the Haverhill High baseball team.
“Our assistant coach, coach (Paul Sartori), started recruiting me to play (for the Kingston Night Owls),” said Comei. “He’d keep after me every once in a while.”
The sales pitch worked because the 19-year-old Comei in his first year with Night Owls and thriving as the team’s starting shortstop and leadoff hitter. Batting well over .350 as the team’s leadoff hitter, he was selected to play in the league All-Star Game.
Sartori obviously has a good eye for talent, but there was something else about Comei that he liked. The Worcester Polytechnic Institute freshman reminded him in some ways of veteran Night Owl Kamal Asar.
Asar, also of Haverhill, has been at the heart of the Night Owls for 18 years and is now in his 30th year playing semipro baseball in either the old Northeast League with the North Andover Cardinals or the North Shore Baseball League.
At 48 years old, Asar is by far the oldest player in the league and, before slowing down a bit, one of its premier players, highly respected for both his ability and passion for the game.
For that reason, although he has played sparingly this summer for the Night Owls, he was selected as a team captain for the league all-star game.
“Although there is the obvious age difference, they (Asar and Comei) are both similar in many ways,” said Sartori, who cites preparation, competitive spirit, love of the game, instincts and a combination of talent and intelligence as common traits.
The young and the old from Haverhill hadn’t known each other prior to the season, but they’ve already made a serious impression on each other.
“He’s mature for his age — he’s the same age as my youngest son,” said Asar. “I really like his approach at the plate. He has great patience and doesn’t chase pitches.
“He knows what he’s doing, and he’s a very good fielder. He has great range and a strong arm.”
For Comei, Asar’s mere presence has made an impression.
“I love his passion for the game, to still be playing and enjoying it at his age,” said Comei. “It’s a dream of mine to play as long as I can and he’s living that dream.
“I learn something new almost every game. I can’t imagine how much he knows.”
And Asar, who also plays for the Metro Red Sox in the 38-and-over league in the Boston Men’s Baseball League, plans on continuing to live the dream and soak up the knowledge.
“I’ll keep playing as long as I don’t hurt the team,” said Asar, who often assumes unofficial coaching duties when not on the field. “I still love to play.”
As for Comei, he’s glad he listened to Sartori and is able to absorb whatever Asar and his other teammates have to offer.
“It’s the perfect summer team for me,” said Comei. “It’s local and the baseball is good. And the guys are great to be around.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the Night Owls, who were playoff finalists last year, are once again — at 10-1 heading into the week — one of the best teams in the league.