EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 16, 2013

Summer surprise

McIntosh progresses from pinch-runner in spring to Legion All-Star for Haverhill

By Dave Dyer

---- — Matt McIntosh didn’t have high expectations this summer as a member of the Haverhill Post 4 American Legion team.

How could he? As a junior for Haverhill in the spring, he hardly broke a sweat. The only time he got off the bench was as a pinch-runner, and many people believe that Legion competition is superior to that in high school.

“After the spring I had, I was expecting minimal (Legion) playing time,” said McIntosh. “This is absolutely a surprise to me.”

The surprise, which McIntosh has gradually gotten used to, is that he is an integral member of Post 4, batting .317 as the No. 2 hitter and a starter at both second base and shortstop. He is one of three Post 4 players who will be playing in the Legion All-Star game tonight in Lynn.

“I absolutely didn’t expect that,” said McIntosh, whose younger brother, Mike, plays shortstop for the Haverhill Junior Legion team.

McIntosh played well a year ago for the Haverhill Junior Legion team, pitching and playing shortstop, and he had high hopes of getting serious playing time in the spring for the Hillies. That never happened.

“I thought I should have been playing more, but I can’t control that,” he said.

With so few at-bats in the spring, McIntosh was worried about being rusty at the plate this summer. But long-time batting guru Dave Bettencourt made sure that was not the case.

“He (Bettencourt) helped me a lot when I wasn’t playing,” said McIntosh, who also plays soccer at Haverhill. “I got a lot of work in with him and he helped me keep my swing.”

The Post 4 coaches are certainly thankful for the assistance. For them, McIntosh has been the most pleasant development of the season.

“He’s been a tremendous surprise,” said Post 4 coach Dan Francescone. “He started in left field to start the season when the Whittier players were still in the tournament and he’s worked his way up the ladder.

“He’s very versatile. He’s done a good job whether at second, left field or shortstop, and he even started one game at third base. He’s able to control the bat — he can lay down the bunt or advance the runners with a hit.

“Hopefully, this (summer) will translate into more playing time next year for Haverhill.”

That, of course, is also the hope of McIntosh, whose confidence is growing by the day.

“Right now I’m feeling really good about myself,” he said.