The introduction on the Massachusetts Maritime Academy Web site reads like something out of a Herman Melville novel.
“Born by the sea, son of a commercial fisherman, entertained by and educated next to the seas . . .”
Whoever wrote that certainly wasn’t talking about Tyler Spofford.
Spofford grew up in Sharon Springs, where, he claims, there was a pond across the street from his house. But following his graduation from Mass Maritime, he’s going to make his living on the water.
“There’s no rhyme or reason why I found my way to the water, but I absolutely love it,” said Spofford, whose parents are the owners and proprietors of Clausen Farms bed and breakfast on Route 20.
There’s also no rhyme or reason to Spofford’s final baseball season for the Buccaneers. Following three mediocre campaigns, he led the team with a .379 batting average and was named to the second team of the Massachusetts State College Conference all-star team.
“I didn’t really take up baseball until seventh grade. I always played soccer,” said Spofford, who played in the outfield. “I like baseball a lot, but it was always work for me. But it seemed that no matter where I went, the more confidence I got, the better I played. My biggest enemy has always been in my head.”
Very few people locally have ever seen Spofford play baseball. He began his high school career at Cherry Valley/Springfield in Section III, and then transferred to The Berkshire School. where he spent his final three scholastic seasons.
“I transferred to Berkshire in the interest of expanding my horizons,” he said. “I was from a small-town world, and felt I wasn’t getting challenged. When I was at Berkshire, it was the first time in my life that I realized I had to work hard, both on my grades and on the athletic field.”
Spofford tore a knee ligament playing soccer during his senior year at Berkshire, and thought his best chance to complete in sports in college was in baseball. He considered the Air Force Academy, but admitted “the serious commitment scared me a bit.”
He switched his focus to the Coast Guard Academy, but “it was too late to get all the signatures I needed.” His guidance counselor at Berkshire suggested the Maritime Academy in Buzzard’s Bay. Mass.
“I had never heard of it,” Spofford admitted. “I had no idea what a merchant marine did.”
One of the quirks of Mass Maritime is that there are no winter sports, because that’s when members of the student body head out to sea for two months.
“Freshman year, everyone goes, but after that, only the licensed majors [students working toward a Coast Guard license] go,” said Spofford, a marine transportation major. “My freshman year, I went to Europe, and the last two cruises, I was in the Caribbean.”
The terms at sea also include a stint with a commercial shipping company during a student’s junior year.
“I was on a supply boat in the Gulf [of Mexico], supplying platform rigs” said Spofford. “I worked as an anchor handler. We would tow the rigs to a different drilling spot, and then reset their anchors.”
Once the cruises ended, baseball season was always just a new weeks away. Spofford was one of three seniors on a young Buccaneers’ baseball team this spring, and had the best season of his career.
“Up until this year, I was trying to earn a position, and stay on the field,” he said. “This year, that wasn’t an issue. I got a ton of playing time, and I just heated up.”
“It was Tyler’s work ethic,” said Buccaneers coach Bob Corradi of Spofford’s breakout season. “For four years, he worked at his game, and it paid off with a great senior year.
“Confidence naturally is always important to an athlete’s success, but with so much on his plate his senior year, Spoff had to really focus on baseball. Remember, he was preparing for his Coast Guard license during the season. Many times, he missed practice to meet those Coast Guard requirements.”
Spofford admits that Mass Maritime isn’t for everybody, but it was perfect for him.
“This is a tough place, and you have to make some sacrifices,” he said. “We complete 150 credits in four years, which is like six years of courses in four years, and we salute the flag at 7 a.m. and have to shine our shoes and shine our brass. Most of the kids here grew up near the water, and I didn’t have that. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”