Top CT prospect Connor Lane putting his Shoreline town on the baseball map

OLD SAYBROOK — This is a quiet town, where much revolves around its idyllic location, where the Connecticut River meets Long Island Sound.

Some celebrities, Katharine Hepburn or, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who has a summer home here, find serenity and refuge in Old Saybrook, but the town’s own Connor Lane attracts attention wherever he hangs out.

“We’ve had a couple of youth days, opening days for Little League, and every single person knows Connor,” said Ryan Fraser, the baseball coach at Old Saybrook High. “‘Oh, ‘there’s Connor, there’s Connor.’ It’s kind of crazy, for a high school athlete it’s something you don’t see too often.”

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It’s not hard to see why. Lane, 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds, is a commanding presence on the town’s ballfield, especially now as a senior on a small-school team with just enough players, several of them freshmen. Lane often controls the game from behind the plate; UConn recruited him as a catcher and he has committed to play there, if he plays college baseball. Lane takes his turns pitching for Old Saybrook, and hits the mid-90s with his fastball, flirting with a no-hitter last week; he has 52 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings and an 0.59 ERA.

At the plate, he is hitting well over .400, his on-base percentage well over .600.

And when his arm and knees need a game off, he manages his workload by playing shortstop, as he did at Branford High this week.

“I think he’s a leader amongst his peers,” UConn coach Jim Penders said. “I know his father (Mike), played against him when he was at the University of Hartford, and knew that, hey, if the apples don’t fall far from the tree, that’s going to be a kid we’re interested in. And sure enough, I was very interested. The first time I saw him, I wanted him.”

Lane is considered the top high school prospect in Connecticut, with the MLB Draft two months away. He has been drawing scouts to the Shoreline throughout the season, after participating in the major showcases last summer. The consensus is that they see him as a pitcher. Lane, himself, enjoys catching and hitting and is reluctant to close the door on any possibility.

“It’s going to be a decision that comes down to my family and I,” he said, “and what’s best for us, weighing he pros and cons of pro ball vs. college. It’s going to be a grind, either way.”

Last summer, Lane showed out at the Summer Rivalry Classic and as one of 250 players invited to the Area Code Games, where more than 150 scouts gathered in San Diego as he played for the Yankees team.

“Getting invited to the Area Code Tournament for the Yankees, that was really a moment for me,” Lane said. “I was like, ‘wow, I’m up there with the rest of the country.'”

Mike Lane, a catcher at UHart, where he was a teammate of future Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell, got his son started in baseball early in the Old Saybrook Little League.

“I started playing around 10 and found that love for the game,” Connor Lane said “Obviously at that point it wasn’t very serious, just playing for fun. It’s a game, the only sport where you can fail 7 out of 10 times, at least at the major league level, and be a Hall of Famer. It teaches you more about life. You’re going to fail a lot in life, deal with a lot of adversity in life, but you’re playing a kid’s game and it’s just fun.”

When he got to Old Saybrook High, Lane made the decision to leave basketball and soccer behind and focus on baseball, and he made the decision to stay in his home town, play with the kids he’d grown up with, rather than go to a private or prep school. As he’s proven himself as a player, he’s proven that the attention would find him in Saybrook.

“Credit to coach Fraser, we had a really good relationship and wanted to ride it out together,” “Lane said. “Being able to see myself have the success without going to private school was a decision me and my family made. Coming from a small town, being able to commit to a Division I school, getting on the national circuit, playing in the Area Code games, getting scouts to come here was kind of cool to see. If I was able to do that at a small school like Old Saybrook, then I really didn’t see he need to venture out and go to a prep school.”

He was invited to UConn’s prospect camp after his freshman season, and he committed to during his sophomore season. In 2022, Fraser, 27 at the time, was hired to coach the Rams, and they won the Shoreline Conference title that year, still the achievement that means the most to Lane.

“The biggest thing about Connor is, there is no ego at all, he’s entirely team-first,” Fraser said.

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“I’m not very cocky,” Lane said. “Obviously, I have the confidence inside that I’m going to get that pitcher, throw out that runner.”

Penders, a catcher himself, was attracted to the way Connor handles that position, and the way he swings the bat. “But I never say never,” Penders said. “He may wind up being a pitcher.”

Lane sees his younger self when the town’s youngsters gather round to talk baseball.

“I like being able to give back an give those kids the opportunity,” he said.

With about 360 students, Old Saybrook High is well-known for soccer — the Rams have won the last five CIAC Class S titles — and as the alma mater of NBA player and coach Vin Baker. Now Connor Lane is poised to give the small town on the Sound a baseball culture of its own.

“No one cares about Old Saybrook being successful more than myself, but he’s a very close second in terms of wanting to leave a legacy here,” Fraser said. “That’s something we’ve talked about a lot. He could be one of the most decorated athletes ever to leave Old Saybrook, that’s a small-town thing that he holds and wants to make sure he’s successful.”