Every summer, I tried to catch the Newport Gulls in action at their historic home park, Cardines Field. Having played at Cardines as a high school baseball player here in Rhode Island, it is one of the most special baseball fields I visit every year. There are so many great memories of not only games that I played and players I played against, but now as a father bringing my sons to games. It is such a unique place to visit, walk around the stands, catch a game, read up on the history (there are plaques throughout the ballpark area), and have a great night in beautiful downtown Newport, RI.
Last night, I had an opportunity to attend the Newport Gulls vs the Vermont Mountaineers game. It was a very special night at Cardines, as the Gulls and crowd paid tribute to local police, fire, and first responders during “American Heroes Night.” Color guards from local and state Rhode Island Police and Fire Departments proudly walked onto the field and took their place around the infield perimeter. Several local law enforcement families threw out the ceremonial “first” pitches to Gulls players. Commemorative cups and tiny, replica baseball bats were handed out. Representatives from the Providence Firefighters Burn Foundation were on hand greeting visitors and handing out brochures. A beautiful rendition of the national anthem was sung, followed by an extended moment(s) of silence and reflection as the proud, Rhode Island men and women of our local and state law enforcement, fire departments, and first responders walked off the field carrying their flags of honor. That was a really memorable few moments and a gentle reminder that these American Heroes are so important to recognize – any chance we can!
Last year when I attended a Gulls home game, I was thoroughly entertained and intrigued by the ballpark’s announcer. His old time baseball voice, his exquisite pronunciation and enunciation of player’s names and their respective hometowns and schools, his subtle enthusiasm. I just had to meet him this year. So, at last night’s game, with my wife at my side, I took a seat right below announcer Don O’Hanley. All 85 years old and full of energy and with that clever wit I just love. O’Hanley has been the Gulls’ announcer since 2002. I told him he had a great radio voice and he admitted to me that in fact he used to have a radio show. Don and I spoke about Cardines, its history, the history of baseball in Newport, the Babe, and so much more. What a treat to meet Don and learn more about what makes Newport baseball so historic. I look forward to meeting up with him again this summer. And, I even got his autograph – the first one he has signed, according to Don, in all the years he has been a Gulls announcer.
Sitting a few rows down from our spot behind home plate was President and GM Chuck Paiva. I got a chance to shake his hand and sit with him for a few moments while I snapped some game photos. Great guy and as soon as I left, person after person came by to shake Chuck’s hand, give him a hug, converse with him, sit with him. That hands on approach to running a baseball club was really great to witness. Chuck and his volunteer staff of field reporters, ticket salespeople, concession stand workers, grounds crew, and ball park attendants do a fantastic job of smiling, engaging fans, and being a great representative of Newport Gulls organization. You feel welcome at Cardines, the staff want you to have a great experience, and their goal is to give the fans a memorable game and Newport experience.
The game itself was very exciting. A few early runs by Vermont put the Gulls behind by a few runs. Then, a towering 3-run home run put the Gulls ahead, which really delighted the crowd. Pitching on both sides settled down for a few innings as the game was tied going into the 9th inning. And on American Heroes Night, the Gulls delighted the crowd with a 9th inning walk-off base hit to win the game. Final score was 4-3, Newport Gulls over the Vermont Mountaineers.
Whether you are from Rhode Island or vacationing here in the Ocean State, Newport is always a lot of fun to visit, especially in the summer months. The streets are filled with tourists and locals soaking up all the great atmosphere that is Newport – the shops, the bars, the restaurants, the celebrities, the fancy cars, the bands playing on rooftops and on boats. Newport in the summer is almost like being on a reality show or in a movie, that’s how you feel being in that downtown area during this time of year. And the Newport Gulls play in a historic ballpark with tons of character against some of the top collegiate baseball players in the country. You can listen to Don O’Hanley announce the players in that iconic, old-time baseball voice, sit in a rocking chair in the left field bleachers, grab a seat behind home plate and meet Chuck Paiva, or just park yourself in the right field stands behind the two dugouts (both team dugouts are right next to each other). There is no bad seat at Cardines Field. This is one of my favorite Rhode Island Baseball Experiences to share and I hope you will visit Cardines and the Newport Gulls this summer.