Summer baseball in North Kingstown was very much up in the air for most of 2020. With the North Kingstown Wickford Little League postponing the start of its season to May 11th, then deciding not to have Tee Ball nor Coach Pitch divisions at all this Spring/Summer, many families were left wondering if their son/daughter would get to play at all in 2020. Typically, Tee Ball and Coach Pitch Division have players that are Kindergarten to about 4th Grade age wise and tend to share baseball equipment at practices and games. The older kids (AAA, Majors, Juniors, Seniors Divisions) tend to have their own gloves, bats, helmets, even catcher’s gear. The rationale for not offering a Tee Ball nor a Coach Pitch Division for the Spring/Summer season at NKW was based on safety of the players, their families, and the North Kingstown community at large who attend games and practices.
A few months back, I reached out to the Town of North Kingstown to propose a baseball program for these youth baseball players who would not have a season. I also consulted with Arnie Sarazen, who is the President of NKW Little League and a longtime friend about the program. I wanted to run a parallel program, safety wise, as NKW and to be consistent with local and state guidelines for youth sports participation. I also needed to wait until Rhode Island was in Phase 3 of the ReOpening RI plan for youth sports participation and social gathering size. After a few months of planning, meeting, emails, and discussion, and the eventual entering of Phase III, The Town of North Kingstown green-lighted my program, NKW approved the use of two fields (Signal Rock and Feurer Park), I recruited Rob Mezzanotte to help run the practices, and we had set a date for our Opening Day of our program for Saturday, July 11th.
Unfortunately, rain was in the forecast for that Saturday and we had to push our Opening Day to Saturday July 18th. I had waiver forms from the Town of North Kingstown, the Town had prepped the field for our use, and I had a key to the storage shed for baseballs, helmets, bases, and batting Tee’s. Parents and players began showing up around 10am that first day of NK Summer Baseball. I met with some parents individually and then made some announcements to the players and parents when everyone had arrived. Social distancing whenever possible. Bring your own equipment and do not share it with others. Bring your own water bottle and do not share it with others. Maintain social distancing in the perimeter of the fence to watch your player and cheer on the others. The message was simple – let’s be smart, let’s be compliant, let’s play ball!!!
For the next 5 weeks, on Mondays and Saturdays, players aging from 5 to about 9 got an opportunity to play baseball this summer. Coaches were parents of the players, with the exception of yours truly. Players brought their own gloves, hats, helmets, and bats. Parent spread out in the bleachers, in the grassy areas around the field, in the shade, or just in their cars to watch. The players learned a number of skills including base running, fielding ground balls, throwing to bases, catching fly balls, and hitting off a pitcher. Week by week, practice by practice, the players got more and more opportunity to learn and develop their skills. We had a really nice mix of younger kids and some older more experienced players. We had both boys and girls participating. There were about 4 to 5 coaches on the field at all times. We would break the kids up into smaller groups to work on skill development. Every kid got better, every kid got a hit, every kid got a chance to play baseball this summer.
I reached out to the Pawtucket Red Sox to see if they could send their very popular mascots down to visit our program. Scheduling and commitments were discussed throughout August and the final date was set for our final practice, Saturday August 15th. Paws and his friend, John, arrived at Feurer Park to a huge ovation by players and parents. Paws spent about an hour with the kids, joking around with them, answering questions, running the bases, taking a few swings, and more. The parents and kids were thrilled to have Paws there for our last practice. I want to thank the Pawtucket Red Sox organization for their generosity in sending Paws down to be with our program!
And on a side note, I asked families to bring a non-perishable item to be donated to North Kingstown’s Food Pantry to our final practice. The response was overwhelming and I have a huge donation to bring to the Food Pantry on Monday morning. Thank you to all the families who donated!!!
It really is a blessing when you can give back to your community. When I learned that the Tee Ballers and Coach Pitch kids were not going to have a Spring/Summer season, I knew I had to at least propose an opportunity to the Town of North Kingstown. With Arnie Sarazen’s blessings and the Town of North Kingstown working with me on this program, I have to say it went about as well as it could have. This North Kingstown baseball program averaged about 10 to 15 kids per practice, which are very positive numbers for the summer. Kids got better each week and were about to have a nice transitional program for fall baseball, should they decide to play. North Kingstown Wickford Little League is having a fall baseball program, which you can find out more about by going to their website – http://www.nkwll.com.
Special thanks to Rob Mezzanotte, Alex Bush, and the other parents who helped coach and run the practices on both Saturday and Monday. Thank you to the Town of North Kingstown for working on the fields and allowing this baseball program to happen. Thank you to the North Kingstown Wickford Little League admins for helping to promote the program. Thank you to the players, the parents, and the fans who showed up each and every practice with a ton of baseball enthusiasm. Thank you to the Pawtucket Red Sox for sending us the very entertaining Paws to be with us for our final practice. It was a true team effort by a number of community driven North Kingstown moms and dads and baseball fans. And it was a honor to be a part of the North Kingstown Summer Baseball Program, Summer 2020.