In March of 2020, I took a ride down to Beck Field on the campus of the University of Rhode Island. Beck Field is the home field of the Rhody Baseball team and I wanted to get photos of the field for my baseball fields collection. At that point of the 2020 Spring season, URI was still actively playing baseball games. When I arrived on March 1, URI was playing road games south of New England, quite common for New England collegiate baseball teams in the Spring season. In fact, they played up until Sunday, March 8th before the NCAA cancelled their remaining schedule of games, thus ending their 2020 season before they could even play a home game at Beck. They finished the 2020 season with a record of 8-5. Here are a few photos of the field from March:
After the summer collegiate baseball season had ended, I reached out to David Fischer, Director of Baseball Operations at Rhody Baseball to see if I could attend a practice or scrimmage this fall. URI would not be playing games against other schools this fall. It would be strictly practice, intra-squad games, simulated batting practices, and situational type practices only. Coach Fischer directly me to the University of Rhode Island’s Covid-19 online questionnaire to determine my eligibility to attend a campus event, such as a baseball practice. I had to answer several health questions and receive a passing score in order to gain access to the campus and baseball field. I was able to pass this eligibility test and I scheduled Saturday at 11am for an opportunity to watch practice.
I was thrilled to see the URI players on the field when I walked up to Beck Field. Coach Fischer and Coach Kevin Vance greeted me from their positions on the other side of the fence/netting behind home plate. The coaches and I chatted about some of our Rhode Island baseball community members who we had a mutual connection with. They were busy so I didn’t chat them up too much. Coach Fischer introduced me to Head Coach Ralph Cerrato, who spent a few minutes with me as well. Austin White’s mother was seated beside me, mask on, cheering on her son. South Kingstown P Ben Brutti was also in attendance, mask on, watching his older brother Bo and other baseball friends at this practice. We all sat and chatted in the bleachers just to the right of home plate in this very unique bleacher seating setup:
The practice was fast moving and situational and intense. Coaches were active with players on base running, fielding, throwing to the correct base per the situation during the live batting practice portion. Base runners sprinted from base to base, outfielders sprinted to catch fly balls and snag gap hits, infielders took laser grounders from URI batter – did I mention it was fast moving? Batters hustled out in and out of the batter’s box. No down time, no time for walking around the field, the players hustled from the dugout to the field, around the field. URI is a big time college baseball program and they did not disappoint yesterday. Under better circumstances, I would recommend every RI HS player looking to play top collegiate baseball should attend a practice like this to get a sense of the intensity and speed of play. Not to mention the skill level at EVERY position on the field! Let’s hope we have better circumstances come Spring season.
After the simulated batting practice session, the teams got set up for a scrimmage game. I watched the first inning of the scrimmage, with South Kingstown’s Broc French on the mound facing URI hitters. The last time I had seen French pitch was in the Rhode Island HS State Tournament a little over a 1 year ago. French pitched really well then and is still on his “A” game from what I witnessed on Saturday.