I am so blessed to have 3 amazing sons. 3 sons whose talents and abilities are very different, yet special and spectacular nonetheless. Their North Kingstown High School experiences (by ways of their talents) has been different as well. My oldest, Spencer, was an accomplished musician with the NKHS music program who played in many, many school concerts. My middle, Griffin, who is about to graduate in 2021, is an exceptional artist who has had artwork displayed in various state wide art showings for the past two years. And my youngest, Harrison, a sophomore, an athlete who loves sports and competition and baseball will now get his opportunity to be a part of the North Kingstown High School sports experience. I was thrilled to watch Spencer play guitar and drums in concert. I love going to see Griffin’s artwork on display. And Saturday, I got to experience another proud parent first – Harrison’s first game as a member of the North Kingstown High School JV Baseball team.
It was a partly sunny afternoon in Portsmouth for the 12 noon game time. The wind was the story at Portsmouth High School’s baseball field as I made the walk up from the school’s driveway, passed the track and field area, and into the baseball field. To my left, there was a massive American flag just whipping around like crazy. The wind was blowing in from centerfield, good news for the pitchers and bad news for hitters. I walked around the back of the field looking for a few camera spots to take photos and snagged this one behind home plate just as the game was starting.
From the backstop, I spotted a number of familiar North Kingstown families so I started over towards the third base dugout bleachers. It was sort of like all the other North Kingstown Wickford Little League games (that I wasn’t coaching in), except this time the players on the field were just as tall or taller than the parents. I always find it amazing when I see a player on the field, find their parent in the stands, then say “Is that Quincy” or “Is that Eric”, meaning “When did they get so tall???” The parents, for the most part, look pretty much the same, which makes it easier for me to spot them, say Hello, and of course catch up with them. As I was chatting with a few parents, I looked over into the dugout and spotted Harrison. He was wearing number 8. And so it was, the torch from my NKHS baseball career was now officially passed to Harrison.
Portsmouth High School, in my opinion, has always had a great baseball program. Saturday, their 2021 JV Baseball team was consistently hitting the baseball well, into the outfield, and passed diving NKHS defenders in the infield. The NKHS JV Pitchers threw the baseball well, with few walks. Portsmouth was just up for the challenge offensively. At or around the end of the 5th inning, Harrison and another NKHS player began to play catch outside the dugout. I was hopeful that Harry was going to get his opportunity to pitch, but wasn’t sure if this was just a warmup or friendly game of catch. I watched in anticipation as NKHS batted in the top of the 6th inning, both the batters and Harrison in the dugout. He had a ball in his glove the entire time his teammates were at bat, a small tip that he was going into the game. Then, the final out of the top of the 6th was recorded, and #8 exited the dugout and ran onto the field.
For every parent that was in attendance on Saturday whose son did not get an opportunity to play high school baseball last season, I am sure they felt the same pride watching their sons out there on the field as me as I watched Harrison take his warmup throws on the mound. Harry was in a High School baseball game, making a contribution to his team. He had accomplished a goal he set way, way back on the fields at Wilson Park. As I watched him throw, I rolled back the memories of all the throws and catches we have had over the years. I was beaming with pride and excitement for him. The first batter he faced, he recorded his first strikeout as a member of the NKHS JV baseball team. Portsmouth did get some solid hits off him and were able to push a run or two across the plate. In the end of the inning, he walked off the mound with his head high, having pitched really well for his team.
I wasn’t sure if Harrison would get an opportunity to hit, but I was surprised again when he went to the on deck circle to start the top of the 7th inning for NKHS. Harry worked a 3-0 count, then stepped out of the batter’s box to take a few practice swings. I was standing with my longtime friend Jeff Bush, whom I played with at NKHS way, way back in the day. I muttered under my breath “Go ahead and give him the green light,” meaning go and ahead and swing 3-0 if you have a pitch to hit. Harry did so, lining a base hit passed a diving third baseman for a clean single. Another contribution to his team. “Way to go Harry,” I yelled out. NKHS hit very well in the top of the 7th inning and made the game interesting. Harry ended up scoring his first run as well and NKHS put up a number of runs before Portsmouth finally closed out the game. Portsmouth JV played really well as did NKHS JV, but in the end it was Portsmouth over NKHS.
I was so thrilled to experience my son playing in his first High School baseball game. When it was his turn to contribute, Harry went out to the mound and gave his team a solid effort, keeping the game close. Then, at the plate, he notched his first hit as a member of the team, scored a run, and helped contribute offensively. I was so happy for all of the North Kingstown Wickford Little League parents in attendance who got to watch their sons play in a high school game. Many of the players had never played a single game in High School, even as sophomores, because their 2020 season was cancelled. Playing for your local high school team, having grown up playing recreational leagues from Tee Ball age, is a really big deal, not only for the players but also for the parents. And despite the score, it was one of the most satisfying Rhode Island Baseball Experiences I have ever had, EVER!!!
Good luck to all the North Kingstown High School JV players, coaches, and parents as they continue their season this week vs. East Greenwich High School.