Sunday Night Baseball Featuring Ocean State Waves vs Mystic Schooners

The New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) kicked off their 2021 Summer Baseball season this past week. The NECBL consists of 14 teams made up of top collegiate baseball talent from some of the top collegiate baseball programs in the USA. Two things I am always partial to – Rhode Island teams and Rhode Island born players playing in the NECBL. Last night, I got to see one of our local RI teams – the Ocean State Waves – as well as players who are competing for the Waves and Mystic Schooners who are from Rhode Island. Throw in a nice dinner, a walk through Mystic Seaport, some ice cream, and it was a pretty darn good Sunday night. Here is how it unfolded.

The Mystic Schooners actually play their home games in Groton, CT at Fitch High School. From my home in North Kingstown, it was about a 45 minute drive down Route 95S to exit 88, then winding my way down Route 117 to Route 1, then Groton Long Point Road and the entrance to Fitch High School. The baseball field is in the back of the complex and I (and Rachel) parked in a grassy spot just to the right of the main parking area. When we arrived pre-game, fans has already started to unpack their lawn chairs and set up shop just outside left and center field areas. There was a huge temperature shift from when I left Rhode Island. Groton had far less humidity and the temperature around game time was actually very comfortable. We walked down the decline path over to the bleachers, which sat on the third base side of the field.

The game started right on time – 6:05pm – and a nice crowd had gathered in the bleachers and around the field. The parking lot area seemed to house the most fans. Along the first base dugout foul area, there wasn’t much room for a set of bleachers or even seats. The field abuts a wooded area where several foul balls landed and did not return. Reserve players and pitchers for the Ocean State Waves took up a spot on bleachers just passed the first base line near the scoreboard.

As a baseball fan who attends games from Tee Ball to the professional ranks, you get to notice the differences between the various levels of competition out there on the field. Having been to a number of youth AAU games as well as high school games recently and then watching the collegiate talent on the field last night, a few things came to mind. Sure there are the obvious differences – players are bigger, fastballs are faster, hitters with lightning fast bat speeds, infielders throwing across the diamond with a fastball that would strike most high schoolers out. Those were all on display last night. One thing that really stood out to me as I was watching the game. was the speed on the base paths of some of the players. Speed is a somewhat forgotten element in the professional game with stolen bases, triples, speed type statistics being way, way down as compared to years past. Last night, I watched Warwick’s Alex Ramirez score from first on a looping double to left field – Standing Up!!! Ramirez flew around second, was waved home by Head Coach Eric Hirschbein-Bodnar, and seemed to pickup speed (somehow) rounding third. Another thing that caught my eye was the defensive prowess of the catchers. Both the Schooners and the Waves catchers blocked and scooped and snagged baseballs seemingly uncatchable in the dirt. And here is a coaching tip for all you young catchers out there. They were blocking baseballs with no one on base as well as with runners on!!! And both had rocket arms to match their battery mate pitchers. The Waves catcher, Nick Hassan, caught a baserunner leading at first and quickly fired the baseball down to first nab the runner. That was fun to watch. These NECBL players, like Nick and Alex, are legitimate professional baseball prospects and it is so awesome to get to see them in action every summer. Parents and coaches of youth baseball leagues – you should seriously consider taking your teams to watch this top talent play the game at a very high level.

Cumberland, RI and URI Baseball standout Addison Kopack started at third base for the Mystic Schooners. Cranston, RI and Boston College Baseball standout Daniel Baruch started in right field for the Ocean State Waves. The aforementioned Warwick, RI and URI Baseball standout Alex Ramirez started at second base for the Waves. I got to see each of them bat and play a few innings on Sunday night. Three other players from Rhode Island – East Greenwich, RI and Brown University’s Patrick Petteruti; West Kingston, RI and Rhode Island College’s Shaun Gamelin for the Waves; Ashaway, RI and URI Baseball’s Sean Sposato for the Schooners – did not appear in the game while I was there. For all 6 of these players and their families, I have to say this is a big time accomplishment for these Rhode Island baseball prospects.

Here are a few photos and videos I captured during the game. Because this was a general admission game, I was free to move about the ball park and get some really cool photos and videos of the game action.

The weather was just incredible for baseball. The nearly oppressive heat from earlier in the day had all but subsided and it was very comfortable sitting in the bleachers at Fitch High School. Rachel and I stayed until about the 4th inning, then packed up and headed to Mystic for dinner. As I was leaving the field, I noticed a decent crowd of fans in their cars facing the field as well as in their lawn chairs on the hill just past the outfield fences. With a slice of pizza in one hand and a cold beverage in the other, these fans were soaking up the fact that summer baseball was back! It was awesome to see the Ocean State Waves, the Mystic Schooners, and the Rhode Island players compete once again in one of the top collegiate baseball leagues in the entire country, the New England Collegiate Baseball League. I’m looking forward to attending many more games this summer and am so psyched that summer collegiate baseball is back!!!

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