Two of the fourteen teams in the prestigious New England Collegiate Baseball League are located here in Rhode Island – The Ocean State Waves and the Newport Gulls. They play their home games in two of the most recognized baseball parks in Rhode Island – Old Mountain Field and Cardines Field. Their team names are synonymous with Rhode Island – waves are ridden by surfers nearly year round and gulls fly around our state searching for French Fries nearly year round. The Newport Gulls have an assistant coach (James Sauro) who is also the Head Coach of South Kingstown High School, which happens play its home games at Old Mountain Field, also the home field of The Ocean State Waves. Two NECBL teams playing in the same state, the same Southern division, who share local roads, bridges, probably run into each other at local restaurants – play a series of games every summer baseball league season called the Pell Bridge Series for bragging rights in the State of Rhode Island. Last night was Game 1.
After a rainy and overcast start to the day, Saturday evening cleared up really nice for baseball. The sun was shining brightly, the temperature had even moved up a few degrees, little or no wind to speak of. The much anticipated return of the Pell Bridge Series after a one year hiatus (due to the NECBL season being cancelled in 2020) was going to happen. With beach season traffic in play, I took the liberty of driving the back roads down to Old Mountain Field. From my home in North Kingstown, I took Ten Rod Road, down Lafayette Road, past the turf farms in Slocum, crossed over 138, down Broad Rock Rd, then left on Kingstown Rd, and another left to the entrance of historic Old Mountain Field in Wakefield. It is a bit longer travel wise to go the back roads, but I really love driving the country roads of Rhode Island as opposed to sitting idly on Route 1. Game time was 6:35 and the National Anthem was playing as I pulled into the parking lot.
I knew from reading the Ocean State Waves news and social media pages that Old Mountain Field had some improvements installed. The first thing that caught my eye was the professional looking protective screen behind home plate. As I looked from dugout to dugout behind home plate, you could see the work involved in installing the new protective netting, the wooden fencing to support it, and the dirt used to fill in their work. The screen looks awesome, nice work done there.
The bleacher area behind home plate was nearly full, there were families setting up lawn chairs just to the right and left of the bleachers, so I decided to find a comfortable spot to watch the game along the hilly area just about the third base dugout area. Fans had found spots in front of the large boulders that line the parking lot at Old Mountain Field. Parking was scarce and some cars came in and turned right around to find parking elsewhere. By the first inning of play, a really nice crowd had gathered with a typical fan base for a summer league game. It was great to see kids running around with their gloves on and Waves or Gulls hats/shirts/gear on. Parents of players got to sit close by and watch their sons play – in the stands, in the bleachers behind home plate, not hundreds of feet away or merely online. Summer collegiate baseball games are such an incredible baseball experience to be a part of and I was so thrilled to see a huge crowd of kids, parents, fans, and community members live there at the game.
Every summer, the Waves and Gulls do a great job with getting young fans involved at the games. On Saturday night, the staff at the Ocean State Waves along with their mascot Splash, invited kids to come out onto the field and participate in a few games for fun. The kids love the attention and the games are silly and really entertaining to watch. Parents get to shoot videos or take photos as their kids run around the field and play games in between innings.
From my spot around the third base dugout, I had a pretty good view of the game and the field. From time to time, I would walk down the hill to the protective netting and take a few photos and videos. The sun was really bright, which isn’t great for photography, but I was able to get a few good photos and this video.
The outfield fences, the dugout areas, the press box, the scoreboard were all filled with sponsorship banners and company signs from companies who support the Ocean State Waves. OPT Physical Therapy, a frequent contributor to this blog site, works with the Waves players and has a treatment table set up behind the first base/Waves dugout. The players, not in the game and along the right field bullpen area, were all wearing Twisted Pizza sweatshirts. Georges of Galilee is one of my favorite restaurants, not only for the food but the amazing views. And last night’s game sponsor was the Independent RI Newspaper, whose Sports Editor Will Geoghegan does an excellent job of covering Rhode Island sports in the South County area. In fact, I saw Will and his family at the game and found out (via Twitter – @rhodywill) that he threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Sorry I missed that Will.
I did happen to catch URI’s Billy Butler at the plate. He scorched a line drive to left field for an out during this at bat. I wanted to mention Billy because earlier in the URI Baseball season we connected on an article about his fundraiser to raise funds for Alzheimer’s. At last check, and via the Rhody Baseball Twitter page, the amount raised was a sensational $13,011.90. Awesome job Billy and to the entire University of Rhode Island Baseball Community!!!
After a few innings, I made my way over to the right field fence area where the sun was definitely not a factor. The game was still pretty close, with the Gulls up 5-3. The right field area had a bunch of kids playing catch and running around trying to tag each other. Parents and fans had gathered to watch the game in lawn chairs or just standing like I was. This spot was a fantastic place to watch the game. Unlike my spot behind the third base dugout, there in right field I could see the entire field, the batter, the game action, etc. The lights had stated to come on around 7:15 or so and the field looked amazing under the night lights.
As with many of these New England Collegiate Baseball League games, the game itself is just one part of the night’s entertainment. Watching little kids run around and play tag and catch and not on their phones/devices always brings a smile to my face. Seeing family members and fans and friends be able to watch the game up close or walk around unimpeded to catch up with friends was so gratifying. I got to see a few towering home runs, one by the Gulls and one by the Waves, much to the delight of the fans in the stands and along the parking lot hilly area. The weather had really, really cooperated and it was a very comfortable night to watch a baseball game. In the end, the Newport Gulls maintained their lead and won Game 1 of the Pell Bridge Series by a score of 8-6. It was a spectacular night of baseball here in Rhode Island.
Next game for the Ocean State Waves – Sunday, June 13th at Valley Blue Sox
Next game for the Newport Gulls – Sunday, June 13th at Bristol Blues
Game 2 of the Pell Bridge Series – Thursday, June 17th at Old Mountain Field