Early Saturday morning, this July 3rd, 197 teams playing in the Firecracker 4th of July Showcase Classic were handed some rather bad news. “Unfortunately, we have made the tough decision to cancel the rest of the weekend due to rain and fields being flooded. It would be unsafe to continue playing on the fields. We thank everyone for their support and understanding,” read the post on several of Firecracker Sports’ social media pages. Only their college scout day and 1 day and 1/2 of games were played in this huge weekend tournament taking place on baseball fields all over Rhode Island. As a fan, I was really looking forward to catching up with the Bandits and Outlaws and Makos and L&M and Scorpions and PSL – wow the list of teams goes on and on. As the famous quote states, sometimes “rain happens.”
As a fan of local Rhode Island baseball teams and organizations, I get game updates on my GameChanger app every time an organizational admin posts something. Sometime late Saturday, I saw a game update by the Ocean State Makos 17U club referring to a game on Sunday morning. The game would be played at URI’s Beck Field vs Clinton County Mariners 19U club out of Plattsburgh, NY who were in town for the Firecracker 4th Tournament. After Friday and Saturdays games were lost to rain, I was psyched to see a game update and thought it would be great to catch a game. So, I headed over to the weather channels to check for rain, then headed down to Beck Field for Makos vs Mariners.
Typically for a 4th of July baseball game, I am thinking sunscreen, a hat, T-shirt, and where the best shade in the park is. Yesterday, I was struck with Sweatshirt or Jacket, possibly jeans, and where can I sit so whatever sun is peeking through the clouds can get to me to warm me up. Game time temperatures were so unseasonable yesterday I actually saw a fan in the bleachers wrapped up in a blanket! On the 4th of July, can’t make this stuff up. The clouds and damp temperatures were very unusual for July in Rhode Island but the field was dry and baseball was being played, so lets play ball!!!
At URI’s Beck Field, there are bleachers situated behind home plate in front of the press box area. And there are bleachers over by the first base dugout where fans can bring chairs or just sit on the steps. I like the view from the first base bleachers, so I took a seat halfway up to catch the game. The Makos’ Adam Mahar started the game and threw 2 scoreless innings. I ran into Jamie Degidio, who is the Ocean State Makos co-founder, a Coach, and was on Dad patrol at the game. It’s great talking baseball with Jamie, who is really tapped into the Rhode Island baseball scene on so many levels. Just as he was sitting down with his son, North Kingstown High School’s Braeden Perry walked out to the mound for the Makos. Perry is coming off a very successful run in the Rhode Island D1 High School Tournament, where his/my North Kingstown Skippers won the D1 State Baseball Title. It was great to see Braeden pitch and hear Jamie’s very positive evaluation of him.
After a few innings, I moved to the area just left of the third base dugout to get a few game photos. I was sort of trailing a professional looking camera person who had a tripod and looked like he knew what he was doing photography wise. From this spot just in front of the bullpen area, I was able to catch some hits and a run for each team. The pitching at this level is so good, hits and runs can be hard to come by. In fact, after 5 innings of play, the score was just 1-1 with just few baseballs hit hard all game by each side. Fast forwarding a bit here – of the 14 total hits in the game, there was just one double by the Makos’ (and Cumberland High School) Cameron Harthan. I received an email from a fan, who captured Harthan’s hit on video. Pretty cool!!!
Part of the experience for me at these games is meeting and greeting family members, whose sons/daughters are playing. Sure, I say “Hi” to a lot of people at the game. But I also try to be respectful of the fact that they are there to watch the game, not necessarily talk to a stranger, meaning me. So, I throw out a few pleasantries and see how responsive Moms and Dads and Grandparents are and then gauge my talkativeness from their responses. I made my way out to left field and noticed a man in a lawn chair with his feet up against the fence and a baseball on the ground underneath his chair. “Is that a game ball?” I asked the man. He laughed and said his just found it in the field and asked did I want it. We started chatting about the game, the tournament being cancelled, and then I asked if he knew a player on the field. “Yes, my son is playing third base, Kenny Rix.” I mentioned I knew that his son had played at Pilgrim and was an excellent player. “He’s going to Hamilton College next year to play baseball,” said proud parent Ken Rix of Warwick. I was in the first base bleachers when Kenny ripped a line drive to third that was caught earlier in the game. “Just a foot to the right and that would have been a double for sure,” said Ken with a big smile on his face. Rix and I spent the next inning or so talking about baseball, Warwick North Little League, and family life. Realistically, I could have spend the rest of the game chatting with him, what a great guy. That is what I love about the Rhode Island Baseball Experience. It means something unique to everyone I talk to and meet at these games.
From right field, I finished up my game experience behind home plate, just to the right of the third base dugout. If you find a good spot, you can get some really great views of the game from that area. Fans had found some spots along the brick wall and one fan even set up a canopy to block the sun. Wishful thinking, I said to myself, as I crouched down against the wall. It was still 1-1 going into the 6th inning, with both Makos and Mariners pitchers throwing hard and getting consistent outs. You can see from this photo that the clouds were still very thick in the sky. Thankfully, there was no rain and the teams continued playing with no interruptions.
It was great seeing top baseball talent on display in the Makos vs Mariners game on Sunday. Despite the Firecracker 4th Tournament being cancelled, I was happy to see this exciting pitcher’s duel at URI’s Beck Field. Fans in attendance came prepared with sun canopies, lawn chairs, sweatshirts, and blankets for this unseasonably cold July 4th baseball game. It is always great to talk baseball with the Makos Jamie Degidio, who looked like he had his hands full with his very active son. And it was awesome to meet Ken Rix and talk family life and Warwick baseball. It may have been a cloudy day but I really enjoyed this July 4th Rhode Island Baseball Experience.
For more information on the Ocean State Makos Baseball Club, head over to www.makobaseball.com.