The 2021 New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) All Star Game was played Sunday night at Rhode Island’s Cardines Field, home of the Newport Gulls. Representatives from all 14 NECBL teams made their way into Rhode Island, over bridges and through the gates of one of America’s most historic baseball fields to showcase their talents in front of family, friends, and a few dozen professional scouts. The weather forecast for Sunday was “iffy” in terms of rain and stormy weather, but I took a chance and headed over two bridges to land at the famous ball field at the corner of America’s Cup Ave and W Marlborough St. just outside the downtown area and tourist areas of Newport.
I was excited to see some of the top collegiate baseball players at the 2021 NECBL All Star Game. And wanted to see Rhode Island’s Addison Kopack (Mystic Schooners, URI, Cumberland) and Shaun Gamelin (Ocean State Waves, RIC, West Kingston) compete and showcase their abilities as well. Rachel and I arrived around 4pm pre-game and we ran into Waves Manager Eric Hirschbein-Bodnar in the picnic area, where the players were enjoying a pre-game meal together. Arriving at 4pm, I had just missed the NECBL Home Run Derby. Eric told me it was incredible. Valley Blue Sox’s Luke Franzoni was the HR Derby champ for the 2021 NECBL All Star Game.
I found a seat about 3 rows from the top of the bleachers about even with the third base coaches’ box and took a look around Cardines. The Newport Gulls staff, interns, and grounds crew were busy putting the finishing touches on the field – raking the mound and catchers areas, lining the base lines, tying up any loose ends on the field before the opening ceremonies started. The field looked amazing, the infield and outfield grass looked trimmed and prepped, and the stadium was cleaned and ready to house hundreds of fans from all over New England. Reserve players were asked to line up on the third base line (Northern Division) and first base line (Southern Division). I caught RI’s Shaun Gamelin coming in from the bullpen to join his Northern Division teammates. Then, the starters were announced, including RI’s Addison Kopack who was the starting DH for the Northern Division All Stars.
Just after 4:30, Newport Gulls President Chuck Paiva took the microphone and escorted a number of people out to the pitcher’s mound area for some opening remarks. He welcomed everyone to the 2021 NECBL All Star Game, recognized board members of the NECBL, as well as Gulls Board of Director members, and longtime Medical Staff member Norm Provost got to throw out the first pitch. The color guard was presented, walked slowly in from the first base line out to center field, and all the players and fans were asked to remove their caps and stand for the singing of the national anthem. After the anthem was sung, players and fans remained silent as the color guard marched slowly back to the first base line. It was so silent in the stands at Cardines during this march that I could hear the metal clips holding the netting clinging against the metal pole in front of me. Truly, a sight to see and a silence to behold.
First pitch was right at 5:07pm and the 2021 NECBL All Star Game was officially underway. Just after first pitch, I spun around to check out the crowd and wow, fans started filling just about every available seat. The section behind home plate was chained off for the professional scouts and media covering the game. The Gull’s legendary PA Announcer Don O’Hanley was back behind the microphone and up to his usual sarcastic self. O’Hanley is such a treat to listen to and I love his sense of humor and comedic timing. Corny at times, yes, but so original and so awesome that he was a part of the All Star game experience for me.
In the bottom of the 2nd inning, DH Addison Kopack (#37) stepped to the plate. Kopack worked a walk in his first at bat, and later came around to score for the Northern Division. Later in the game, Kopack would single on a rocket hit to left field. Great night for URI and Cumberland’s Addison Kopack in front of family, his Schooner teammates, and the scouts in the stands.
By about the top of the 3rd inning, Cardines Field looked like it was nearly capacity for the game, fan wise. The stands were filled with family members who came from all over New England and beyond to watch their son play. There were teammates in the stands, kids enjoying ice cream, Moms and Dads and siblings all with their camera phones out snapping pictures, and tons of interns all around the park taking videos and photos to post on social media and webpages. It was a really nice mix of baseball fans all there to see these incredible baseball players.
The fans were treated to some stellar pitching, outstanding defensive plays, catchers showing off their big time arms throwing out runners, some outfield gaps hits, and a comfortable night weather wise. It was a really fun game to watch and I was determined to wait patiently to see RI’s Shaun Gamelin pitch. I would peer down to the bullpen area after each half inning to see if he was warming up. Nothing, no movement until about the 8th inning when Gamelin began to stretch and stir down in the bullpen area, which is just set just left of the left field area. Then, it was the top of the 9th inning, and Gamelin (#21 Ocean State Waves) made his way into the game. I caught a few photos of Shaun warming up and this video.
Gamelin recorded 3 quick outs on just about 12 pitches. An overpowering performance in front of his fellow All Stars, professional scouts, I even ran into his RIC Coach Frank Holbrook in the stands. It was awesome to see Gamelin pitch, well worth the wait.
Overall, it was an incredible Rhode Island Baseball Experience at the 2021 NECBL All Star Game. Cardines Field was such a great pick to host this game, featuring some of the best collegiate baseball players from not only Rhode Island, but all across the USA. I loved the color guard ceremony and the moment of silence. The play on the field was spectacular, the base hits cracked loudly in the stadium, and the pitchers fired heater after heater to the delight of the nearly capacity attendance Sunday night. I was psyched to see Gamelin and Koppack play and not only represent their NECBL teams, but also Rhode Island baseball. Newport Gulls staff, led by Michael Falcone, did an phenomenal job getting the field ready, the programs looked awesome, the whole night was such a huge success for baseball here in Rhode Island. Great job done by everyone involved!!!
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