The Portsmouth Abbey School Baseball club is a member of the Eastern Independent League and competes against other schools from Rhode Island and surrounding states. Portsmouth Abbey was on short list of fields and teams that I have yet to visit and watch. So, I reached out to Head Baseball Coach Derek Gittus this past week to learn more about attending Saturday’s game vs Berwick Academy. “You are more than welcome to come see us play one of our historically competitive rivals in Berwick Academy at 12:30 on Saturday. We have played a lot of one-run games against them over the years.” I was thrilled to receive a detailed email back about his players, his season so far, and that the game was open to the public. Great to meet Coach Gittus, who has been coaching at Portsmouth Abbey School since 1997, first with the Ice Hockey program, and then with the title of Head Baseball Coach since 2003. Coach Gittus is also the head of the History Department at Portsmouth Abbey School.
Portsmouth, like Bristol and Tiverton and Warren and many East Bay communities can be accessed by traveling north or south from my home in North Kingstown. On Saturday, I went the Southern route, over the Jamestown and Newport Bridges, left at the light for the former Newport Grand, then left again to get onto West Main Road, through Middletown and into Portsmouth. A left turn onto Cory’s Lane and a right turn into the event parking lot landed me on the campus of Portsmouth Abbey School. Saturday was Spring Family Day at Portsmouth Abbey School and there were tons of sports and family activities already happening throughout the campus when I arrived with Rachel around 12:30. On our nearly 10 minute walk from the parking lot to the baseball field, I saw beautiful gardens and amazing school buildings and party tents and a track meet and a lacrosse game as well as kids, parents, and grandparents all wearing familiar “Abbey” apparel. I am sure I could have parked closer to the field, but was happy to have experienced more than just a baseball field on Saturday.
The Portsmouth Abbey Baseball field is located in the northwest corner of the campus, as Coach Gittus had described in instructions via email. I could be mistaken, but it looked as if the right field area was a bit more raised or on an incline compared to center and left field. As I walked down the right field foul area, there was a nice size gathering of fans in lawn chairs as well as a bleacher section. The temperatures were absolutely ideal for baseball – 60° and light breeze, patchy clouds, and a lot of sunshine. A stone wall formed the outer perimeter of the field, which bordered a lacrosse or soccer field to the left up a hill. Rachel pointed a plaque and a memorial tree as we were walking towards the bleacher section to watch the game. Here is the tree and the plaque which read, “In Memory of Matthew J Penney, Class of 2007.”
There was a batting cage apparatus aka hitting turtle parked about 30 feet from the backstop area and that is where I parked to get some game photos and to take in the field. A few initial observations. First, each dugout featured a caged in rectangle with a bench to rest in between innings and at bats. No raised stands or structures, everything was ground level. Manual scoreboard – that caught my eye almost instantly. Temporary fencing for the outfield perimeter heading from about left center to the right field corner. The aforementioned stone walls surrounding the field. Field was in excellent shape, looked like the grass had recently been cut, overall a really nice baseball field set in an absolutely breathtaking setting.
Being in the corner of the campus, the view from behind plate, looking up to the campus area and all the activities going on was quite impressive. Add to that the sunshine, puffy clouds and I was just in awe of the whole scene there at Portsmouth Abbey. As far as the game action, Portsmouth Abbey jumped to an early lead thanks to a key hit by JJ Humenay, a ground rule double base hit with the bases loaded to plate 2 early runs. Abbey tacked on 2 more runs in the first to take an early 4-0 lead. Humenay was also the Portsmouth Abbey starting pitcher.
As I like to do at a field I have yet to visit, I moved around after each inning to take photos and observe the game in different views. As I was walking over to the third base dugout area where Portsmouth Abbey was sitting, I snapped a photo of the manual scoreboard operator doing his job. I just loved the old school feel of the moment and took this photo. Reluctantly I am sure, the operator hung a “0” on the board for the bottom of the 3rd inning, noting that Portsmouth Abbey did not score in that frame. Simple, yet effective – the manual scoreboard.
I found a great spot just passed some Abbey School fans/parents and watched the game into the 5th inning. There is a pitcher’s mound and netted batting cage area and soft toss net just to the right of the Portsmouth Abbey dugout area, again with the stone wall perimeter behind it. Berwick had come back in the game scoring 4 in the top of the 3rd to tighten Abbey’s lead to just 6-4. Berwick had replaced its starter and brought in a submariner type pitcher who baffled the Abbey hitters for an inning or two with a few frisbee like pitches. Abbey’s starter Humenay was replaced by lefty Levi Maguire, who threw strike after strike and got some really quick outs. Both teams put runners on and had scoring chances throughout the game. However, each team’s defense was up to the task on flyballs hit to the outfield to end potential scoring rallies for the opposition. When I left in the 6th inning, it was still 6-4 – Portsmouth Abbey.
As we walked passed the visitor’s dugout making out way out of the baseball field area, the crowd from the beginning of the game had grown and now the right field area was packed with families and fans watching the baseball game. Rachel and I walked the dirt path past the lacrosse game, up past the Family Spring Day event tents, up passed the track and field events, said hello to a number of Portsmouth Abbey officials all wearing the same “Abbey” apparel, and through the beautiful artwork and gardens back to the parking lot at the top of a long incline. I looked online later Saturday to find out that Portsmouth Abbey School sits on over 500 acres of land. Wow, what a campus and definitely worth a visit to!
The weather was ideal for baseball and an adventure to visit and experience Portsmouth Abbey School. Huge thanks to Coach Derek Gittus for the school and team information ahead of Saturday’s game. It was an amazing walk downhill from the event parking lot through the campus and down to the baseball field, which is in the northwest corner of the over 500 acre campus. The game was exciting – a lot of baserunners, some timely hitting, some key defensive stops, both teams played well enough to win in my opinion. However, the manual scoreboard told the story in the end. It was a win for Portsmouth Abbey by a score of 6-4 over Berwick Academy. And it was another amazing walk up hill through the Portsmouth Abbey Spring Family Day with all the games and activities going on throughout the beautiful campus. It was so worth the drive and I am so glad to share another memorable Rhode Island Baseball Experience.
For more information on Portsmouth Abbey baseball, visit their baseball page here – Portsmouth Abbey Baseball.