by Nick Lemley
Tuesday night was my first day as an intern for The Rhode Island Baseball Experience and what better way to start it than with the NECBL (New England Collegiate Baseball League), a prestigious summer collegiate wood bat league with multiple teams in each state in the area. The Ocean State Waves had their Opening Day (night) game against The Danbury Westerners at Rogers Park which is not too far from my home in Fairfield, CT.
Getting to the park was fairly easy for me, it was a 40 minute drive up Route 58. The park is situated next to Rogers Park Middle School at 15 Mountainville Ave in Danbury, CT. Upon arriving at Rogers Park, I could see the perfectly cut outfield and grounds crew still working on the batters boxes. There were bleachers behind home plate and on the third base line where most of the Westerners fans sat. Along the 1st base line there were picnic tables, Adirondack chairs and a smaller bleacher. Further down on each baseline and behind home plate were various choices of food, drinks and activities for the kids. Behind home plate was the snack shack, the 1st baseline had an adult beverage area and on the 3rd baseline there was a tent with tables for kids to sit down and draw at and meet the mascot “Westy.” About 15 minutes before the first pitch, the Westerners had a trophy celebration for their 2021 NECBL Championship run, logging 30 wins throughout the regular season and playoffs. To celebrate The Westerners had their General Manager say a few words to thank everyone and the fans, and host families. After, they sang The Danbury Westerners Theme song which was written and performed by Dave King.
From the moment I arrived at Rogers Park in Danbury, I could tell that the community surrounding the Westerner’s team was very close. Nearly everyone in attendance had Westerners gear on, ranging from hats to jerseys. And Westy the Westerners mascot was constantly interacting with the crowd and kids. Rogers Park also has 5 Little League fields on the same plot of land which gave the game and environment a very family friendly feel. As the night went on families and Little Leaguers would come over to the field to catch an inning or two and be on their way. Throughout the night there were games for the kids and adults in between innings, like races and trivia. One of the best ways they got fans and kids into the game though was their chance to get a free hot dog, if a fan returned a foul ball to the snack shack they would reward you with a free hot dog. Throughout the night I found myself on the edge of my seat just waiting for a foul ball but never got one.
The weather on Tuesday night was overcast and in the low 70s with a slight breeze, perfect playing conditions. In the 8th inning rain started to fall but it didn’t affect the players, and most fans came prepared with an umbrella or raincoat.
Overall I really enjoyed my time at the Danbury Westerners game; the fans and environment created by the operations staff and interns making sure everything ran smoothly made my night very memorable. One moment that stuck with me was when I was in the outfield taking pictures and three kids ran up to one of their dads and was screaming with joy because he was able to get most of the Westerners team to sign a ball for him. This just goes to show how much these kids and players love the sport, and one day one of those signatures might be in the big leagues.
While it wasn’t the best night for the Ocean State Waves, Rhode Island native Nicholas Conte was able to close the game with 2 inning pitched, 2 walks and 3 strikeouts. Brody Heaton of The Waves also had himself a night with an RBI double in the 3rd inning and a home run in 6th. For the Westerners and their supporters it was a great opening night coming off their championship season with a 5-2 win over the Waves with a great outing for Westerners pitchers only allowing a combined 4 hits, 2 runs, and 12 strikeouts.
Editors note: The Ocean State Waves are back in action tonight, Saturday June 11th vs The Newport Gulls at Old Mountain Field, Wakefield. Tonight is Little League Night, so Rhode Island leagues, players, coaches, and families are invited to attend and wear your uniforms to the game. And get out there in between innings and play some fun games and show everyone how awesome your Little League is. And stay tuned every week for more Rhode Island Baseball Experience news from Nick Lemley all summer as he travels around the very busy New England baseball scene.