The Rhode Island Baseball Experience

Promoting Rhode Island Baseball Since 1972

This past Saturday, May 15th, The Pawtucket Slaterettes Girls’ and Women’s Baseball League held an amazing Opening Day in front of family, friends, current and former players, coaches, and their community. Since their announcement of Opening Day, I have had this event “circled” on my Google calendar and was hopeful that Mother Nature would cooperate. After checking the weather all week and messaging the group page on Facebook, I was so thrilled to take the drive up to Pawtucket’s Boys and Girls Club to be a part of the Slaterettes Opening Day. And I am here to tell you it did not disappoint!!!

The Pawtucket Slaterettes, according to their media pages, “gives girls and women from RI and nearby MA the opportunity to come together to play baseball (not softball).” They play their home games at the Pawtucket Boys and Girls Club, which is short drive off Exit 28 on Route 95, passed the street signs for McCoy Stadium and the former Pawtucket Red Sox, then down a small hill into the parking lot overlooking three awesome baseball fields. I arrived Saturday morning just as the parade participants (players and coaches) were lining up to march proudly down the hill, along the perimeter of the outfield fencing, then into the main field for the Opening Day ceremonies. Two volunteers stopped me as I approached the field and asked me if I was a parent. I said yes, but not to a Slaterette. I was media and I was a fan, not necessarily in that order. We laughed, I bought a raffle ticket, and then proceeded towards the fields.

As the parade and its marchers were still being assembled, I took the opportunity to walk around the fields. The City of Pawtucket Parks and Recreation did a fantastic job grooming the fields, lining the bases, and preparing the fields with appropriate safety signage. All three fields at the Boys and Girls Club are in use for the Slaterettes. The main field, where the ceremony was held, is the Juniors Division field. The field to the right as you are walking down the path is for the Slaterettes’ instructional league. The field all the way to the end of the facility is for the Slaterettes’ Tee Ball Division. Again, fantastic job by the Parks and Recreation Department to make these fields safe and ready for baseball.

I spotted a photographer’s tent set up in the field just past the Juniors Division field and walked over to introduce myself. The tent belonged to TSS Photography out of Middletown, RI and from what I discovered were now in their 20th year of capturing Pawtucket Slaterettes Baseball players. I spoke with Marie Twomey, who mentioned the proud 20 year commitment to the Slaterettes. Marie and TSS Photography are also a team sponsor of Slaterettes Baseball. She clued me in on another cool story. The woman who would be singing the National Anthem was a former Slaterette, Kyleigh Arenas. Marie told me that Kyleigh’s Tee Ball photo is one of her favorites. Apparently, Kyleigh took her individual photo with the bat held upside down. Marie remembers snapping the photo and it remains one of her favorite memories of photographing the Slaterettes. You can check out TSS Photography online at www.tssphotography.com.

It was getting close to parade time, as I could see some movement from the shaded area of the parking lot, so I proceeded down to the field area. I was able to find a spot to capture the processional, with players of all ages holding sponsorship banners, some teams chanting, parents screaming out their player’s names. Here is a slideshow of the teams and sponsors who have supported the Slaterettes baseball program this season.

Down the path and into the baseball field, one by one the teams took their positions in and around the infield and outfield areas. Master of ceremonies Bethanie Rado and some other volunteers helped position the teams before Bethanie took the microphone to start the Opening Day ceremonies. Bethanie and I have connected on a few articles and social media posts over the past year or so, so it was great to finally see her hard work come to light. Bethany welcomed family, friends, alumni, players and coaches and announced that this was the 40th season for the Pawtucket Slaterettes. She talked about what that meant to her and others who have supported girls and women’s’ baseball over the years. I could hear the emotion and passion in her voice and her speech. This day meant A LOT to A LOT of people and it was so wonderful to see it unfold in front of me.

As Marie Twomey had mentioned, Slaterettes alumnus Kyleigh Arenas was asked to sing the National Anthem. She did an amazing job in front a pretty decent crowd of fans, players and coaches, all standing proudly with their baseball caps off. The, Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien was introduced and spoke to the crowd about the importance of recreational programs such as the Slaterettes baseball program. Bethanie spoke about the incredible support from the City of Pawtucket, including the Mayor’s office and the Parks and Recreation Department. She mentioned the many important sponsors who have supported the Slaterettes not only this season, but in season’s passed. Bethanie then called on each team to stand and be recognized, along with their coach.

After the teams were announced, it was time for the traditional “First Pitch” and Bethanie called up Slaterettes alumni extraordinaire Tina Trahan. I met Tina, via email, through Deb Bettencourt, who is another amazing Slaterettes alumnus and supporter. Tina participated in a Women’s Fantasy Camp at the Boston Red Sox facility in Fort Myers, Florida. We spoke about her experience and Tina was gracious enough to send me photos and outline her experience at the camp. It was a really fun article to write and I was so excited to watch Tina throw out the first pitch. Bethanie had a wonderful speech (courtesy of Deb Bettencourt) that outlined some of the incredible accomplishments Tina has had in her baseball career. Tina is truly a Slaterettes legend and she fired a strike to the catcher at home plate, officially opening the 40th season of the Pawtucket Slaterettes. Well, actually shortly after the first pitch, Bethanie got back on the microphone and yelled out “Let’s Play Ball,” which I suppose also marks the beginning of the season.

After the Opening Day remarks, National Anthem, First Pitch thrown, and chant of “Let’s Play Ball,” teams were escorted off the field and over to the picture tent. I waited to greet Bethanie as she walked off the field. She was rocking all sorts of emotions and looked to be absolutely overwhelmed with pride and joy. We spoke briefly, as I knew she was super busy with coordinating the rest of the Opening Day ceremonies. She was just so happy that the families and players could participate in such a historic event and be a part of this great Slaterettes tradition. In fact, she mentioned that her program registration numbers were looking very strong and even an improvement from year’s passed. She mentioned that the Juniors Division would be playing in a game at 11am, so I let her get back to the business of running her league. I spotted Tina speaking with Mayor Grebien and waited patiently on the bleachers for her to finish. Tina and I had a great conversation and it was awesome to meet and speak to her in person. She did mention that she will be going back to the Boston Red Sox Women’s Fantasy Camp in 2022, so I am sure I will be emailing her to follow up on that experience. It was so awesome meeting Bethanie and Tina at Opening Day.

So, it is now official – the Pawtucket Slaterettes Girls’ and Women’s’ Baseball League is now underway. The 40th season of Slaterettes baseball is sure to be as memorable as ever for these players, coaches, and families. And if you look in the stands, there are always former Slaterettes at the games cheering on the next generation of baseball players. The Slaterettes is such an incredible baseball organization here in Rhode Island and I was so happy to attend their Opening Day. Good luck to all the players, coaches, and families participating this year for the Pawtucket Slaterettes Girls’ and Women’s’ Baseball League!!!

For more information on the Slaterettes, you can go to www.slaterettes.com.

Like many baseball and sports organizations in Rhode Island, The 2020 George Donnelly Sunset League season did not start on schedule. In fact, I was just looking through some old emails with Commissioner Chris LaRose to see when the 2020 GDSL season actually began. It was Wednesday, July 8th. This year’s GDSL season looks to be on par schedule wise like in years prior to 2020. The official start of the season will be Monday, May 17th featuring Rathskeller vs. Brother’s at famed Cardines Field in Newport.

There are five teams scheduled to compete in the 2021 George Donnelly Sunset League:

  • R & R Construction
  • Rathskeller
  • Brother’s
  • Wescott
  • Town Dock

Each team will play 12 regular season games at one of three fields – Cardines Field, Newport; Cranston Stadium, Cranston, Sprague Field, Narragansett – with the majority of games at Cardines. You can view schedules, stats, rosters, and more on the official website of the George Donnelly Sunset League (click link). This will be the GDSL’s 102nd season. Wow, what a historic league and accomplishment.

As rosters become available online, I will highlight some of the local Rhode Island baseball talent that will be playing in this year’s GDSL. Good luck to all the players, coaches, and families participating this summer.

I am so blessed to have 3 amazing sons. 3 sons whose talents and abilities are very different, yet special and spectacular nonetheless. Their North Kingstown High School experiences (by ways of their talents) has been different as well. My oldest, Spencer, was an accomplished musician with the NKHS music program who played in many, many school concerts. My middle, Griffin, who is about to graduate in 2021, is an exceptional artist who has had artwork displayed in various state wide art showings for the past two years. And my youngest, Harrison, a sophomore, an athlete who loves sports and competition and baseball will now get his opportunity to be a part of the North Kingstown High School sports experience. I was thrilled to watch Spencer play guitar and drums in concert. I love going to see Griffin’s artwork on display. And Saturday, I got to experience another proud parent first – Harrison’s first game as a member of the North Kingstown High School JV Baseball team.

It was a partly sunny afternoon in Portsmouth for the 12 noon game time. The wind was the story at Portsmouth High School’s baseball field as I made the walk up from the school’s driveway, passed the track and field area, and into the baseball field. To my left, there was a massive American flag just whipping around like crazy. The wind was blowing in from centerfield, good news for the pitchers and bad news for hitters. I walked around the back of the field looking for a few camera spots to take photos and snagged this one behind home plate just as the game was starting.

From the backstop, I spotted a number of familiar North Kingstown families so I started over towards the third base dugout bleachers. It was sort of like all the other North Kingstown Wickford Little League games (that I wasn’t coaching in), except this time the players on the field were just as tall or taller than the parents. I always find it amazing when I see a player on the field, find their parent in the stands, then say “Is that Quincy” or “Is that Eric”, meaning “When did they get so tall???” The parents, for the most part, look pretty much the same, which makes it easier for me to spot them, say Hello, and of course catch up with them. As I was chatting with a few parents, I looked over into the dugout and spotted Harrison. He was wearing number 8. And so it was, the torch from my NKHS baseball career was now officially passed to Harrison.

Portsmouth High School, in my opinion, has always had a great baseball program. Saturday, their 2021 JV Baseball team was consistently hitting the baseball well, into the outfield, and passed diving NKHS defenders in the infield. The NKHS JV Pitchers threw the baseball well, with few walks. Portsmouth was just up for the challenge offensively. At or around the end of the 5th inning, Harrison and another NKHS player began to play catch outside the dugout. I was hopeful that Harry was going to get his opportunity to pitch, but wasn’t sure if this was just a warmup or friendly game of catch. I watched in anticipation as NKHS batted in the top of the 6th inning, both the batters and Harrison in the dugout. He had a ball in his glove the entire time his teammates were at bat, a small tip that he was going into the game. Then, the final out of the top of the 6th was recorded, and #8 exited the dugout and ran onto the field.

For every parent that was in attendance on Saturday whose son did not get an opportunity to play high school baseball last season, I am sure they felt the same pride watching their sons out there on the field as me as I watched Harrison take his warmup throws on the mound. Harry was in a High School baseball game, making a contribution to his team. He had accomplished a goal he set way, way back on the fields at Wilson Park. As I watched him throw, I rolled back the memories of all the throws and catches we have had over the years. I was beaming with pride and excitement for him. The first batter he faced, he recorded his first strikeout as a member of the NKHS JV baseball team. Portsmouth did get some solid hits off him and were able to push a run or two across the plate. In the end of the inning, he walked off the mound with his head high, having pitched really well for his team.

I wasn’t sure if Harrison would get an opportunity to hit, but I was surprised again when he went to the on deck circle to start the top of the 7th inning for NKHS. Harry worked a 3-0 count, then stepped out of the batter’s box to take a few practice swings. I was standing with my longtime friend Jeff Bush, whom I played with at NKHS way, way back in the day. I muttered under my breath “Go ahead and give him the green light,” meaning go and ahead and swing 3-0 if you have a pitch to hit. Harry did so, lining a base hit passed a diving third baseman for a clean single. Another contribution to his team. “Way to go Harry,” I yelled out. NKHS hit very well in the top of the 7th inning and made the game interesting. Harry ended up scoring his first run as well and NKHS put up a number of runs before Portsmouth finally closed out the game. Portsmouth JV played really well as did NKHS JV, but in the end it was Portsmouth over NKHS.

I was so thrilled to experience my son playing in his first High School baseball game. When it was his turn to contribute, Harry went out to the mound and gave his team a solid effort, keeping the game close. Then, at the plate, he notched his first hit as a member of the team, scored a run, and helped contribute offensively. I was so happy for all of the North Kingstown Wickford Little League parents in attendance who got to watch their sons play in a high school game. Many of the players had never played a single game in High School, even as sophomores, because their 2020 season was cancelled. Playing for your local high school team, having grown up playing recreational leagues from Tee Ball age, is a really big deal, not only for the players but also for the parents. And despite the score, it was one of the most satisfying Rhode Island Baseball Experiences I have ever had, EVER!!!

Good luck to all the North Kingstown High School JV players, coaches, and parents as they continue their season this week vs. East Greenwich High School.

A few months back, I had the idea about compiling an e-book about how cool Rhode Island Baseball Moms are. The book, which is still in the works, will have a donation attached to it to the Rhode Island Chapter of Pink Heals. You can read more about my charity of choice in a recent blog by clicking Pink Heals. I received a number of awesome emails with wonderful stories about how their mother or how being a baseball Mom changed their life for the better. I am still collecting stories for this book, but in the short term, I would like to publish the set of emails that I received. The first letter was written by myself, Noel P. Roby, about 20 years ago for a Mother’s Day gift to my awesome Baseball Mom, Joanne Roby. She had it framed and it still resides in the hallway of her upstairs, along with hundreds of other photos of myself and my family at games, graduations, swim meets, brownie meetings, family reunions, essentially pointing out just how active and involved she has been in my life and my family’s life.

The first letter I received was from Stephanie Ferreira, who wrote to me about her son’s experience with King Philip Little League and sent me a few photos of her family as well:

I wanted to share a what it means to me to be a baseball mom…my oldest son, who is now 13, started playing baseball for King Phillip Little League (Bristol) when he was 6, his younger sister and brother have literally grown up at the baseball field.  Weekends from April to August are spent packing up coolers, sunshades, extra drinks, snacks, sunscreen, second uniforms, toys to keep the little ones entertained, chairs, blankets, and in the colder months hats and gloves, and occasionally even a portable heater (it was a cold April that year!)  For me, the time leading up to games involves planning out where the closest playground is for the younger kids to keep busy, packing enough layers of clothing for a family of 5 for those colder nights, Google searching where we can stop for quick dinner on the way home or grab take out in between games, making sure we have cash for the concession stand (his sister and brothers favorite part of baseball so far!), and of course-scoping out where the closest available restroom will be.

Watching my son and his teammates hit the field with excitement, celebrating a win or consoling him after a tough loss, the post-game hug is what I look forward to most.  At 13, this has turned more into a side hug-but I will take it!  Watching the game alongside other families and baseball moms (even if it’s from 6 feet apart) brings me so much joy.  My heart is on the field not just in my son but in his teammates too, they all become “our players.” When I am cheering for my son after a base hit or an incredible catch, looking around, there are other moms cheering just as loud, as if he were their own. 

In July of 2015, at the age of 8, my son was scheduled for open heart surgery, which meant he would miss his summer of baseball.  To say he was disappointed was an understatement.  I don’t even think he was worried about the surgery but more so missing his friends and baseball.  Our town and close by town of Middletown organized an exhibition game just for him.  They did this so he would have a chance to play a game before he had to be out for the rest of the season.  As a mom, this made my heart swell, this is what it’s about; our community, a sense of togetherness, other families and moms along with us in our journey.  During all these highs and lows, being a baseball mom has gotten me through some of my hardest days as a mom.  Looking forward to game day, watching him work to regain his strength to play, hitting the field after his surgery motivated me to stay positive, to see the bright side.    Post-surgery he was back on the field in 8 weeks, I was not ready, but he was!   Three years later in July of 2018, on the exact anniversary of his surgery, he had the honor of throwing out the first pitch to kick off the 9-11 year old RI State Championship playoffs, which his team went on to win! 

Rain or shine, in happiness and times of worry, this is what it means to me to be a baseball mom, I will always be his biggest fan.

The next email I received was from Tracey Colucci. Tracey is part of an awesome group of parents I befriended during the 2018 Coventry Little League run to the Little League® World Series. She, along with a host of parents, shared such incredible photos and insights during that memorable run to Williamsport, PA. Here is Tracey’s email and some photos she shared:

In our home, baseball all started with my Memere (Anthony’s Great Grandma). Teaching Anthony at a young age the game, showing him how to slide into home plate across my kitchen floor, how to swing a bat in her living room, and how to field a ball starting with a glove he got in his Easter basket. At 90, she even surprised us and showed up at the 2018 Little League World Series in Williamsport to see her guy play and cheer on the Coventry Little League team!!! At most games, you will see her sitting behind home plate watching Anthony catch, pitch, play infield, and hit while having her radio on listening to the Boston Red Sox game. She always has a smile on her face at a ball field and most know her…always greeting her!!! Thanks Mem for being such an inspiration to Anthony…to work hard and play great ball!!!! She is determined to live to see him play high school ball then college ball!!!! For me, she has taught me to just love the game… To sit back and enjoy watching my son play ball!!! Mem…You are truly amazing!!!”

Here are some photos of her at the field this past season. Because of COVID-19, she could only come to a few games for Anthony’s travel team but was at every Coventry Babe Ruth game behind home plate cheering all the boys on. And I attached one photo that the Providence Journal took the night of the 2018 Coventry Little League Pep Rally…sending our boys off to Bristol, CT as the RI State Champions… Who knew that night they would go on to win the New England title and participate in a dream come true for all Little Leaguers..play in the 2018 Little League World Series!!! The photo…my son and I…totally captures our love and excitement for the game! And my love for my son!!! So many incredible memories and many more to come…all because of a baseball diamond!!!!

The next letter was from another Rhode Island Baseball Mom and Super Fan. Sherry Broomfield’s son Mason is/was an INCREDIBLE baseball talent at such at young age. Mason grew up playing for Warwick Continental American Little League and Sherry and her husband Eric are part of a very enthusiastic group of baseball parents, who show up in massive numbers to cheer on their families. Here is Sherry talking about what baseball means to her:

I grew up a baseball fan.  Raised by my grandfather who was a huge fan, we were always watching baseball.  Been to hundreds of games and still cry every time they play “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”.  When my husband and I were pregnant with our first child and deciding what to name him, we used to scream out different names pretending like we were cheering from the bleachers just to see how it sounded.  We knew we would have a ball player one day, but we never could have imagined all that we’ve experienced as a baseball family in just a short time….

Our son Mason is now 13 years old.  He started playing T-ball at 5 and from the very beginning he was a natural.  He went on to play little league at Warwick Continental and we were blessed to be on so many awesome teams with great families, players and coaches throughout his little league career but through it all, we will never forget the Summer of 2018…

Mason’s 10-year-old Little League All Star Team was a force to be reckoned with.  They won their division title, then went on to win the RI State Tournament and finally moved onto the Regional Tournament which just so happened to be hosted by Cranston Western Little League that Year.  What an experience for both the kids and their families.  For one summer, these kids were celebrities.  Articles in the local papers almost every day, interviewed by local TV stations, a huge regional tournament party hosted at the Crown Plaza in Warwick, and followed – literally – by the entire state of RI.  The community started to know our boys by name; even their nicknames, followed their journey on Facebook and even came out to games to cheer them on!  

Our family started to have our own “superstitious” rituals during this tournament.  Before every game, I made Mason scrambled eggs with cheese.  His last name on his All-Star Jersey was spelled wrong (Broomfeild) but after they won the first game, we decided not to bother having it changed because it must have been good luck.  At every game, my husband and I had to sit on opposite sides of the bleachers (mostly so I didn’t kill him).  All the parents wore WCA T-shirts with their kid’s name and held up handmade signs with our player’s faces on them.  It was magic – the whole experience was just magic.

More than just the short-lived celebrity status that Mason had, he was part of something special that summer.  It was the moment that he really learned what it was like to be part of a team and how to succeed in high pressure situations.   They ended up losing in the semi-final game but at that point, winning or losing didn’t even matter.  We were just so proud of Mason and his team and so thankful for this once in a lifetime experience.

When you sign your kid up for Little League, no one tells you how lightning fast it is going to go by or how you shouldn’t miss even one game because before you know it, it will be over.   Baseball is still our life and will always be but there is just something about Little League that nothing can compare to.  Enjoy every minute!

The next email is from Jenna Germano, and her story about her son Elliot who played for Mt. Pleasant Little League:

My son, Elliott, has always been a pretty anxious kid. It was at its worst between the ages of 2-4. Even then, though, he liked baseball. And he was good- we had to stop pitching even a whiffle ball to him in our backyard because he could hit it over the neighbor’s house by the time he was 4. That year, he wanted to play baseball for Mt Pleasant Little League. Elliott and I walked from the house to the field to get him signed up. He was going to play T-ball on the Yankees with Coach Dave. It was so exciting! Until it was time to play. Elliott wouldn’t leave the dugout for the first couple of practices. When he did agree to play in games, I had to go into the field with him (and literally just stand behind him). Coach Dave was super patient with Elliott and let him take his time. Because no one could ever guess if Elliott was going to play or agree to go up to bat, Coach Dave always had him bat last. The downside to this was that if Elliott agreed to bat, with me standing with him at the T and helping him swing the bat, he would have to run around all of the bases because he was the last hitter. 
One game in particular, Elliott and I went up to bat. We hit the ball and started to run. He was holding onto my shirt chasing me around the bases yelling and crying, “Mommy. Mommy. I want to tell you something”. I kept running and encouraged him we were almost done. When we finally got to home plate, I asked him what he wanted to tell me. Tears in his eyes, he said to me, “I wanted to tell you I didn’t want to run”. Baseball mom fail. 

Elliott went on to play through Farm League and made it to the Majors. I was even a bench coach one year for Spring and Fall Ball (ultimate baseball mom position). But The whole family tells the story of his first T-ball season, and “I wanted to tell you I didn’t want to run”. Only this baseball mom could have gotten him through his first season.

The next email I received was from Karen Hersum. Karen and I sat in the same bleachers for years at Wilson Park and other North Kingstown baseball fields cheering on our sons. Her son, Henry and my oldest son, Spencer, are the same age and played on various Minors and Majors teams with and against each other. My son finished Little League at around age 12 and moved on to master the guitar, drums, piano, and just about any musical instrument you can think of. Henry, has moved on to being a Major League baseball top prospect and will be attending Old Dominion University on a baseball scholarship. Here is more from Karen along with some photos she shared:

The final email I received was from my longtime friend and former teammate at North Kingstown High School, Jeff Bush. I actually played a year or two with Jeff’s brother Eric, who was a fantastic 3 sport athlete at NKHS, then a few years with Jeff who is 2 years younger than Eric. I recently met their younger brother Alex during a summer baseball camp I helped run in North Kingstown. Great baseball family here in Rhode Island for many, many years. Here is more from Jeff:

If you grew up with a baseball mom in Rhode Island, then you know what true dedication is.  I was one of those lucky players.  I don’t remember my mom, Pam Bush, ever missing a game. From Little League and Babe Ruth, American Legion, North Kingstown High School and on through Rhode Island College and Summer league my mother was there.  Very early on my mom jumped in and learned every aspect of the game. She started keeping score while sitting on freezing cold aluminum bleachers during Little League games in Jamestown.  Her love for the game and her devotion to watching all 3 of her boys advance up the ranks was and still is a love that only a mother can provide.  Along with my dad John, they would pack up the car and drive to away games, enduring the cold March winds at The Coast Guard Academy or the muggy nights at Cardines Field in Newport.  

Growing up, we were a baseball family.  From early spring to fall ball, she was there.  We were fortunate to have my dad as a coach in Little League and Babe Ruth and my mom was there, every step of the way.  She made it her mission to learn baseball strategy and what each of our strengths were.  She knew balls and strikes as well as when the time was right for a hit and run, tag-up and a squeeze bunt.  I could always hear her words of encouragement when things weren’t going well, and she was never afraid to let the umpires know when they had blown a call.  

Our games took us all over New England and that often meant we were returning home late.  Victorious on not, my mom would pour her love into a great home cooked meal. We would sit around the dining table, long into the night, rehashing the game: which players had a great game, who missed a play or discussing the conditions of the field.  She knew it all. As I got older and played in the Sunset League, you could find us at the Old Mudville Pub, a true baseball hangout, for our post-game dinners.  The crowd was always a mix of tourists, locals and ball players wearing sweaty, dirt-covered uniforms with pride.  Due to its proximity to Cardines Field in Newport and the opportunity to watch a game while practically sitting on the right field line, The Mudville Pub was a second home to my mom.  She knew all the players and never missed the opportunity to invite a teammate to join us for dinner.  

The importance of having a mom so deeply involved in my baseball career was perhaps taken for granted in the early years, because it was a given that she would be there.  I quickly learned that other players did not have that, and I knew that I had a special mom, a baseball mom.  Thank you, mom, for your love, for your dedication, for your passion for the game and for your unwavering support. You made me a better player and for that, I will always think fondly of my days on the field. Play Ball! 

Truly, from the bottom of my heart, I want to say Thank You to Stephanie, Tracey, Sherry, Jenna, Karen, and Jeff for sharing these AMAZING stories about their AMAZING Rhode Island Baseball Experiences. Rhode Island Baseball Moms are Cool and I can’t wait to hear more stories in the coming months. For now, I am so happy to publish these stories. I will be attaching a donation link to the Rhode Island Chapter of the Pink Heals in my Facebook page. If you would like to donate to this cause on Mother’s Day, please do so.

And Happy Mother’s Day to all the great Moms out there, including my wife Rachel, my sister Erin, my sister in law Lara, and especially my cool baseball Mom, Joanne Roby.

2 years on a calendar at 365 days per year equals… Well, this isn’t a math blog. It’s a baseball blog. So, I can tell you that it has been a really long time since a Rhode Island High School baseball game was played. This week, teams from all over Rhode Island are beginning their 2021 seasons – home and away. Some schools have new coaches. Others have upgraded their home ball park. Fresh faces up and down the lineup, in the dugouts, on practice fields, and now on game day. Opportunities abound for players who have sat patiently for close to 2 years to showcase their baseball talents. And boy is there a lot of baseball talent here in Rhode Island High School baseball. Weather permitting, many of you will get a chance to run out to your position in the outfield, kick the dirt in the infield, toe the pitcher’s mound, or squat behind home plate while your opponent steps out onto the on deck circle and takes practice swings.

My go to resource for Rhode Island High School baseball news, schedules, game delays, and safety protocols is the Rhode Island Interscholastic League. They publish a comprehensive website for players, coaches, media, fans, and parents with valuable information so everyone can have a positive experience. You can go to www.riil.org for all things Rhode Island sports, including baseball. I have downloaded their PDF file for safety guidelines for the Spring IV season, which Rhode Island High School Baseball falls in. Here is that file for your viewing:

On the RIIL baseball page, you can find schedules of games and where the game is being played. Also, you can search by school, JV schedule, Freshman schedule, and check out any NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) rules/rules changes. Here is a snapshot of the baseball page on http://www.riil.org:

Here is a slideshow of some of the amazing fields these student athletes will be playing on this week and weekend:

I have my sights set on many, many games this Spring. As the safety guidelines dictate, I will be reaching out to school administrators to find out their individual school’s safety policies. And I will continue to follow along at http://www.riil.org, the official website of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League, for all things Rhode Island High School baseball. Good luck to all the players, coaches, families, friends, schools, and Rhode Island baseball communities this season.

As the 2021 Collegiate Baseball season winds down, student athletes turn their attention towards summer baseball leagues. Here in New England, we have so many outstanding summer baseball league opportunities for players. And some of the most highly regarded leagues in all of the United States, whose rosters include top Major League baseball prospects. In recent blogs, I have updated you on players from Rhode Island who have signed on to play for the prestigious New England Collegiate Baseball League, which has two Rhode Island teams, the Newport Gulls and the Ocean State Waves. Here is a list of players from Rhode Island and the leagues and teams they will be playing for this summer:

If any other Rhode Island collegiate baseball player pops up on my summer baseball league radar, I will be sure to update my list. And if you are a player or parent or coach that would like to promote a player who has joined a summer baseball league here or elsewhere, feel free to email me at ribaseballexperience@gmail.com.

As many of you (painfully) remember, there was no national or international summer tournaments for Little League® Baseball and Softball in 2020. The state, regional, and international youth baseball tournament schedule in 2020 was cancelled unilaterally due to the safety concerns stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic. Like most organizations, Little League® was hopeful for 2021 and that tournament play would return, much to the delight of millions of baseball players, fans, families, coaches, and organizations worldwide. Yesterday afternoon, I received notifications by Little League® Baseball and Softball’s official Facebook page regarding an update on their 2021 Tournament season.

According to a recent press release statement on Facebook, which can be found on the official website of Little League® Baseball and Softball, “The Little League® Baseball and Softball World Series events will be held, as scheduled, this August in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and Greenville, North Carolina (respectively), featuring teams solely from the United States.” This means no international competition from previous powerhouse regions like Japan, South Korea, The Caribbean Islands, or Latin America. There will be no International teams that fly in from countries as far away as Australia and Africa and the Asian Pacific Region. This summer, a United States team will most definitely take home the title. Here are more details about what leagues, players, and families can expect this summer.

So, who will be participating in the Little League® World Series in Williamsport, PA? Well, there are now 8 regions that teams will be competing in, shown on the map below, courtesy of Little League®. If you are keeping score here in Rhode Island, we are in the “New England” region. And new this summer, the top 2 teams from each region will advance. In years passed, only the Regional Tournament champion has advanced to Williamsport to take on the other United States and International Champions. That could be an interesting situation for this summer!

So, if my math is correct, 16 teams will compete for the title of 2021 Little League® World Series Champions. Here are some additional key points that the press release updated everyone on:

Bristol, Connecticut will once again be the host location for the New England Regional Tournament scheduled to begin in July, 2021. The Little League® World Series will take place in Williamsport, PA from August 19-29. For more information on the Little League® World Series, go to their official website at www.littleleague.org. With Rhode Island Little League seasons just beginning, the anticipation and excitement to get to Bristol, CT is already building!!! As always, if there are any further updates, I will post them here and on social media.

The Domenic H. Christofaro Memorial Park is located in Narragansett off Boston Neck Rd. From my home in North Kingstown, it is a short drive through Wickford Village, passed North Kingstown High School, the on ramps to Jamestown and Newport, passed Casey Farm on your right, and just before you reach the Bonnet Shores section of Narragansett. Over the years of living in South County, I have biked passed Christofaro and could never see the park’s beauty from the street. Christofaro’s baseball, soccer, tennis, and basketball facilities are out of sight from Boston Neck Rd, but once you drive down its driveway, you can see everything in plain sight.

The baseball field at Christofaro is located just passed the playground area and the parking lot which next to the service station and tennis courts. As you walk down from the parking area, you can see the basketball courts to your left. As you approach the baseball field, you can see the soccer field down the hill a bit farther. Christofaro has just about every type of field covered.

The baseball field is a youth baseball size field (46/60 dimensions). There are lights at Christofaro, although I have never attended a night game there. As with many light towers here in Rhode Island, a massive bird’s nest was build in the one just behind the third base dugout. There was plenty of open space along the first and third base lines. The area behind home plate sloped downward, so I’m not sure how fans sit behind home plate. Perhaps they just stand for the game?

The field was in really good shape. The infield dirt was groomed. Bases were laid in place. The grounds around the field were clean. There was safety signage on both sides of the field, one set in right field, the other around the 3rd base area of fencing. It was very quiet at the park when I arrive this morning. In fact, there was only a Town of Narragansett vehicle and one other car in the entire park besides myself. I walked around the outfield perimeter to get some photos as well.

My sister and her family are very active in the Narragansett sports community and spend a lot of time at Christofaro. Whether it is a baseball game, tennis match, soccer or basketball game, Christofaro has the fields and facilities to handle it. It is easy to find and there is plenty of parking. I had a great visit to Domenic Christofaro Memorial Park and hope to catch a baseball game there this year!

A few weeks back, I spotted (and shared) a post on social media written by the Bryant University Sports Information Department regarding a Coaches vs Cancer game. The game was scheduled for Saturday, May 1st at their home baseball field, Conaty Park against LIU (Long Island University). According to their baseball page, “The Bryant University baseball program has joined forces with the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation’s Vs. Cancer program to defeat childhood cancer, participating in the 2021 Vs. Cancer National Event that was created by coaches across the nation.” I reached out to Eric Hirschbein-Bodnar, who is an assistant coach and Director of Baseball Operations at Bryant University, regarding Bryant’s spectator policy and the possibility of me attending the May 1st game. Even with the relaxed restrictions on outdoor spectator and capacity limits from the State of Rhode Island, individual businesses and certainly schools still have specific policies which must be honored. My hope was that I could gain access to the game and help promote the efforts of Bryant Baseball in their efforts to help defeat childhood cancer.

While this process was taking place, I had posted the May 1st Bryant game on my Facebook page and I received a very interesting comment from Amy Antunes. Apparently, her son Noah, whom I had written about a few years back and then again recently along with his RI Renegades teammates, was slated to throw out the first pitch at the Coaches vs Cancer game. At that point, I was doubly excited at the possibility of attending the game. Conaty Park was on my short list of baseball fields in Rhode Island yet to be explored and photographed. The chance to catch Bryant baseball live, check out Conaty, possibly do a meet and greet with Noah and his family, and help promote the Coaches vs Cancer game – it all hinged on whether or not I could gain spectator or media access to the game.

Late Friday night, I got the text from Eric. “You’re all set to come tomorrow.” Eric sent me a health screening portal from Bryant University, which I had to pass in order to receive a large green check mark. I was to show this check mark to the attendant in the guard shack upon entering the campus of Bryant University. Masking and social distancing as well as other spectator policies could be found on Bryant University Athletics’ home page. On the morning of Saturday, May 1st, I logged onto the portal, entered my name, email address, phone number, and answered the health questions, then hit “submit”. A large green check mark appeared and I was cleared to attend the 2021 Coaches vs Cancer game, 1pm featuring Bryant University Baseball vs Long Island University at Conaty Park.

Bryant University is an absolutely spectacular college campus located in Smithfield, RI. From my home in North Kingstown, I took 95 North to 295N to the Route 7 exit, then a short drive on Route 7 to then take a left onto the driveway leading up to the campus. The campus features a perfect blend of newer construction, newer buildings, upgraded athletic fields along with timeless moss covered stone walls which form the perimeter of the athletic fields along with the wooden backdrop of Northern Rhode Island. Even an amateur photographer like me can take excellent photos at Bryant. I was so impressed with the campus. I parked just outside the soccer field area, made my way across the field, and spotted an opening in a stone wall up a small incline. From the opening in the stone wall, I caught my first glimpse of Conaty Park.

As I walked toward the field with my water bottle, notebook, sunglasses, reading glasses, and camera/phone I spotted a couple of fans and introduced myself. The Kelly family were in attendance to watch their son, Shane Kelly, a senior at Bryant from New Jersey. Proud parents who raved about the campus, the school, and of course their son playing baseball at Bryant. It was great to meet the Kelly family and hear more about their son’s experience at Bryant. After chatting for a few minutes, I excused myself and headed over to the bleachers behind home plate. This area behind home plate, which also houses the press box, was really impressive with a mix of traditional bleachers and folding stadium seats. Great views of the field and the campus activities surrounding the field. I took a seat on the top level of the bleachers just as the players were finishing their pre-game warmups.

It was then that I spotted a Bryant coach accompanied by a youth baseball player wearing a green (Smithfield Little League colors) sweatshirt, green hat who had walked out to the batter’s box with what appeared to be the starting lineup card for Bryant University and the first pitch/game ball. I looked over to Bryant’s dugout and saw more green – a Dad wearing a similar green sweatshirt and hat, a Mom taking photos/videos, and several others taking notice. There were camera and video personnel behind home plate. As I looked closer, yep, it was Noah Antunes from Smithfield. After the lineup cards were exchanged, Noah was instructed to go out to the mound to throw out the first pitch. If my eyes are correct, #18 Brandon Taylor from North Smithfield, RI was the catcher. Noah threw a perfect pitch, much to the delight of the family and fans in attendance, and the game was officially underway.

Fans – college students, family members, friends – starting showing up around 1st pitch and sat socially distant in the bleachers and along the perimeter of the field. Mr. Kelly and his family were just about halfway between the first base dugout and right field. In the distance, I could see some fans just passed the outfield fences. The PA Announcer had stated that masks and social distancing rules did apply to the game, so fans were asked to comply and from what I witnessed, they did. I stayed at the top bleacher spot for the first inning or two because it had an amazing view of the game and the other activities going on around Bryant’s campus. Just passed the baseball field, a softball game was going on. A track meet was taking place in the field and oval just passed the softball field. Students were jogging and walking and on the paved golf cart path that led from the parking lot to the fields. I felt safe and comfortable attending the game. Plus the weather was gorgeous – sunny skies, a bit windy but not uncomfortable.

As the game progressed and the in-between inning music began to play, I spotted Noah and his teammates and the man with the green sweatshirt from pre-game sitting on the opposite side of the bleachers from where I was. I packed up my stuff and walked over to introduce myself to who I thought was Dave Antunes, Noah’s Dad. It was easy to find him, he had “Antunes, Manager” on his sleeve. Great guy, proud parent, awesome baseball coach – he turned to his son, Noah, and Noah’s friends to introduce me. The boys, Smithfield Little League 12U and RI Renegades teammates, had come to support their teammate as he threw out the first pitch. Dave and I chatted about the game in front of us along with a host of baseball topics. Dave’s older son, Matt, plays for Smithfield High School and was playing LaSalle Academy in a scrimmage game on Saturday. We chatted about baseball fields, sportsmanship, the 12U scene for Rhode Island baseball in 2021, and why hitting the cutoff is so important! Dave has a great baseball intellect and it was awesome trying to keep up with him. I grabbed a photo of the group, including Noah’s first pitch baseball. Sincerely, it was great to meet Noah, Dave, and his supportive teammates! Continued success, and most importantly, good health!!!

I was interested in the fans stationed just passed the outfield fencing area and what their view was like, so I hopped off the bleachers and made my way around the third base perimeter of Conaty Park. From there I could see the Bryant bullpen area, and signage reading “Bryant Baseball.” To my left, there was more of the track and field meet competitors and activities. I finally made it out to the stone wall perimeter of the field and spotted fans in folding chairs just relaxing and watching the game. The sun was shining brightly and there was some shaded areas where some fans had camped out at. The stone walls once again provided the perfect, natural perimeter between the field area and the wooden area.

Here is a video I took from an awesome spot around the center field area, sitting on the stone wall perimeter.

Centerfield view at Conaty Park, Bryant University, Smithfield, RI

As I made my way around the perimeter of the outfield, I caught a glimpse of the Bryant Softball game. I stopped to take a few photos from the right field area as well as the Conaty Park dedication plaque, which sits just passed the right field foul pole.

It was an inspiring and incredible visit to watch Bryant University take on LIU in the Coaches vs Cancer game on Saturday. I had a fantastic visit with Dave and Noah and his teammates, and got to watch Noah throw out a great first pitch. Bryant’s starting pitcher threw the ball well, just had a few tough breaks and some calls that went against him early. Bryant got behind on the scoreboard early and ended up losing a tough one, 8-3 to LIU. I did get to watch Warwick’s Matt Woods and South Kingstown’s Liam McGill play for Bryant, both of whom are having excellent 2021 seasons. I spotted Mr. Kelly just as a foul ball was hit over his head and into the soccer field area. We exchanged hello’s and good-byes as he hustled down to retrieve the baseball. His son, Shane, went 1 for 4 with a double. I took the golf cart path out passed the softball field, track, conditioning complex to the parking lot area. The weather was amazing, the field looked amazing, my entire Rhode Island Baseball Experience at Bryant University was AMAZING. I can’t wait to visit Bryant again.

According to their website, The Rhode Island Men’s Senior Baseball League (RISMBL) is “the largest amateur baseball league in Rhode Island with 3 age divisions (30+ 40+ 50+). RIMSBL is an opportunity to shout out loud that classic quote “Age is Just a Number,” while you pitch, hit, run, catch, maybe steal a base, and play baseball well after your high school, collegiate, or perhaps professional baseball career has ended. I have coached against many Little League coaches who continue to play into their 40s and 50s, simply because they love the game of baseball and how the game of baseball makes them feel – Like a Kid again!!!

Over the past few years, I have connected with Frank Ribezzo, who is the commissioner of the RISMBL, as well as attended a few games. Frank and I had a conversation through email this week about the league and its upcoming season.

RIBBE – Frank, great to talk to you. Tell me what’s happening in 2021 with RIMSBL.

FRANK – Thank you for your continued support of our league.  I can tell you that our 32nd season opens up on May 19th.  The regular season should be over around September 13th with playoffs through mid October.

RIBBE – So, you have 3 divisions. How many teams are actually in the league?

FRANK – We have been able to expand to 21 teams across three age divisions this year.  8 in the 30 division, 7 in the 40’s and 6 in the 50’s.

RIBBE – I was able to catch a game last year at Cranston West’s Baseball Field. Where else does RIMSBL play league games?

FRANK – We are back at RIC this year after losing it due to covid last year. We’ve got a bunch of games at Pierce, Sprague, Cranston Stadium, Lischio, Macomber Stadium and Johnston Memorial Park, just to name a few.

RIBBE – Are you rosters full? What if a 30, 40, or 50 year old baseball player was eager to play in RIMSBL?

FRANK – We’re also still able to place new players who are interested in playing.

Always great catching up with Frank of the Rhode Island Men’s Senior Baseball League. They have an outstanding video on their Facebook page that you have to see which showcases what playing in the RIMSBL is all about. If you are interested in going to a game, playing in the league, or supporting a player in the league, you can click on this link – RIMSBL – to be directed to their website. Their website has team information, field locations, player rosters, a message board, and so much more. And their Facebook page is Rhode Island Men’s Senior Baseball League. Good luck to all the players participating in the 2021 season of the Rhode Island Men’s Senior Baseball League.