Now Pitching For The Wareham Gatemen…RI’s Mike Webb

I recently posted a few stories on my RIBBE Facebook page about RI baseball players who are playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League.  The Cape Cod Baseball League is widely regarded as the most prestigious summer baseball league in the country, attracting top collegiate talent from all over the USA.  Players who are considered top prospects for professional baseball line each and every one of the ten Cape Cod League teams. And you can look to Major League baseball for hundreds of former Cape Cod League players every single time you go to Fenway, Yankee Stadium, Los Angeles, Texas, and every park in between.  So, to play on a team in the Cape Cod League, you have to be really, really good at baseball. I found such a player from Pawtucket, RI who fits that description.

Matt Hopkins from Hops Athletic Performance is a great baseball and sports conditioning resource and works with youth athletes, collegiate players, and the professionals.  Matt messaged me back about this player I posted about and why he thought this player would be an outstanding article and role model for any youth athlete – baseball, football, softball, whatever.  Hopkins remarked about his journey, his work ethic, and that his draft stock is going up, up, and up. Hops started working with him after this player lost a year of college baseball to injury (broken foot), transferred schools, changed majors and essentially moved back home to RI from Vermont.  The player I posted about, the player Matt Hopkins has worked with and helped to train, the player from Pawtucket, RI playing in the Cape Cod League is Mike Webb.

I texted Mike to gauge his interest in answering a few questions about his RI baseball experiences, his college journey, and his time now on Cape Cod.  His responses were really well thought out and insightful about what is like to play in this incredible baseball league. I hope to someday shake his hand and watch him pitch.  Mike’s path in college baseball has taken many turns but he has remained focused and determined to be the best player he can be. Youth athletes should take notice and see how a (soon to be) professional handles himself.  I was really impressed with his answers and would like to share them you here:

RIBBE – Mike, good morning.  Thanks again for agreeing to do this and continued success not only this summer but at RIC.  Tell me a little bit about your Rhode Island baseball roots – Little League? AAU? What was that experience like?

Mike – Noel, I played Little League for Darlington National at Slater Park in Pawtucket. I was the first person to throw a perfect game for that league and I was 12 years old (17 out of 18 batters were K’s). I started Little League a year early (for my age group) and continued playing rec ball until I began high school at Bishop Hendricken High School. Before high school began, I worked out with Ken Ryan, of Ken Ryan (KR) Baseball Academy. 

Once high school began, I played for the freshman team at Bishop Hendricken. I played second and pitched and I threw a no hitter against Middletown. That summer, I played Connie Mac for “Flood Ford” and also for Ken Ryan’s Express Team (The foundation of my pitching success comes first from my brother and secondly from Ken Ryan). Sophomore year I player JV and just mainly pitched, didn’t get as much playing time as I wanted and always had a chip on my shoulder. That summer I played for Senerchia Post 74 American Legion with Matt Murphy, Mike King, and Rob Henry.  Junior year and senior year I played Varsity and played infield and pitched. I had a few starts and mostly relieved. We won the championship both years and I closed the championship game my senior year (bases loaded no outs and I came in; and we won the next half inning with a walk off hit). The whole McCoy experience was surreal. I had been watching games at that stadium since I was a kid and I remember watching my cousin Jay Rainville pitch at that field and thinking it was the coolest thing that I have ever seen. At the time, I never thought I had the potential to play at that AAA level. I was just focused on getting better and working towards starting at College. I committed to St. Michael’s College that same spring. 

After high school, I played for Collette American Legion in the summer under coach James Mello. Freshman year of college at Saint Mike’s was a great experience for me.  I learned a lot being on my own and I significantly improved as a baseball player. I started at shortstop freshman year and was our number two starter. Unfortunately, I got hurt the fourth game of preseason and was out for the remainder of the season with a broken foot. I decided to switch my major to nursing and transferred to Rhode Island College to start my freshman year over again with a medical redshirt.

RIBBE – How many years have you played in the Cape Cod League?

Mike – Over my college career, I played two summers in the NECBL (New England Collegiate Baseball League). One summer with the Newport Gulls (freshman summer), and one with the Winnipesaukee Muskrats (sophomore summer). This summer is my last summer or college summer eligibility and my first time playing in the Cape Cod League.

RIBBE – What is your daily routine, baseball wise, on a game day?  Off day?

Mike – A typical game day begins for me by getting to the field around 11:30. I start my day by training with our personal trainer Tim and he walks me through about an hour and a half to a two hour workout session. Around 1 or 1:30, I make my way down to the field and take some swings in the cage as an early batting practice. Although I do not hit this summer, I like to maintain my swing for my collegiate season. Add about 2:45, we have our team meeting which involves discussing game notes from the previous game and talking about things we can work on for the day. Coach Weinstein wisely reads us a parable or fable of sorts that is meant to get our mental approach positive for the start of the game. We next activate by doing a team warm-up and stretch and shortly after we begin to throw lightly. Next the pitchers work on team fundamentals and work with the infielders doing PFP‘s and pick off plays to various bases. After this the pitchers and the position players split up and us pitchers work with Coach Lawler and go over our signs again and work on plyo care. We do this for about an hour and then have a break to eat before the game. During this break, I like to go out and shag and work on reading the ball off the bat from the outfield in order to get ready for my college season. Once the position players break to get food, I typically go back and hit some more in the cage. We typically reconvene at around 5:30 and get dressed and ready for the game. The position players will take infield and outfield and a few of us pitchers will join in on this and back up some of the bases to simulate a game like feel. After this, off day pitchers may throw some bullpens flat grounds or long toss of sorts before the game begins. At 6:45, we do the national anthem and the game begins. 

Other than 4 July, we have yet to have an off day. 

RIBBE – Overall, how would you define the experience in playing in one, if not the, elite baseball summer league in all of the US?  Given the history of players who have played in the Cape Cod League who went onto play professional baseball, it must be very satisfying for you and your family to have played in this league.

Mike – Baseball is an everyday opportunity in the summer.  Being on a Cape Cod roster has taught me a lot about being mentally tough and physically capable of becoming a great player. If I can do one thing every day that makes me a little bit better than I consider that day to be a success. Under the coaching of Coach Weinstein and Coach Lawler, I feel as though my knowledge of the game has improved greatly and my optimism has improved tremendously.

It is truly a blessing and a God-given opportunity that I was allowed to play in this historic league. It is by far the most consistent and best competition I have played with and played against however there are a select amount of players in the little east conference that could hold their own against these high caliber players.  Playing Division III Baseball was the best thing that could have happened in my athletic career. It allowed me to play college baseball and consistently gave me the hunger to better myself. It has always been a goal of mine to play baseball at the professional level and I believe that no matter where you play, if you are what the scouts are looking for then they will find you.

Many of the words that Coach Weinstein has spoken have resonated with me. One saying in particular was his talk about the achievement trap. In summary, he says that those who are content with what they achieved and let this moment in particular be the greatest of their lives will never reach a little bit higher for that bar that’s just out of reach. I am more than grateful for this opportunity to play in this highly prestigious league but I don’t want this success to be the highlight of my athletic career. I will always reach higher.

Just an incredible read and I loved Mike’s poignant and honest answers and reflection on his situation. The Wareham Gatemen have a busy summer schedule of games, so if you are ever in the area of Spillane Stadium in Wareham, stop in and catch a game. And, Mike has one more year of eligibility at Rhode Island College baseball and I wish him the very best.

For more information on the Wareham Gatemen, go to www.gatemen.org.

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Now Pitching For The Falmouth Commodores…RI’s Caleb Wurster

I recently posted a few stories on my RIBBE Facebook page about RI baseball players who are playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League. The Cape Cod Baseball League is widely regarded as the most prestigious summer baseball league in the country, attracting top collegiate talent from all over the USA. Players who are considered top prospects for professional baseball line each and every one of the ten Cape Cod League teams. And you can look to Major League baseball for hundreds of former Cape Cod League players every single time you go to Fenway, Yankee Stadium, Los Angeles, Texas, and every park in between. So, to play on a team in the Cape Cod League, you have to be really, really good at baseball. I found such a player from Coventry, RI who fits that description.

Matt Hopkins from Hops Athletic Performance is a great baseball and sports conditioning resource and works with youth athletes, collegiate players, and the professionals. Matt messaged me back about a player I posted about and why he thought this player would be an outstanding article and role model for any youth athlete – baseball, football, softball, whatever. Hopkins remarked about his journey, his work ethic, and that his draft stock is going up, up, and up. The player I posted about, the player Matt Hopkins has worked with and helped to train, the player from Coventry, RI playing in the Cape Cod League is Caleb Wurster.

Photo snapshot courtesy of University of Connecticut website

I texted Caleb to gauge his interest in answering a few questions about his RI baseball experiences, his college journey, and his time now on Cape Cod. His responses, his answers spoke volumes about what kind of an awesome person Caleb is. I hope to someday shake his hand and watch him pitch. Based on his prep baseball scouting report, which was in his words, Caleb is a fantastic human being who has a grounded sense of self and an appreciative sense of who got him to where he is today. Youth athletes should take notice and see how a (soon to be) professional handles himself. I was really impressed with his answers and would like to share them you here:

RIBBE – Caleb, good afternoon.  Thanks again for agreeing to do this and continued success not only this summer but at UCONN.  Tell me a little bit about your Rhode Island baseball roots – Little League? AAU? What was that experience like? How did you settle on being a pitcher?  Was that your position throughout youth baseball or something you worked towards later on?  You played at Bishop Hendricken (Matt Hopkins filled me in).  Were there any state championships in your HS career? 

Caleb – I grew up in Coventry RI since I was 3. Started playing little league for central Coventry (now just Coventry) at 6 years old. I was blessed with amazing coaches that taught me love and respect for the game as well as friends that I hangout with even today. One teammate and his father particularly had a large impact on me: Mason Feole and his father Anthony Feole. That name may be familiar as for the past two years Mason was a teammate of mine again at UCONN, which was an absolute blessing. Mason’s father was our coach in little league for quite a while as well as the 1 year I played AAU for the Blackstone Valley River Dogs. We parted ways in high school where I attended BHHS(Bishop Hendricken High School). There I was a pitcher and an outfielder for my freshman year and part of my sophomore year until my coach thought it’d be best that I focus on pitching. I made Varsity my junior and senior year and had good years but never blew anyone away with my ability. I always loved competing though, whether it was a bad day for me or not I never wanted to come out of the game. We won 3 state championships for baseball over my tenure at BHHS.

By my senior year, I was dead set on playing football in college. However, I broke my right collarbone my senior year in preseason and so I sat out for 90% of the season so instead of looking at colleges I began to look at prep schools for a 5th year. I was beyond blessed to receive a full scholarship to Suffield Academy in Suffield, CT. There I played football and had a great season and a handful of options for football in college. However, after a couple minor injuries along the season I knew I needed to decide which sport I would give up. After a lot of thought and prayer I knew I couldn’t give up baseball. My head coach, Bryan Brissette, for baseball (who was also an assistant coach for the football team) began to help me try and get recruited for baseball. I emailed multiple schools, all of which showed minor interest. My head coach suggested I look at UConn as he was old friends with Coach James Penders. I went to a camp over the winter for UConn and did very poorly but they liked my mechanics so they said they’d follow me along the baseball season. At Suffield something clicked, as I went undefeated on the season with a couple of shutouts, one of which was against one of the top baseball schools Cheshire academy, a game at which coach Penders had shown up to watch me pitch. Giving up just 1 hit in 6 innings, he called me the next day saying that he wanted me to come visit the campus. When I did he was straightforward with me the whole way, telling me that he had no money for me and not even a guaranteed spot on the spring roster but he believed that I had the competitive spirit to win a spot. I had an OK fall with them but was working as hard as I could and he could see that so I was on the spring roster. After a few weeks into the season of not playing he asked if I wanted to redshirt and since there were minimal innings on the table I agreed. Continued working and played for the Brockton Rox in the FCBL for the summer where again I had a decent amount of success but nothing outstanding. After a mediocre fall back at UConn in 2018, I had a meeting with the coaching staff where they told me I was basically the 36th man on the roster, and they were right. They asked if they wanted to help me transfer so I went home that weekend to talk to my father about it. He said that I had come so far and surpassed so many obstacles that it would be foolish to lay down and not fight like I had thus far. I agreed to stay and that winter I worked harder than I ever have for anything. My pitching coach Joshua MacDonald has worked with a freshman that fall on lowering his arm slot and although it didn’t workout for him I thought I’d try it out. Over the winter I basically threw twice as much as I normally would, working on both over the top and side arm. When I got back to school in January in my first live appearance, I threw from both arm slots: 81-84 over the top and 84-86 from the side. From then on my coaches told me to stick to side arm. In about a month and a half of throwing live from the side I got my velocity up to 87-90. After two pretty rough appearances to begin the year I buckled down and began to fill up the zone and became successful. 

Photo snapshot courtesy of University of Connecticut website

RIBBE – Do players register for The Cape League or are they recruited?  Can you tell me a little bit about the process on how you were selected?  Do you get to then select a team if multiple squads are interested in you?

Caleb – Most Cape Cod contracts are initiated at the beginning of the collegiate season but I wasn’t terribly good then so wasn’t offered a contract till about a third into our season. Basically coaches from the cape watch college players as they go along and inform their college coaches that they have interest and then a player signs with them. I was a temporary contract at Wareham to start. As guys came in and spots decreased my pitching coaches fought for a spot for me on Falmouth where I am now.

RIBBE – Would you say this is the best competition you have ever played against?  Playing in the American Athletic Conference at UCONN, I’m sure you see a ton of collegiate talent every game.  But is the Cape Cod League truly the best competition you have faced?

Caleb – The cape is absolutely the best competition I’ve ever faced. Aside from team USA, these players are the all stars so to speak of returning college players. In an AAC game you might have 2-4 cape level competitors, but here you face them everyday (obviously).

RIBBE – How are the games attended in terms of fans?  And I’m sure there are MLB scouts floating around.

Caleb – We get about 600-1300 fans a game id say. Yeah, at least 6 scouts a game, from what I can see.

RIBBE – Overall, how would you define the experience in playing in one, if not the, elite baseball summer league in all of the US?  Given the history of players who have played in the Cape Cod League who went onto play professional baseball, it must be very satisfying for you and your family to have played in this league.

Caleb – I’ve had the time of my life here and have been blessed with an amazing host family for the summer with two sons who love baseball. The guys here are amazing and I’ve made life long friendships with many of them.

The Falmouth Commodores are at Bourne tonight, then at Hyannis, at Cotuit, and at Chatham before heading home to play two games at home vs Bourne and Brewster. The Commodores play their home games at Guv Field, Falmouth. In fact, the Falmouth Commodores are scheduled to play 14 games (one doubleheader) in the next 13 days. A taste of the professional baseball schedule, I would say. For more information on the Falmouth Commodores, go to www.falmouthcommodores.com.

And special thanks to Coventry, RI’s Caleb Wurster. A great story of perseverance, hard work, and truly listening to the baseball coaches and mentors in your life that are smarter than you, even the ones right in your very own home. Congrats Caleb on all your success and good luck this summer and next year at the University of Connecticut.

Rhode Island Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth State Tournament Schedule To Be Announced

The Rhode Island Cal Ripken League will be having their age group tournaments starting Monday, June 24th. You can follow along with the tournament schedules, locations for games, and more by clicking on their official website – Rhode Island Cal Ripken Baseball. RI Cal Ripken includes:

  • Apponaug
  • CLCF (Cranson)
  • Washington Park
  • Jamestown
  • West Warwick
  • Elmhurst
Elmhurst Youth Baseball, Providence
Jamestown Cal Ripken

The following sites/fields will place host to the state tournaments, whose winners will then go onto regional and possibly national tournaments.

  • 9U – West Warwick’s Rainha Field, Hay St. West Warwick
  • 10U – Apponaug, Apponaug Field, Warwick
  • 11U – Washington Park, Providence (on the campus of Roger Williams Park Zoo)
  • 12U (60′) – Washington Park, Providence
  • 12U (50/70) – Apponaug, Kenney Field, Warwick

According to Everett Downing, RI Cal Ripken Commissioner, “you will be able to track all the State Tournaments starting Monday, June 24 on both Tourney Machine as well as the R.I. Cal Ripken website.” Click here – Rhode Island Cal Ripken – to learn more, follow tournament updates, and find out when your team is playing next. Good luck to all the players, coaches, and families this summer in Rhode Island Cal Ripken Baseball!!!

Every Spring is Hurricane Season for Block Island Baseball

Last summer, I visited Block Island to help complete my tour of Rhode Island Baseball fields and celebrate my wedding anniversary, not necessarily in that order. Block Island’s Heinz Field was photographed and catalogued after a nice day at the beach, touring the island’s beautiful landscape, and dinner and a toast with my wife Rachel. I got some great shots of the field and surrounding area on that warm, summer day.

I was interested to see how the Block Island School managed to play a regular season of baseball games, travel, recruit and develop players through their recreation program, and compete with other Rhode Island Schools. Their baseball team, The Hurricanes, plays in the Coastal Prep League. Through Julie Mancini of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League, I had the opportunity to meet, via email and phone conversations, Block Island School’s Athletic Director Robert Closter and Head Baseball Coach John Tarbox. Robert and John had a similar response to my question about how Block Island School manages to field a team, travel, and compete, “It is a tricky, sometimes challenging situation, but always, in the end, very rewarding.”

Closter mentioned that travel is a very tricky element of their program. Block Island School must prepare for close to 3 hours of travel sometimes depending on location of their away game opponent. Coach Tarbox mentioned “the team takes about a 15 minute bus ride to the ferry, then about 1 hour on the water, then we hop on a bus (bus is courtesy of Narragansett School Department) and then more travel to our game destination.” So, the Block Island Hurricanes travel and sit and try to stay focused on away game days. Oh, and there is the weather element and what Coach Tarbox described as being “off island.” “Off island is not an option for our kids,” Coach said, “so we have to leave school early for heavy travel days, which we of course work out with the teachers and school administrators. And, we check the weather for any potential scenarios that would delay and/or cancel ferries to and from the Island, like every hour of a game day. And, one more thing. We need to be back on the return ferry or last ferry of the day, no questions asked. So we work with the opposing coaching staff on scheduling early game and sometimes have to leave mid-game to meet our ferry schedule. As I said earlier, it is tricky at times.”

Another interesting wrinkle in the Block Island Hurricanes program is player availability. Coach Tarbox mentioned that the BI high school team typically fields 10-12 players. The 2019 season was one of the largest rosters at 15 players. “We have little or no feeder system in town, simply due to population. Where other towns and cities have tryouts and huge turnouts for recreational programs, we have to be realistic with the numbers presented to us.” Tarbox mentioned that there are a number of homegrown, Block Island Hurricanes that played through the New Shoreham (Block Island) recreational system, then at the middle school level (which over the years featured both boys and girls baseball), and are now starring for the High School team. “We have been blessed with a few players this year whose families moved here from Guatemala and their sons joined our roster. However, this season was one of their first experiences with playing baseball.” The coaching angle that presents Coach Tarbox with interesting challenges is balancing his talented players with his less experienced players. Keeping the positive vibes flowing on a team with players who can hit, pitch, catch, and play defense with proficiency versus players who cannot do most baseball skills of an average youth baseball player. The rewards came, according to Tarbox, did in fact come during the season with players getting their first hit, their first putout in the outfield, their first steal, and the team rallied and celebrated together, as teammates, as Hurricanes.

The 2019 Block Island Hurricanes Baseball team finished a respectable 5-5 in league play. Coach Tarbox has a nice group of players for next season and his optimism and approach to baseball is just fantastic. He has been with the Block Island School baseball team for 31 years now. John is also a member of the Block Island School teaching faculty in the Physical Education Department. He, along with Athletic Director Rob Closter and yours truly (class of 1994), attended Springfield College and played collegiate baseball for the Chiefs (now Maroons). And check out AD Closter in this classic picture from the 1994 season of Block Island Baseball. He has the catcher’s gear on, first row all the way to the left.

Coach Tarbox will be running The Champion Baseball Camp this summer at Heinz Field, Block Island from July 8th through the 11th. Heinz Field is located just passed the Block Island Airport on Old Center Rd. (just ask a BI local and they will direct you.) The camp will feature Tarbox as well as Coach Paul Steiner, a longtime associate who coaches RHAM High School in CT. The camp will run from 9am to 1pm and will include baseball skills training for ages 6 – 15 years of age. This is an awesome idea for your baseball son or daughter to get some quality instruction, if you are on the Island vacationing for the week or the day. Contact the New Shoreham Recreation Department for more information and payment details.

It was great meeting AD Robert Closter and Head Baseball Coach John Tarbox of the Block Island School. The Hurricanes play a tricky, challenging, yet always rewarding season of baseball in the Coastal Prep League as well as some interstate games with other Division 2 and 3 RI schools. Their players experience the travel log of a professional minor league team, having to go 3 hours sometimes by bus, ferry, bus again to their away game destinations. Coach Tarbox is a positive influence with over 30 years of baseball coaching experience, which leads to his success both on and off the baseball field for these young athletes. Great story of dealing with so many different elements and how a team effort – Athletic Department, School Department, parents, players, coaching staff – works together to get these players playing baseball.

If you would like to attend the Champions Baseball Summer Camp, contact the New Shoreham Recreation Department at 401-466-3223. Thanks again to Coach John Tarbox and AD Robert Closter for their detailed insights on Block Island Hurricanes Baseball.

Rhode Island Little League State 12U Tournament Site Announced – East Greenwich’s Cragan Field

The Rhode Island Little League State 12U tournament will be played at East Greenwich Little League’s Cragan Field this summer. This 12U State tournament is an important stepping stone to the New England Regionals, held in Bristol, CT and to the ultimate goal, the Little League World Series. Last year’s 12U winner, Coventry Little League, made it through the RI states, the New England Regionals, all the way to South Williamsport, PA and the rest is a boat load of memories for those players, coaches, and families.

Cragan Field is located off Main St and 4th Ave in East Greenwich. Follow 4th Ave down past Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, through a few stops signs, around a bend in the road, and look for the driveway entrance, Reilly Ave. Make a right and follow the driveway up to the baseball field. There is a plenty of parking, a concession stand, batting cages, tons of seating, and a really cool neighborhood baseball park feel. For directions on Google Maps, click this link – Cragan Field.

Bev Kenney, Commissioner of Rhode Island Little League District 3, will be the tournament director. The State tournament is scheduled to start July 20th and run through the 26th, if needed. Good luck to all the players, coaches, and families as they compete in their district tournaments, then onto the Rhode Island State 12U Championships at Cragan Field, East Greenwich Little League.

The RIBBE Father’s Day Gifts – A Musician, An Artist, An Athlete

I hope everyone in the Rhode Island Baseball community had a wonderful Father’s Day. Father’s Day for me involves my three sons – Spencer, Griffin, and Harrison. Each son has a special gift to give the world, my world, their friends, their families. This year, I asked them to join me in a special project for Father’s Day. Show me your gift, teach me a lesson, let me into your world. In year’s past, I have received baseball cards, game tickets, a grill, a drill, pool stuff, and Father’s Day cards with sincere and sarcastic messages. Those gifts were very much appreciated. But this year, I asked for time. Individual, one on one time with each son, to learn about their craft, their passion, their special gift. And we put that project into action yesterday.

My youngest son Harrison is about 6 feet tall, plus. He is growing into his body athletically and he works really hard on being an all around athlete. A few years back, due to an accelerated growth spurt, Harry had trouble running, throwing a baseball, shooting a basketball, catching a football. His pediatrician called it a muscle mapping issue. He just grew so fast that his muscles and brain were not speaking clearly. Fast forward to today, Harrison has worked extremely hard at running in the yard, shooting baskets in the driveway for hours, pitching and catching with me, hitting at Wickford Middle School, and getting his body into really good shape. He still has some work to do, but he is on his way to having a nice athletic career in the years to come.

For Father’s Day, I chose to play Harrison in H-O-R-S-E because I have been witnessing his shooting getting better and better. He played on the Wickford Middle School Basketball team in a support role and that experience was really awesome for him. Although baseball is his first love, his passion for basketball is growing daily. And I love that he is cross training his body with a different sport than baseball. That will only help him as he gets older.

My go-to shot has always been “The Larry Bird Shot.” From behind the basket, I shoot the ball over the backboard and into the basket. I have taken down many a foe with this shot over the years. Sadly, Harrison also knows the art of the Larry Bird shot. And many other long range shots. In a close contest, Harrison beat me HORSE to HORS on Father’s Day. I certainly don’t mind losing to him, he shot the ball very well and he deserved the win. We chatted about the upcoming summer, the NBA draft, high school (he’s going to be a freshman this year), and of course baseball. Great job Harry. I’ll get my revenge some day.

My middle son, Griffin, is an exceptional artist. He draws super heroes from comic book movies with a quiet confidence that befits a super star actor, athlete, or neurosurgeon. Honestly, I don’t know where he gets his artistic ability and frankly, I don’t really care. His ability to draw, accent, shade, create these images on paper is just breathtaking at times. He draws for hours at my house and then proudly comes downstairs and shows me. “Dad, check it out.” Check it out? Every picture he draws and illustrates is the most incredible piece of art I have ever seen.

For Father’s Day, I wanted to sit next to Griffin as he created something from scratch. Again, it is hard to imagine how this child can do this. I came up with a rough sketch of an idea for our Father’s Day project. Spiderman flying high across Narragansett Bay with the Newport Pell Bridge in the background. Check out my concept sketch and how Griffin then interpreted it.

Free hand, no web, no strings attached, no template, no picture in front of him. Free hand, my son sketches out Spiderman flying over Narragansett Bay with the Newport Pell Bridge in the background. I sat there next to him, I watched him, think, create, envision, draw. And that was only the beginning. As I sat down next to him and began to color in the sketch, Griffin had already mapped out the shading, the color scheme, the blues, the reds, the oranges, the browns, the sunlight. Where was the sun going to hit the bridge, Spidey’s suit, the water ripples, the web. He had foreshadowed everything and then instructed me to carry out his plan. Brilliant as the brightest star in the sky, my son taught me to draw Spiderman.

My oldest son, Spencer is a musician. Let me clarify that for you. He doesn’t just play drums, piano, bass, guitar, and harmonica. He doesn’t just look up song chords on YouTube or in some chord book or some chord website. Spencer has the ability to feel what the musician is telling the listener through the notes he/she is playing. He understands octaves and what key they are playing in and why they chose that octave and that key. He knows how to fill and hammer and embellish and tempo up and tempo down a song to make it sound perfect. His knowledge of music theory is exceptional. He is a musician – he is one with the music like the force is one with nature. As a musician, he is a force to be reckoned with.

For Father’s Day, I asked Spencer to teach me a song on the guitar. One of Spencer’s favorite bands has always been The Foo Fighters. I took him to see them years ago at Fenway Park. Dave Grohl is indeed his idol, his musical hero and has been for his years. There was no more fitting song I wanted to learn than “My Hero” from the Foo Fighters. It is a catchy tune that I felt was in my range as an average guitar player. Spencer has played it for me several times – on acoustic guitar, electric guitar with this looper pedal (which records a rhythm track and lets you play over it, like two people are in the room), and on the drums. Again, this kid can do anything musically.

“E major, Dad” were Spencer’s first instructions. Easy enough, E is one of the chords I know how to play. Spencer played along with me and showed me the strumming pattern, an important tempo skill for guitar. “Now, C sharp minor.” Ok, now we are getting serious. C sharp minor is a bit trickier and Spencer helped me get comfortable with this. We played this back and forth for a bit – E major, C sharp minor. “You can also play it like this,” and Spencer would show me another variation of the same chords on a different part of the neck of the guitar. He showed me the transition notes between the opening measures and the chorus. A mix of notes and chords to make the song “My Hero.” And with such poise and ease, Spencer taught me and instructed me and helped me play this song. And then, I let him play it through in perfect tempo and I just sat there in awe of my musician son.

Every son of mine has a special place in my heart. They work hard at their loves of life and their incredible gifts. A musician who can play 5 instruments with proficiency does not happen without hours and hours of practice, failing to hit a note, missing a beat, recovering, and then nailing a piece with perfection. An artist who spends countless hours simply shading the rays of sunlight to hit the costume of a super hero, planning out where the reds and oranges will land on the page hours before the ink hits the paper. An athlete who fights through growing pains, can’t shoot from the foul line, works tirelessly on hand position and leg drive, and can now shoot from anywhere on the court, and has built up his leg strength to be able to grab the rim at age 14. Their failures made them stronger. Their gifts to this world are just so breathtaking and impressive. I cherish every moment I have with them. My musician, my artist, my athlete, I love you so dearly and look forward to more of these special projects in the days, weeks, and years to come.

NE AAU League Playoffs 11U Open Division Update

Coach Jason Harvey of KR Express Baseball and Elite Physical Therapy has been a trusted contributor to the RIBBE for over a year. Jason and I have had great conversations about sports, therapy, parenting, equipment, and more and I value his emails and input into the Rhode Island baseball community. Here is more from Coach Jason regarding the 11U Open Division of New England AAU Baseball:

Mike Kay Head Coach of the 11U Seawolves Baseball on the left and Jason Harvey Head Coach of the 11U KR Express on the right. 

It’s hard to believe that the NEAAU season is over.  Here is an update on the 11U Open Division Playoffs. The 11U Open Division New England AAU League Playoffs took place last weekend all over New England.  The 11U Open Division has 50 teams competing for 24 playoff spots throughout the regular season.  Of the 50 teams competing in the 11U Open Division, 12 teams are from Rhode Island.  Out of the 12 teams in Rhode Island, 6 teams qualified for the NEAAU League Playoffs.  The NEAAU League Playoffs consist of the top 24 teams based on winning percentage.  The 24 teams are divided into 2 Divisions with 12 teams in each Division.  Each Division has 4 pools of 3 teams.  The 4 pool winners in each Division were then placed into Bracket Play for the chance to win their Division.  The Division winners would then play against each other in a best of 3 series for the New England AAU Championship this coming weekend.

Out of the 12 Rhode Island teams, 6 made qualified for the playoffs:

  1. KR Express
  2. Seawolves Baseball
  3. ATC
  4. RI Riverdogs
  5. RI Renegades
  6. Moe Joe Baseball

The two Rhode Island teams who won their pool advanced to bracket play were the KR Express (Lincoln, RI) and Seawolves Baseball (Bristol, RI).  The KR Express defeated the RI Renegades (Smithfield, RI) and the South Shore Rox (Raynham, MA) in pool play.  The Seawolves Baseball defeated the North Red Hawks (North Attleboro, MA) and the Valley Warriors (Andover, MA).  The KR Express then went on to defeat Samurai Baseball (Taunton, MA) in bracket play.  The Seawolves Baseball went on to defeat the Middlesex Reds (Medford, MA) in bracket play.  This guaranteed that a Rhode Island team would be represented in the New England AAU Championship as the Seawolves Baseball and the KR Express would meet in a final four matchup for the chance to play for the New England AAU Championship.  This was the fourth game of the weekend for both clubs. 

After the Seawolves took an early lead, the KR Express clawed back to within one run before the Seawolves had one more surge to close it out.  Both teams had great contributions all weekend.  Jon Kay from Seawolves Baseball pitched a complete game no hitter against the Valley Warriors in Pool Play.  Will Labrie from the KR Express pitched a complete game allowing three hits and three runs while striking out 5 and walking none in a win against the South Shore Rox in Pool Play.  The KR Express pitching combination of Ethan Palmer, Ryan Landry, and Will Labrie combined to pitch 15 innings with no walks in the three wins against the Renegades, Rox, and Samurai Baseball.  Offensive stars for the KR Express were Colin Lahiff, Luke Marchand, and Nolan Harvey who each had 6 hits on the weekend.  Carson Mellen drove in 6 runs while Lahiff and Harvey each drove in 5 runs for the Express.  Lahiff hit two home runs in one game.  The offensive stars for the Seawolves were Brendan Dinezza and Shane Baker with 6 hits apiece and Jon Kay with 8 hits.  Shane Baker led the way driving in 13 runs, while DiNezza drove in 9, and Kay drove in 5.  Kay homered against the Reds while Baker homered twice against the Express.  

The Seawolves will now play against Maplewood Baseball (Fall River, MA) for the New England AAU Championship in Rehoboth, MA, 38 Martin Road, Rehoboth, MA this coming weekend June 15th and 16th.   

Thanks to Coach Jason Harvey of KR Express for this outstanding update and for the great action photos of the Seawolves and KR Express teams. And good luck to the Seawolves club as they play for the New England AAU Championship this weekend.