The RIBBE Travels to Martha’s Vineyard And The Shark Tank

Martha’s Vineyard is a beautiful island in Massachusetts that attracts visitors year round, especially in the summer months. The beaches, the quaint villages and towns, the night life, lighthouses, historical landmarks, and the shopping are just some of the many reasons why MV is so popular. And you can add summer college baseball to that list of why folks travel in the thousands to visit Oak Bluffs, West Tisbury, Edgartown, Katama Beach, Chappaquiddick Island, and the rest of the 87 square miles of Martha’s Vineyard.

The Martha’s Vineyard Sharks play in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, which has 13 New England teams from all over the New England area. This is the Sharks’ inaugural season in the NECBL, as they previously played in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. The Sharks play their home games at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in Oak Bluffs. As I regularly check the NECBL schedule, I noticed that Rhode Island’s Ocean State Waves were slated to play at the Shark Tank on Monday July 1st. I decided to make a day of it with my wife and travel to MV for the beaches, lunch, and to check out the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks and their Shark Tank.

You can get to Martha’s Vineyard by plane, by ferry, by personal craft. If you elect to take the ferry (as most do), you can go to the Steamship Authority website and choose your port, make a vehicle reservation if you plan on bringing your vehicle, book your trip, find schedules, and much more. Their website is www.steamshipauthority.com. As for myself, I drove from RI to Woods Holes, MA (about 85 miles) and took the ferry. Parking was easy and convenient at a parking lot about 4 miles from the ferry. There was a free shuttle to the ferry and it drops you off right at the ticket office. You can buy your tickets in advance for vehicle reservations but you also purchase them the day of the ferry if you plan on just “walking on.” My wife and I elected to take the ferry to Oak Bluffs (you can also choose Vineyard Haven) mainly because we weren’t bringing our car and there is a lot of attractions near the Oak Bluffs port that are within walking distance. After we landed in Oak Bluffs, we casually walked down to South Beach and I took a swim in the ocean. It was so peaceful and relaxing and the weather was absolutely gorgeous.

Having traveled to MV for years on business, I have gotten to sample a ton of restaurants, ice cream shoppes, and watering holes over the years. One of my favorite spots to eat at is Sharky’s Cantina. They have two locations on Martha’s Vineyard – Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. Their menu is all of your favorite pub foods, drinks all always cold, and the atmosphere is always festive. Rachel and I stopped in at the Oak Bluffs location for lunch and a few beverages and had a blast. If you are on the island, check out Sharky’s – you won’t be disappointed. Plus, they are a big time sponsor of the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks, our next destination after lunch.

A spirited, local cabbie drove us the 15 minute cab ride from the harbor to the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and we landed in the Shark Tank. The Sharks field fits in perfectly with the laid back, summer vacation, rustic feel of Martha’s Vineyard. Split rail fencing dresses the dirt walkway as you enter the field area. Grab a game program, sit at a picnic table to eat a snack from the Shark Bites stand, and take in the full view of the stadium. The field is tucked back from the busy Edgartown/Vineyard Haven road which sees hundreds of cars, thousands of tourists, and tons of activity every day (especially in the summer time.) Great first impression as Rachel and I walked into the Shark Tank.

The game we attended was the second game of a doubleheader. The Ocean State Waves had won the first game and the grounds crew was preparing the field for the second game as we entered. The field had plenty of seating on the first and third base sides as well as a grandstand area behind home plate. There were purple chairs set up in the outfield for families to sit and watch the game from “the bleachers” section. It was great to be able to sit anywhere we wanted to get different angles and views of the game action. The sun was hot and bright and in your face on the first base side, but ducked behind the trees nicely on the third base side. I caught up with Waves President and GM Eric Hirschbein-Bodnar, who is also a Waves Coach, in between innings. We chatted for a bit about Game 1, which the Waves won on a walk off.

The action of the field between the Sharks and the Waves was awesome. There were a couple of home runs hit, a few deep drives to the outfield off the fence, some exciting base running, great pitching, and solid defense by both teams. The games move along at a pretty good pace because the talent level is top notch. The NECBL is one of the best summer collegiate baseball leagues in the entire country. They recruit top players from all over college baseball, including several from RI. I was able to see Johnston’s Nick Raposo, who plays for the Sharks, smack a single just before Rachel and I headed out for the ferry. I chatted with a few host families that lived on Martha’s Vineyard who were also from Rhode Island. And a couple from Pawtucket, who were staying on MV for the July 4th week, were sitting in the outfield bleachers section. It was great making that Rhode Island connection while at the game.

Another 15 minute ride back to Oak Bluffs to catch the ferry back to Woods Hole and we were on our way back home to RI. Rachel and I got a lot of sun and had a blast visiting different spots on our trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Oak Bluffs is so amazing and the downtown area by the port has a ton of shops, ice cream parlors, restaurants, and night life activity. You can elect to take a cab, take the MV Transit bus, walk, ride a bike, rent a scooter, or just sit in the park. There is so much to see in one day, so plan ahead if you are a planner. Otherwise, do what we did and just take it moment to moment. I loved visiting the Shark Tank to check out the Sharks vs Waves game. The field, the rustic location, the great family fun, the affordability, the memories – these are just some of what you can expect at a New England Collegiate Baseball League game. For more information on the Sharks, The Waves, and the rest of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, check out www.necbl.com. And, if you have a chance to, definitely visit the beautiful island of Martha’s Vineyard this year.

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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 11U State Tournament Host – Smithfield Little League

The Rhode Island Little League State 11U tournament will be played in Smithfield Little League parks this summer. This 11U State tournament is an important stepping stone to the New England Regionals, held in Beverly, MA. Last year’s 11U winner, King Philip Little League, made it through the RI states and onto the New England Regionals, had a fantastic run in the Regionals and represented RI baseball in a big way. Great memories for those KPLL players, coaches, and families.

In speaking with Smithfield Little League, there are two field possibilities for the 11U tournament. Whipple Field and Deerfield Park are both used during the spring season for regular season Little League play. Both fields offer plenty of parking, seating, offer batting cages, and concession stands. The fields are always in great condition field wise and the league has done a really nice job making the fields at Whipple and Deerfield safe and presentable for league play. Stay tuned for an annoucement in the coming weeks on whether Whipple or Deerfield Park will be the host field for the 11U tournament.

Ron Lopes, District Administrator of Rhode Island Little League District 4, will be the tournament director. The State tournament is scheduled to start July 19th and run through the 25th, if needed. Good luck to all the players, coaches, and families as they compete in their district tournaments, then onto the Rhode Island State 11U Championships at TBD, Smithfield Little League.

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.