Comedian Lenny Clarke steps up to the plate

The Martha’s Vineyard funnyman and actor will help raise funds for improvements to the Vineyard baseball park.

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Lenny Clarke will bring the laughs to a fundraiser for the Martha's Vineyard Sharks — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Chilmark resident and nationally known actor and comedian Lenny Clarke will headline the Grand Slam Comedy Night on Sunday, August 7, at the Portuguese-American (P.A.) Club on Vineyard Avenue in Oak Bluffs, to benefit the Vineyard Baseball Park (a.k.a. the Shark Tank), summer home of the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks, a collegiate summer baseball team playing in the Future Collegiate Baseball League of New England.

What’s been going on at Vineyard Baseball Park for a decade is no joke, but it is startling. Construction began 10 years ago this spring to provide a new field for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) baseball team by Vineyard Baseball Inc., a nonprofit company full of volunteers dedicated to Island baseball. Their work has created a venue with impact few would have imagined when the bulldozers began rumbling across a vacant part of the high school campus.

They provided a high-quality playing environment that attracted the Cape Cod League, the premier collegiate summer league in the country, to play a game each season here in 2008 to 2010, which attracted overflow crowds to watch rosters peppered with future Major Leaguers, including Jackie Bradley Jr., now a star with the Boston Red Sox.

In 2011, the Vineyard Baseball Park also attracted the Carminucci Sports Group, a professional baseball-management group with a plan to launch a collegiate summer league called the Future Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL). The Carminucci Group launched the M.V. Sharks as a charter member of the FCBL, invested in field upgrades, and brought in former big leaguers to promote the team via appearances and clinics.

The Vineyard Baseball Park is continuing to upgrade a venue that has also become a magnet for youth baseball on the Island, including a first-ever Babe Ruth League tournament this summer.

The Sharks have produced 11 players who have been drafted by Major League Baseball (MLB) teams. Most famously and first drafted was Islander Tad Gold, a 2009 MVRHS graduate and collegiate D3 player of the year at Endicott College in 2013 before becoming the first Islander to be an MLB draftee, signing with the Baltimore Orioles and playing minor league ball for nearly three years. Other Island players have been recruited to bigtime college programs, such as Jack Roberts, a 2013 MVRHS graduate, a former Shark, and now a star at Williams College.

The beat goes on. “We are excited that Lenny and his friends are doing this for the park. We plan to use the proceeds of the fundraiser to put some finishing touches on our facility, including installation of restrooms and upgrades to seating and to concession stands,“ Sharks general manager Shana Metzger, now in her third season, told the Times last week.

The Sunday adult-audience performance is the finale in a regional comedy tour by Mr. Clarke, Christine Hurley, and Bobby Slayton — dubbed “the Nasty Tour” by Mr. Clarke in a chat with The Times last week.

“Christine Hurley is the funniest woman working today, and Bobby is called ‘the Comic Pit Bull’ for good reason,” he said. “It’s always fun to shock the Island,” Mr. Clarke said in his trademark staccato delivery.

A check of YouTube videos of Ms. Hurley and Mr. Slayton revealed routines that include spot-on skewers of daily life. Their styles are decidedly not Mr. Rogers; sort of an adult Will Rogers, but not Andrew Dice Clay.

Ms. Hurley is a Plymouth resident and mother of five who took up comedy after success being funny at family Thanksgiving and Christmas parties. She will reveal what soccer moms really talk about at the school bus stop, the importance of knowing the name of your kid’s school, and a secret diet trick guaranteed to make you happy.

Mr. Slayton is a nationally known headliner who muses, among other matters, on the mysteries of relationships between men and women. He will reveal why men don’t ask for directions — and it’s not what you’re thinking.

Mr. Clarke has been a consistent supporter of Vineyard causes, and does several benefit shows a year on the Island. He is a passionate Boston Red Sox fan, and appears several times a year in the NESN television broadcasts of Sox games, where his humor “owns” Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, who is generally rendered speechless with laughter.

Vineyard baseball players at all levels have had success at the Little League, Babe Ruth League, and MVRHS levels. The Sharks, charter members and 2013 champions of the Futures Collegiate Baseball Leagues, provide Island and visiting baseball fans a local option that is closer than Fenway.

Doors open at 7 pm prior to a two- or three-item live auction and a silent auction. Performances are scheduled to begin at 8:30 pm. Tickets for the benefit range from $25 to $50, and are available from ticketsmv.com/event or by emailing fanmail@mvsharks.com.