Sharks play ball!

Home opener is Thursday night.

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The 2018 edition of the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks, members of the Future Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL), begins on Thursday, May 31, at 6 pm at the Shark Tank behind Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

All Island Little Leaguers who attend in uniform will be admitted free of charge to take the field with Sharks players before the first pitch against the North Shore Navigators. On Saturday, June 2, the Sharks meet the Brockton Rox on First Responder Night, honoring the Island’s police safety professionals. That game is also a fundraiser for the family of slain Yarmouth Police Sergeant Sean Gannon.

Russ Curran, director of baseball operations, has hired Jay Mendes, baseball coach for Suffolk University and former manager of the FCBL Seacoast Mavericks, to guide 26 top-quality collegiate players and pro prospects through a 56-game schedule.

Now in its eighth season, the FCBL features seven teams around New England in wooden-bat play that most hope will lead to a pro career after college. “I think this will be our best year ever for the Major League pro draft, “ Curran predicted last week, noting that FCBL is growing in reputation nationwide as a skills-improvement destination.

“I’m getting calls from colleges that didn’t respond to my outreach, wanting to place kids with us. We’re full, though, for this year,” he said noting that the team is looking for volunteer families to host four players this season.

Host families receive a $500 stipend, season passes, and “a lifetime of memories“ for opening their homes to the college players, Curran said.

Shark Island connections include phenom James Sashin (MVRHS 2017), who is signed with San Diego State University’s Division 1 program in September, and Chase Mascolo, an infielder from Wake Forest University and nephew of Trader Fred Mascolo, an Island businessman.

“We are becoming more popular because kids come here, work their butts off, and get better fast,” Curran said, predicting that 2017 Shark Zach Shannon, a college all-star at Delta State who led all college divisions in the country in home runs, batting average, and on-base percentage in his final college campaign, “is going to go very high in this year’s draft. And Troy Stefanski came here struggling with the bat last year. This year he led UConn in hitting, and is going to the NCAA regionals this week.”

One tip that doing duty with the Sharks is a good option is the decision by former collegian Tommy Horscotte, at Assumption College, to join Curran as an assistant this season. “Tommy played on the Cape, in the North Woods league, and other New England leagues. He wanted to come with us because of the organization, the facilities, and how kids are treated. He said our field is better than Cape League fields,” Curran said, adding, “We take do care of them, feed them after a game, rather than them having to grab a hot dog for dinner.”

No one knows who’ll burst on the scene this season, but there are some tasty pedigrees, including catcher Josh Stiegel, a member of Team USA last season headed for
Oklahoma State, and Nick Raposo, an all-American from Wheaton College.

So it begins. The boys of summer chasing their dreams at the snappy ballyard in Oak Bluffs, and we get to watch them.