Sharks move up in class in 2019

Leave Futures League for NECBL competition.

Shown here at a game in August, 2018, Collin Shapiro, right, cheers for Kellen Hatheway, who scored to put the Sharks up 4-3 in the eighth against the Brockton Rox.

The Martha’s Vineyard Sharks collegiate baseball team will swim upstream in 2019, exiting the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL) after eight seasons to join the more prestigious 25-year-old New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL).

They will be replaced in the FCBL by a Westfield franchise. The Sharks’ move follows some under-the-radar negotiations and drama, including a lawsuit by the FCBL seeking to block the Sharks’ move. A Middlesex County judge ruled against the FCBL in October.

The move to the 13-team NECBL is regarded as a good thing by Sharks General Manager Russ Curran. “The NECBL is supported in part by Major League Baseball and is a sought-after summer league by Division 1 college programs,” he said this week. “The quality of play reflects that with more than 100 players drafted professionally every year. This is a good move for the community and for the Sharks. You’ll see it in the on-field product.” The Sharks in the past have sold about 1,000 seats a game, with 200 to 300 in the stands for regular season contests, standing-room-only for playoffs. While the Sharks have a loyal community base, the majority of fans in July and August have been summer visitors.

FCBL rosters have been dominated by Division 3 players, with a smattering of D1 and D2 players, but that will change, Curran said. “The NCBL is dominated by D1 players, and you’ll see more of them on our roster, which will be released over the next week or so,” he said.

However, fan favorites from the 2018 FCBL co-champs will be back, including all-stars such as Josh Spiegel, Nick Raposo, Matt Chamberlain, Devon Dimascio, and speedster Kai Nelson. Eric Pappas from Williams College will be returning as well. “We always try to get a Williams player since Jack Roberts [MVRHS 2013], a Williams grad, played for us,” he said.

The Sharks will play 44 games this season in the southern NECBL division against teams from Newport and Narragansett, R.I., New Bedford and Plymouth, and Mystic and Danbury, Conn. They will play two games each against NECBL northern division teams in Holyoke, North Adams, Keene and Winnipesaukee, N.H., Sanford, Maine, and Hartford and Montpelier, Vt.

These are big changes for the 8-year-old Sharks franchise, but some things are unchanged, Curran said. “We still will need housing and jobs for players, and we will continue our intern program, focusing on our high school students taking sports management curricula,” he said.

According to a press release issued by Curran this week, the Sharks’ 2019 schedule will be unveiled before the end of the month.