While the Red Sox are getting busy in Fort Myers, Fla., baseball is on the way, and the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks have been busy this winter preparing for their 10th season as the Island’s boys of summer.
The roster has been filled with America’s top collegiate talent, the infield sod has been replaced, and the high-achieving Sharks will host a celebratory alumni weekend and game featuring former players on June 19 and 20, according to Russ Curran, general manager of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL).
The NECBL is a preferred destination for college players around the country who look to hone their skills and attract the eye of Major League scouts. Players turn in the aluminum bats used in high school and college for wooden bats used by professionals in the Major League.
“We expect Tad Gold and Jack Roberts to be here. They are former Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, college, and Sharks players who were Sharks fan favorites,” he said, rattling off the names of other notable Sharks planning to attend, including Sean Winthrop, Nick Raposo, and Nathan Hickman.
“Some of the former players may be drafted and not available, such as our former catcher Nathan Hickman, who was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays Major League team,” he said.
The team begins its second NECBL season after eight years in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, in which the team were champs or co-champs three times. Last year, the Sharks lost in the league championship final game.
The lure of the NECBL for college players allows the Sharks to roam the country for top talent. “Returnees include Kyle Salley (Duke), Danny Hegarty (Kansas), Hai Nelson (Georgetown), Oliver McCarthy (Duke), and we have kids from Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, UMass Lowell, Rutgers, Colorado Mesa University, Xavier, and Florida State,” he said.
Curran said the Sharks will feature new catcher/third baseman, Andrew Jenkins, a Georgia Tech freshman who’ll bat cleanup, and infielder Nathan LaPlante, a Yale University sophomore who was named an All-American last year. We bid adieu to fan faves Matt Chamberlain, Isiah Mestre, and Colin Shapiro, who have graduated from college.
As part of the league change, the Sharks are now a nonprofit 501(c)(3) company, a requirement for all NECBL franchises, Curran noted. But other important things are unchanged. “Yep, kids still get in free, courtesy of Vineyard Vines, and fans still get a ticket and a burger or hot dog for $10,” Curran said. And, of course, host families, a key element in the program, are still needed. Info at email@example.com.