SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The New England Collegiate Baseball League is coming to Wakefield this June.
The Ocean State Waves, a team comprised of college freshmen, sophomores and juniors from around the country will begin their 2013 season at Old Mountain Field on Kingstown Road on June 6.
Jeff Sweenor, the team’s owner, brought the idea before the South Kingstown Town Council Monday night.
Sweenor, who owns Bomb Squad Baseball and Sweenor Builders, Inc., both in Wakefield, said he looked into the idea of bringing a collegiate team to South Kingstown last year.
“It just kept evolving,” he said.
Sweenor said the Newport Gulls, another New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) team, helped the idea of the Waves come to fruition.
“They were very welcoming,” he said of the Gulls. “I wasn’t sure how they would react initially because I thought they might view it as competition but, to the contrary, they were very supportive and we established a great relationship, so we’re looking forward to a great instate rivalry.”
Both teams will be part of the NECBL’s eastern division.
The Waves will play approximately 44 games in their opening season, about half will be played at home and the other half way.
Sweenor said he plans to make some improvements to Old Mountain Field to ready it for the season. He will repair the infield and the batting cages, add some fencing to the outfield and construct a new press box to comply with NECBL’s broadcast regulations.
“[Old Mountain Field] is such a great downtown venue where everyone can walk in,” Sweenor said of why he chose Old Mountain as the team’s home field. “There’s so much exposure there with main road going through town, it’s got a lot of neat characteristics that make it unique.”
Sweenor said he doesn’t have plans at this time to increase bleacher seating but hopes to use the field’s natural embankment for patron seating and allow patrons can bring their own blankets and picnics to enjoy a game.
The town has supported Sweenor’s use of Old Mountain Field as a venue and will finalize plans at the South Kingstown Recreation Commission meeting Jan. 22.
“The recreation commission and department is very supportive of the idea of offering another recreation/entertainment option to the community in the form of high level baseball that the Waves and NECBL will provide,” said Terry Murphy, South Kingstown’s director of leisure services. “The priority for the commission is to ensure that all of the recreation programs which call Old Mountain Field ‘home’ during the summer months will continue to be accommodated with the necessary time and facilities that they require.”
Sweenor is presently working with town staff to vet the issue of parking and other teams’ use of the facilities at Old Mountain. The Waves players and staff plan to park at South Kingstown High School and walk over to the field on game days and their use of the field is being scheduled so as not to impact its use by other local teams.
In the future, the games may not be played at Old Mountain, as Sweenor said he is looking into using the University of Rhode Island’s field in the future.
The team, comprised of 30 players, will travel as far south as Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and as far north as Sanford, Maine, to play other teams in the league.
The Waves are one of three expansion teams added to the NECBL this year, as the league enters its 20th season. The other new teams will be the Saratoga Brigade, based in Saratoga Springs and a team based in Plymouth, Mass. The Brigade is the first team in the league based outside of New England.
“We are thrilled at the addition of Plymouth, Saratoga Springs and South Kingstown,” Sean McGrath, NECBL commissioner said in a statement. “All three of these communities share the core values of the NECBL: bringing top quality baseball and family entertainment value while being integrated in the community fabric. All three organizations enjoy tremendous community support. We look forward to their participation in the NECBL family for years to come.”
The majority of players come to the league based on the recommendation of their college coaches, although each team in the league cannot accept more than four players from any one collegiate team.
“It’s all about coaches’ expectations about where their players can play and what they expect out of them for that summer,” Sweenor said. “Every coach has a specific agenda for their players.”
Sweenor said he expects to solidify about two-thirds of the Waves’ roster in the next 30 days, though he will leave several open positions for collegiate players who try out for the Cape Cod league but do not make it.
He said he expects to have four players from the University of Rhode Island on the team.
In addition to playing six games a week, players will work and live locally. They will likely earn some spending money by working at baseball clinics in the town.
“Obviously they don’t have a lot of time to work but a lot of what they’ll be doing is working at camps or clinics all summer,” Sweenor said. “It’s a win-win because it helps the younger kids and it’s a great role model for the younger kids too.”
Players who don’t live locally will stay with host families. Sweenor said he has already received inquiries from six prospective host families looking to house players from the start of the season through its conclusion in early August.
Matt Finlayson will serve as the general manager of the team and Phil Davidson will serve as the field manager. Finlayson is the chief operating officer of Rhode Island Sports group and the director of baseball operations for the University of Rhode Island. Davidson is the founder/director of the Rhode Island Rebels Baseball Club and currently helps coach the South Kingstown High School baseball team and coaches at Bomb Squad Baseball.
The Waves will play the Keene, N.H.-based Swamp Bats at home on opening day.
If you go
Opening day for the Ocean State Waves is June 6 at Old Mountain Field, 875 Kingstown Road, Wakefield, R.I. Tickets are $4 for adults and $2 for children. Children under 12 are free.