2008-06-19 / News

Newport Gulls ready for 2008 season

By Rudd Hall and Stephanie Heelan Cotsonas

Neil Davis, from the University of Virginia, is one of the starting pitchers for the Newport Gulls this season. Photo by Melissa Paiva Neil Davis, from the University of Virginia, is one of the starting pitchers for the Newport Gulls this season. Photo by Melissa Paiva As Newport swings back into another busy summer, so opens another season for the hometown Gulls.

This season is sure to be a hit for the Gulls, who compete in the NECBL (New England Collegiate Baseball League) as they are welcoming back eight players who earned all-conference recognition for their collegiate play. These players come from colleges and universities around the United States, from Washington to Florida. They are looking to improve their play and maybe get picked up by the pros.

Since inception there are over 60 former Gulls who have played professional baseball at some level. According to the Gulls publicist Shane Donaldson, most have reached rookie or single A leagues. "Just now are we seeing the guys that were on the initial team working their way up to the majors."

Former Gulls currently in the major leagues include Rhode Island native Chris Ianetta who is in his second season with the Colorado Rockies, and just last week Mitchell Boggs was called up to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Current starting left fielder Kyle Conley was drafted from the University of Washington where he just finished his junior year. He elected to spend his summer in Newport instead of signing and this fall will return to college for his final season of eligibility.

According to Donaldson, there are definitely current Gulls who will get drafted but not for another year or two. All players on the 25- man roster must have completed their freshman year in college and must have one more year of college eligibility left.

Each team is in charge of doing its own scouting. The Cape Cod league is the most comparable to the Gulls and probably the top amateur league in the country, according to Donaldson.

The busy season began earlier this month and continues through the middle of August, with home games at the historic Cardines Field in Newport.

The Gulls are an expansion team, formerly the Rhode Island Gulls, which was founded in Cranston in 1999. They have been a force to be reckoned with in the NECBL, winning the championships three times as well as six division titles. The franchise is considered a premier team in the league and has a loyal fan base. Donaldson said, "The motive for bringing the team here was to bring high-level amateur baseball to the Newport area but to also reach out to the community and give people of Newport County area something to call their own."

Local families can host players and coaches for the short summer season and Donaldson said the General Manager Chuck Paiva always called the host family program the "foundation and backbone of the Gulls."

The host family program has a big following. "There are between two or three dozen families that host players and coaches. You see the families come into the ball park every night and they get attached to the players and they build lifelong relationships with these guys," Donaldson said. He added that the players come from all over the country and the top Division I programs and they "develop a special connection with the Newport area because of the families that host them and the people they get to know here."

The not-for-profit organization is made up entirely of volunteers and for host families it is a way to have the team involved in the community and keep it cost effective.

"The players do a lot of things with the local schools. Just about every night we have a different student group come in," Donaldson said. He added, "Last week we had local elementary school students sing the national anthem. Each year the team donates thousands of dollars to various charities throughout the community."

The Gulls offer promotions for every home game with free prize giveaways to local restaurants and businesses. Tonight the Gulls host the U.S. National Team in their annual exhibition game, which in the past has seen the likes of Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra. On June 29, the Gulls will host the Chinese National Team which will represent China in this summer's Olympic Games.

Tickets can be purchased at the box office or the Newport Visitors Center. Single game tickets for adults are $4. Children 13 to 18, senior citizens, and servicemembers with a military ID $2, and children under 12 are $1. Season passes and group ticket packages are also available. Free parking is available in the parking garage across the street from the field.

For schedules and information on becoming a host family, visit www.newportgulls.com.

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