2011-06-16 / News

Six of the Magnificent Seven prepare for the Babe Ruth League Playoffs

By Geoff Campbell

From left, Matt Rafanelli, Alex Burke, Eric Stroud, Drew MacIntyre and James Chamberlain represent five of the seven Jamestown teens that make up the Magnificent Seven, a group of kids that has played baseball together for eight years. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten From left, Matt Rafanelli, Alex Burke, Eric Stroud, Drew MacIntyre and James Chamberlain represent five of the seven Jamestown teens that make up the Magnificent Seven, a group of kids that has played baseball together for eight years. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten It began about eight years ago. A group of seven boys started playing Little League in Jamestown.

Tony Rafanelli, the boys’ current manager, said that they have been playing together ever since. The days of that unique relationship are numbered as the end of the season approaches for the Newport Babe Ruth Baseball League. Tied for first place, Ali’s Run, the team that represents Jamestown in the league, hosts six of the seven boys: Alex Burke, Danny Irwin, Graham Jamison, Drew MacIntyre, Matt Rafanelli and Eric Stroud. James Chamberlain, the last of the Magnificent Seven (nicknamed by Tony Rafanelli), played with the rest of the group the last two seasons, but this year was age ineligible.

Rafanelli said that in the past Jamestown has not supported multiple Babe Ruth League teams, so that he was forced to create a single team and find a schedule in a league off the island.

Rafanelli helped form the first team of 13-, 14-, and 15-year-olds in the Newport league seven years ago when his elder son John was 13.

Rafanelli remembered looking for a team sponsor, asking around town. He said that Maureen Dunn Packer found out and said that she would sponsor the team if it would carry the name in memory of her daughter. The team is sponsored by the Ali Dunn Packer Memorial Fund.

The Magnificent Seven, now in its third and final year in the league, has been the nucleus of the team and the success of Ali’s Run has been remarkable.

In their first year as 13-yearolds in 2009, Ali’s Run finished the regular season with one of the best records and went on to win the tournament championship.

Fire Chief Jim Bryer, the manager of the 2009 championship team, was the first head coach of Ali’s Run and held the position for four years. Last season the team was undefeated in the regular season but lost in the finals. That team was managed by Rafanelli and Andy MacIntyre. This year Rafanelli shares the managerial duties with Steve Cirella.

Graham, the ace of the pitching staff, described his experience in the group. He recalls the transitions from minors to the majors, and the majors to Babe Ruth. “It changes a lot,” Graham said. “Your view, your experience; it gets better as it goes, definitely.” Starting every other game, Graham said that he has always been a pitcher.

Reflecting on this season, Graham pointed to his first two strikeouts of the season as highlights. “The first game of the year, the first two strikeouts were looking strikeouts,” he said. “Those are my favorites.”

Excellence is no stranger to this group. Rafanelli explained that during the years that they were on multiple teams in the major division of Jamestown Cal Ripken Baseball, they were annual teammates on the all-star team that competed in the summer against its Cal Ripken counterparts around the state.

In their final year as Cal Ripken All-Stars, they faced their annual nemesis, the Apponaug All-Stars, who more often than not sent the boys home.

“We were playing at the 12-year-old Cal Ripken State Tournament in West Warwick,” said Rafanelli. “We lost our first game and started to think the inevitable. We came back to win the second game so now we were 1-1. As fate would have it, our third game was against Apponaug. These kids went out and played a whale of a game. Each of the seven did his part along with the rest of the team and when it was over, we not only won the game, but won by the 10- run mercy rule, 13-3. We swarmed the field as if we had won the Little League World Series. We had just beaten Apponaug.”

“We’ve been playing together for a long time,” said Alex, who is a shortstop and closer for Ali’s Run. “We are really good friends and we know how to play together.”

Burke recalls his eighth-grade season at Lawn Avenue School as a special memory. “It was all of my best friends playing and we did really well as a team. I just have a lot of good memories there.”

Rafanelli described the group’s special relationship. “I call it a baseball relationship,” he said. “They’re all friends but they don’t all hang out with each other. They go off and do their different things, but every time that they come together as a baseball team, they play as a unit.”

Rafanelli said that all of the boys are hitters and each can play defense as well.

All seven boys came through the Jamestown school system. Five of the seven attend North Kingstown High School and Graham and Danny are at Prout; they are the only two currently playing high school ball.

“Everybody contributes,” Rafanelli said. He also complemented the other talented Jamestowners on Ali’s Run, including Logan Bradley, Steve Cirella, Shane Foley, Jared Ford, Ryan Geib, Robbie Haberland, Peter Millen and Liam Vetter.

Ali’s is the top seed in the playoffs and is scheduled to return to the field on Sunday, June 19, to begin its postseason run. The game’s location and opponent are yet to be determined.

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