2015-07-02 / Around Town

Gulls Still Flying High

By James Merolla


Reed Gamache, of Exeter, is congratulated by bat boy Sammy Stamoulis, of Portsmouth, a host family member. (Photo by James Merolla) Reed Gamache, of Exeter, is congratulated by bat boy Sammy Stamoulis, of Portsmouth, a host family member. (Photo by James Merolla) The children line up, stretching their white Gull shirts through the chain link fence. The players sign the clothing with Sharpies, giving their first requested autographs.

Other children scurry everywhere with their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, teams, coaches, mentors, and friends. Those whose hands are big enough wear little mitts in the hopes of catching a foul ball.

It's hard to count the children among the hundreds who attend, but there are more than usual on this perfect June evening, as it is Junior Gulls Night and even more children are honored on the field.

Welcome to a doubleheader at Cardines Field, where the Newport Gulls – a collection of winning, friendly college players with minor league addresses, major league ambitions, and all-pro hearts – entertain with the purest kind of baseball.

The Gulls have won the first game, 4-3 against the New Bedford Bay Sox.

Players throughout the New England Collegiate Baseball League come from all over America. Gull players are hosted annually by local families who don’t collect a dime – many host year after year, like Middletown Town Solicitor Peter Regan who has done so for a decade, and Middletown Town Councilor Rick Lombardi, who has also served as groundskeeper for Cardines Field for 11 years.

“I have been to almost every game,” said Lombardi. “It’s my therapy. It keeps me sane. My kids grew up here.”

Ted Karousos, the former owner of the renowned Sea Fare Restaurant in Portsmouth and the current owner of The Blue Plate Diner, runs the concession stand in a special way, beyond mere franks and burgers. Karousos' stand sings with Greek salad, gyros, Cobb salad, and chicken salad to go.

“This is grass roots baseball at its best,” said Chuck Paiva, president and general manager of the team, who nods to a pair of major league scouts to his left who are assessing his players. “This is small community America being around baseball players who are all chasing a dream to be professionals."

The sounds of wooden bats – ash, maple and birch – crack under a perfect late-afternoon sun, as the players warm up, so close to their dream. The two scouts gauge the velocity of the pitchers’ fast balls with a radar gun. They jot down who has the arm speed, the foot speed, the bat speed, the power, the grace, to get a call or a mention.

Because of the scouts' notes, a few players may get closer. On this night, Quinn Brodey of Stanford University (and Los Angeles, Calif.) hits a home run over the right field fence to give the Gulls a short-lived 2-1 lead in front of Steve Payne, a scout for the New York Mets, and another scout who works for Major League Baseball. Could he have timed that shot any better?

The Gulls currently have nine former players in the major leagues and 200 in the minor leagues. “They are all draftable,” said Lombardi.

The team has been phenomenally successful since coming to Cardines Field. They have not missed the playoffs in any of their 15 years here and have won six league championships – in 2001, 2002, 2005, 2009, 2012 and 2014.

“We are so blessed to have such great coaches and players who understand what it means to be a Gull and wear our uniform with pride, commitment and character,” Paiva said. “We are so blessed to have the best fan base in summer college baseball, filling Cardines every night to support their team.”

Maximum capacity is 3,000 for a home game. Hot dogs are $2.50. Game tickets a mere $4.

But the Gulls are so much more than titles or banners. Earlier that day, the team met with about 70 Middletown children in one of the team’s many day camps, designed to instruct youth baseball players between the ages of 6 and 12.

The camps in Portsmouth, Middletown and Newport allow the team to give scholarships, tickets and other gifts to children who cannot afford them.

Ownership, management, players and their coaches do even more. Theme nights recently have honored Tiverton Little League, the Town of Middletown, St. Joseph’s Church, Discover Newport, Salve Regina University, and Balfour Beatty Communities. The Gulls also visit area schools, read to children, and have given more than $1 million back to charity and the community.

In 2013, the organization was voted the top summer collegiate baseball program in the nation, and it is poised to reach even higher.

Nick Lima, Director of Media Relations, has conversed through Facebook with Bernardino Cardine of Italy, the great-nephew of the man whose name graces the field.

The Gulls plan to bring Mr. Cardine to Newport to honor his family during a special night next summer.

“They do it right,” said Lombardi.

NECBL Southern Division Standings
Wins Losses
Mystic Schooners 13 6
Newport Gulls 11 7
Ocean State Waves 10 7
New Bedford Bay Sox 9 9
Plymouth Pilgrims 8 8
Danbury Westerners 3 15

HOME SCHEDULE

Games Begin at 6:35 p.m.
Fri., July 3 vs Plymouth
Mon., July 6 vs New Bedford
Wed., July 8 vs Plymouth
Fri., July 10 vs Danbury
Wed., July 15 vs Ocean State
Fri., July 17 vs New Bedford
Wed., July 22 vs Stanford
Fri., July 24 vs Vermont
Wed., July 29 vs Plymouth
Fri., July 31 vs Mystic

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