The Newport Gulls begin their 22-game home schedule at Cardines Field on Friday, June 10, with Discover Newport Opening Night 2016.

Gates open at 5 p.m., and the Gulls will be handing out free 2016 magnet schedules to the first 1,000 fans to enter the ballpark, courtesy of Blue Plate Diner. Newport is set to take on the Mystic Schooners for the first of a six-game season series, in a rematch of the 2015 Southern Division Championship Series, where Mystic ended Newport’s season early in a sweep last August.

The Gulls, who officially open the season on the road Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Old Mountain Field in Wakefield vs. their in-state rivals, the Ocean State Waves, will play home games this season at historic Cardines Field every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night in June and July, with just one Monday off, on July 18. All home games begin at 6:35 p.m.

The regular season wraps up at home on Monday, Aug. 1, before the NECBL playoffs begin on Aug. 3 (the postseason runs through, at the latest, mid-August). The Gulls will also host the 2016 NECBL All-Star Game on Sunday, July 17 at Cardines Field, including a home run derby and skills competition in the early afternoon. The Gulls previously hosted the prestigious league event in 2005 and 2010.

For Friday’s Opening Night contest presented by Discover Newport, tickets go on sale at the Cardines Field Ticket Office at 5 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults; $2 for seniors, military and teens 13-18; and $1 for children 12 and under. Parking is just $2 with a game ticket at the Newport Visitors Center located across America’s Cup Avenue from the field.

Season passes, good for all 2016 home games, are available for just $50, and can be purchased on Opening Night at the Ticket Office outside of Cardines Field. This year, for the first time, all Gulls and Waves season passes will be honored at each ballpark for all six games of the Pell Bridge Series between the two rivals.

Beyond Thursday’s game at Ocean State, the Waves will head to Cardines Field for the first of three visits on Monday, June 13, for Tiverton Little League night at 6:35 p.m. The Gulls return to Old Mountain Field on June 18 and July 2, while the Waves wrap up the Pell Bridge Series in Newport on July 4 and 15. The action may go on, however: Newport and Ocean State have squared off in the quarterfinal playoffs in each of the last two seasons, both series edged by Newport in three games.

Friday’s Opening Night game will also be broadcast live by long-time play-by-play broadcaster Nick Lima, who is returning to the booth for a 12th season alongside new broadcaster Tolin Vaccaro, on the NECBL Broadcast Network via www.newportgulls.com, with extended pregame show coverage beginning at 5:55 p.m. The games will be rebroadcast on NCTV-18 Newport County and other affiliates in the region. All 22 home games will be broadcast and produced by the award-winning Gulls media staff.

For the third season in a row, the Gulls will find themselves with relatively short road trips this summer to their divisional rivals’ ballparks, with their furthest Southern Division opponent – the Danbury Westerners – residing at Rogers Park in Danbury, Connecticut. While the Gulls’ closest rival is the Waves, they also face easy travel to Groton, Connecticut’s Fitch Field, where the Mystic Schooners – the NECBL’s oldest franchise – call home; New Bedford’s Paul Walsh Field, home of the Bay Sox; and Plymouth, Massachusetts’s Forges Field, home of the Pilgrims, rounding out the NECBL South.

With long-time manager Mike Coombs now retired after 11 remarkable seasons, winning four of the franchise’s six championships, the new Gulls skipper is a familiar face – Al Leyva – who was hitting coach under Coombs from 2011-2013 and in 2015. Darryl Morhardt, an NECBL veteran of nearly two decades coaching experience, joins the staff as pitching coach, replacing Kevin Long, who is taking the summer off after five seasons in the role. Eric Degre, who coached for the NECBL North’s North Adams SteepleCats in 2015, rounds out the reworked staff as defensive and first base coach.

Newport has a difficult nine games in a row to start the season, before their first off day on Sunday, June 19 (they’ll have every following Sunday off, as well, aside from the All-Star Game), but all but one of the games is played against nearby division opponents – a roadtrip next Thursday to Holyoke, Massachusetts, to take on the North’s Valley Blue Sox.

But Newport’s travel schedule shifts into full gear from there. Alternating home and road dates, the Gulls will take the bulk of their long trips to the NECBL North’s Vermont Mountaineers, Laconia Muskrats, Sanford Mainers, the SteepleCats, and the league’s newest team – White River Junction, Vermont’s Upper Valley Nighthawks – in June’s second half and the beginning of July. The NECBL’s expansion back to 13 teams and 44 games this season, combined with a later-than-normal start in June, means the Gulls will only have one scheduled off day per week for the majority of the summer.

The Newport Gulls, members of the 13-team New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL), are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded as the Rhode Island Gulls in 1998 in Cranston, R.I., before moving to Newport in 2001. In addition to recruiting, fielding, and developing a team of the nation’s top collegiate baseball athletes and attracting 50,000 fans annually to Cardines Field, the predominantly volunteer organization strives to benefit the youth of Newport County via summer camps, reading programs, fundraisers, scholarships, and charitable donations – totaling over $1 million since 2001. The Gulls are six-time champions of the NECBL – the winningest franchise in league history – and were ranked as the overall No. 1 summer collegiate baseball team in the country by Perfect Game USA in 2012.

For more information about the Newport Gulls, visit facebook.com/newportgulls, follow the Gulls on Twitter @NewportGulls or visit www.newportgulls.com.

Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and serves on the Board of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and Lucy's Hearth. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.