By Michael Falcone, Commissioner
Summertime normally calls for hitting the beach, having cookouts with friends and family, and enjoying America’s pastime- baseball. However, this year, everything has been far from “normal”. With the official start of summer (June 20) upon us, the City of Newport and State of Rhode Island are finally beginning to get back to business as usual. As a result of the tireless efforts of Governor Gina Raimondo and Newport City Council with guidance from the RI Department of Health and the CDC as well as countless health professionals and government officials, Rhode Island is set to enter into Phase III of the Reopening Plans. Phase II has featured youth sports returning to play, allowing groups of 15 to congregate and practice together.
In Governor Raimondo’s press conference on Friday, June 19 she discussed what Phase III is going to look like as long as the trend of those effected by COVID-19 continues move in a positive direction. Her comments were extremely encouraging, increasing social gatherings at outside venues to 75-150 individuals and allowing adult sports to restart. Exact plans for adult sports will be released sometime next week. In anticipation of Phase III beginning at the start of July, the Newport Collegiate Baseball League is preparing to get “New England’s Best Back on the Ballfield”.
Historic Cardines Field is home to the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) and many other leagues including the oldest men’s league in the country, the George Donnelley Sunset League, American Legion, and others. The Newport Gulls and the NECBL are a wooden bat league that gives collegiate student-athletes from throughout the country the opportunity to compete against each other in a highly competitive environment. NECBL players are recruited to join each of the 13 teams scattered throughout New England in hopes of chasing their dreams of becoming Major League Baseball players. In early May, the NECBL made the decision to cancel the 2020 season because of COVID-19. The safety of all league stakeholders was paramount, and proper planning could not be completed leading up to the season- nor would they be able to start on-time. The cancellation was an especially tough pill to swallow for the league’s student- athletes who saw their collegiate season abruptly end because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hope to return to the field has once again been regained for these players as the Newport Collegiate Baseball League (NCBL) is planning to begin on July 10 at Cardines Field. The league will be very similar to the NECBL, featuring some of the best collegiate players the country has to offer. However, all of these talented ballplayers will hail from New England, commuting to games rather than living with local host families. The NCBL will consist of four teams competing in an 18-game schedule, and all will be played at America’s Oldest Ballpark- Cardines Field. Professional coaches, most of which had been set to coach in the NECBL, will lead the four clubs and Newport Gulls Director of Baseball Operations, Michael Falcone is helping organize the league.
The absence of host families will not be the only difference for the NCBL as strict playing guidelines will need to be followed. Some of these guidelines include players being tested prior gaining acceptance to the league, the requirement of masks to be worn by select positions, and everyone’s temperatures will be taken prior entering the stadium. A local cleaning company has been hired to sanitize the stadium on a regular basis. Cleaning will be done before and after each game by NCBL employees and volunteers. Insurance has been acquired that meets the City of Newport’s standards and waivers will be signed by players acknowledging the adherence of the league’s entire list of guidelines.
“The City of Newport and State of Rhode Island have done a great job handling the reopening process and easing into the ability for sports to be able to be played again” said NCBL Commissioner Michael Falcone. He continued to state, “We are not in the clear just yet but there is hope and the ability to plan to play in Phase III, and that’s all we can ask for. Cardines will certainly feel different than a Newport Gulls game but just hearing the crack of the bat and having these young men return to the game they love make this opportunity so special.”
Fan attendance has not been determined yet but regardless, there will be online broadcasts of games available for free. As with everything these days, further information about the league, its rules and regulations, and its ultimate operation will continue to be updated. Further information such as the full list of safety procedures can be found on www.nptbaseball.com and the league’s social media accounts. If you have interest in volunteering or playing, or have any questions please contact Michael Falcone via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.