The following was written and submitted by Newport Gulls
As a summer collegiate baseball team, a focus for the Newport Gulls is helping student-athletes reach their dreams of playing Major League Baseball. This dream has been realized for 28 Gulls alumni, including three players that made their debut during the 2021 season. However, for anyone who is lucky enough to play at the highest level, one achieved, they turn their attention to winning a World Series. With the playoffs now underway, former Newport Gulls have already made a significant impact on who will take home the coveted trophy this year, while others with ties to the Gulls are making their mark as well.
Gulls alumnus littered the National League Wild Card Game. On Wednesday, October 6, the St. Louis Cardinals faced off against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a one-game playoff to advance and play the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series. Three former Gulls suited up that night including one who would go on to hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Newport’s last NECBL Championship came in 2014. Current Dodgers Catcher Will Smith (Louisville) and Cardinals Utility Player Tommy Edman (Stanford) were both members of that team. An NECBL All-Star for the Gulls in 2014, Edman is the leadoff hitter for St. Louis and was 3-5 Wednesday Night, while 2020 World Series Champion Will Smith reached once in his four plate appearances after finishing the season with 25 Home Runs, which was the third-most in the MLB among catchers this past season. However, the former Gull who had the greatest impact on the Wild Card Game was the most important player overall, Chris Taylor. Taylor, who attended the University of Virginia, joined the Newport Gulls for a brief stint during the summer of 2010. He did not start for the Dodgers on Wednesday but was brought in to pinch hit with two outs and one runner on in the ninth inning. His blast gave the Dodgers a 3-1 victory and birth in the Divisional Series. Taylor was the first player to hit a walk-off home run in an elimination game since 2016 and first National Leaguer to do so since Bill Mazeroski in the 1960 World Series!
The Dodgers will now take on 2010 NECBL Champion Outfielder Austen Slater (Stanford) and the San Francisco Giants. Slater has been a staple in the Giants lineup since making his MLB Debut in 2017 and will be getting his first taste of playoff baseball this postseason.
New England’s hometown team, the Boston Red Sox, are facing off against the Tampa Bay Rays after beating the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game. Although 2013 Gull Kyle Hart (Indiana), who pitched for Boston in 2020, is not on the playoff roster, there are several players on Tampa Bay with hometown ties. Gulls Hall of Famer and 2021 American League All-Star Andrew Kittredge (Washington) has been one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the league this season. He is joined in the Rays bullpen by a face familiar to Newport, RHP David Robertson. Although the 2009 World Series Champion Closer never played in Newport, he spent some of this past summer preparing for the Olympic Games at Cardines Field as he currently calls Barrington, RI home. Rays Infielder Joey Wendle and RHP Michael Wacha didn’t suite up in the blue and orange either, but Wendle’s brother Andy did in 2005 and Wacha threw at Cardines in 2011 as a member of USA Collegiate National Team in an exhibition match against the Gulls. The connections continue between the Rays and Gulls as 2019 alumni, infielder Joey Bellini’s (Cincinnati) brother-in-law is Ryan Yarbrough. LHP Yarbrough is currently on the taxi squad for Tampa Bay and will be activated in emergency situations during the Divisional Series.
In the Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers series, RHP Jake Cousins (U Penn) might square off against SS Dansby Swanson (Vanderbilt). Cousins is one of three Gulls to make their MLB debut this season. He has been stellar since his first outing on June 21, earning a spot on the postseason roster. The 2016 Gull has posted a 2.70 ERA, striking out 44 batters in just 30 innings of work. Swanson is a household name after being selected with the First Overall Pick in the 2015 MLB Draft following an illustrious career at Vanderbilt University. Unfortunately, if it wasn’t for a lingering foot injury, Swanson would have been a member of the 2013 Newport Gulls. He was signed to play with Newport once he finished his freshman year as a Commodore, but due to both a shoulder and foot injury he could not fulfill this commitment.
The playoffs are always an extremely interesting time of the year but even more so when there are so many Newport Gulls that will play a factor in their team’s success in October. Former General Manager of the Boston Red Sox and Newport Gulls Chairman of the Board Lou Gorman said it best, “The Major League Stars of Tomorrow in Newport today”.