Opening Day Not Far Away: Baseball Across The Forks

“Tis the season – to begin the countdown to Opening Day! And next summer, fans will be able to “Root, root, root for the home team” on Shelter Island.

The Shelter Island school district has voted in favor of becoming the home of the seventh member of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League (HCB), a part of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League (ACBL).

“After three seasons as a five-team organization, the timing feels right, and Shelter Island feels like the right fit as well. We’re thrilled,” says Brett Mauser, the president of Hamptons Collegiate Baseball. [expand]

The team, which has yet to be named, will begin play in June 2012. They will compete in a total of 40 regular season games, 20 of which will be held at home on the Shelter Island School District’s field.

But, landlubbers beware – the team will have to travel to all of its away games via the Shelter Island ferry. That could definitely be a unique experience for players not accustomed to being so, well, “sheltered.”

Shelter Island will become the seventh team to compete for the ACBL Hampton Division crown, as they’ll join the North Fork Ospreys, Riverhead Tomcats, Southampton Breakers, Sag Harbor Whalers, Westhampton Aviators and fellow newcomer Center Moriches Battlecats. The team will be managed by Joe Burke, a former player at St. John’s University and a seven-year MLB veteran.

“Since we first started out in 2008, we’ve been able to bring high-level baseball to the East End at no cost to the public,” says Mauser. “And in these economic times, it’s great to be able to make a short walk or drive to the game and enjoy a night out with the family. That’s what this is really all about.”

The announcement comes at a good time for East End baseball fans, as Major League Baseball Spring Training doesn’t begin until next month.

HCB alumni, however, may be able to fill some gaps in the future as the league builds on its reputation of providing high-quality collegiate ball. Former HCB players include shortstop Nick Ahmed, a 2011 second-round pick for the Atlanta Braves and third baseman Kyle Kubitza, a third-round pick for the Braves in 2011. Last season, 12 HCB alumni played for the professionals

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