Break out the peanuts and Cracker Jack, folks, it’s baseball season on the East End again. While Major League Baseball (MLB) has been chugging along for almost two months now, the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League (HCBL) is just getting ready for Opening Day on June 1 with games in Eastport, at Cochran Park in Peconic, and on Shelter Island. The season is only eight weeks long, with games being played almost every day until July 23.
The seven-team league—which plays on both Forks—is made up entirely of freshman, sophomore and junior college-level players, recruited from some of the most competitive programs across the country. These are serious players, straight off their spring college season, perfecting their craft before they return to school for the fall season. About 100 HCBL players have gone on to play in the Majors, while 24 HCBL alum were drafted by MLB teams in 2016.
Zack Godley worked on a specific pitch, his cutter, while he was a player in the HCBL. If you were watching Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN a few weeks back, you might have seen Godley, now a starting pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks. And if you’re a fan of the Washington Nationals, you might have gotten tired of that one pitch, his cutter, which kept getting batters out.
Why make the schlep to Queens when your best bet for a good, live baseball game on Long Island is right here in the Hamptons?
But playing isn’t all these players, coaches and administrators do. “Our mission is three-fold,” says HCBL President Henry Bramwell. “The first is to provide free family entertainment for our community. Second, to provide free clinics for the kids in the community and the third part of our mission is to improve area baseball fields.”
HCBL is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is in need of some help. Each team has a roster of about 25 players and, as most players aren’t from the area, many need a place to stay.
“Over the last 10 years, hundreds of families throughout the East End have welcomed ballplayers into their homes,” says Brett Mauser, Director of Recruiting at HCBL. “The student-athletes are great role models for young children, and oftentimes longstanding friendships are formed.”
You never know—maybe you could become fast friends with a future Hall of Famer. Bramwell himself opened his home to a player when he was the general manager of the Westhampton Aviators. “I hosted a player who made it to the major leagues, and when he was up at Citi Field, he invited my family to come watch the game.”
There are other ways to help. Simply attending a game is one way, as more fans in the seats means businesses will be more willing to spend sponsorship dollars. The league “passes the hat” at each game for donations to help with expenses. HCBL is also always looking for help handling the gameday operations, whether it’s selling merchandise or food, keeping score, or assisting with in-game promotions. If you’re a business owner, offer a job to a player. If you’re a restaurant, offer to feed the team after a game.
For the baseball and golf enthusiasts, HCBL’s fifth annual Golf Outing will be held on Monday, June 18, at Noyac Golf Club in Sag Harbor. The cost of the outing is $350 and includes full range access, a barbecue lunch at 11 a.m., snacks and drinks on the course, a buffet dinner, open bar, an auction and an awards reception. Tee-time is 11:45 a.m.
More info, including a full schedule, is available at hamptonsbaseball.org.