Home Regions New England

A United Tolman And Shea Team Saves Pawtucket High School Baseball

“We’re all just kids just trying to play baseball”

Cam Seaver
Shea Senior Cam Seaver – Photo Courtesy Pawtucket Baseball / Cam Seaver

Jaymond Labossiere has heard the chatter circulating through Pawtucket.

How could intra city rivals – Shea and Tolman – possibly merge to form one, cohesive high school baseball team?. Surely the new Pawtucket team – a first for the city since 1940 – must be filled with bad blood, tension, attitudes and animosity.

But Labossiere, a Tolman senior, said that’s not the case at all. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

“It’s not like that at all. It’s really just love,” he said.

“We’re all just kids just trying to play baseball,” said Shea senior Cam Seaver. “After you get past the whole Tolman and Shea piece, we just joke about it. We don’t take it seriously. We always make jokes about it when I wear my Shea stuff to practice and they wear their Tolman stuff. It happens all the time. I don’t really look at the rivalry like that anymore. We’re all brothers now.”

America’s favorite pastime was almost non-existent in Pawtucket this spring. Slater Park and Max Read baseball fields were nearly barren.

The past few years, both Shea and Tolman have had thin rosters, barely enough to fill starting lineups. This year, the rosters continued to be headed for a deep decline. So either there would be no high school baseball in the city this spring or the two intra city rivals would have to merge and form one team. Theo Murray, the longtime Tolman coach, chose the latter.

Murray, an educator who has coached at Tolman for nearly 25 years, is the new squad’s head coach. He is assisted by Jimmy Torres, who was in his second year as head coach at Shea before the merger.

Jaymond Labossiere
Tolman Senior Jaymond Labossiere – Photo Courtesy Pawtucket Baseball / Jaymond Labossiere

With the anticipation of the formation of one Pawtucket high school in the near future, Murray thought it fitting to name his new team after the city – rather than a combination of both schools. He also chose a neutral color- gray – for the new team uniforms. The varsity team plays at Slater Park and the junior varsity’s home field is on the other side of the city at Max Read, a few blocks away from Shea.

The new co-op team has brought back excitement and a renewed interest in the program.  Now, the Pawtucket team has 28 players and they can field a full varsity and junior varsity team. The future now looks bright for a program that was dim for so long.

It’s been a great collaboration with no curve balls.

“The first practice we had, the kids were laughing,” said Murray. “These kids have all known each other growing up at the Pawtucket Boys and Girls Club. That Club on School School really brings all these kids together.”

Did Labossiere, a catcher and shortstop, fear someone would take his spot? With more players would there be a battle for playing time? Not at all, he said.

Pawtucket Baseball
Pawtucket Players Read At Elementary School – Photo Courtesy Pawtucket Baseball

“Whether I had to play outfield, infield, catcher, pitcher, I wanted to do whatever was best for the team and everyone had that point of view,” said Labossiere, a first team All-Division selection (D-II) last year.

“Our first few practices, we were just wondering how it was going to go and it was just awesome. Everyone bonded so well together,” said Labossiere. “We have a big group chat together and we laugh. We have fun. I love it so much.”

Few players led to few wins for both teams the last few years, Neither team had much success.

“Kids are excited at the prospect of having the chance to win some games,” said Murray. “We have a really great group of kids. We know we can compete. There’s a buzz around the city. Kids see Pawtucket hats. Everyone’s excited.”

Seaver is a highly competitive athlete. The Shea quarterback who is now Pawtucket’s starting pitcher is grateful to be part of what he hopes will be a competitive program this year.

Pawtucket Baseball
New Pawtucket Uniforms – Photo Courtesy Pawtucket Baseball

“Best part is being competitive,” said Seaver. “We were going to struggle (at Shea) this year. Being on a team now with a lot of ball players who play year round and take it seriously – along with the coaches who take us seriously because they want to win, it’s definitely really good.”

Labossiere, Seaver and Tolman sophomore Ethan Torres are among the Pawtucket players expected to help lead Pawtucket to success. In their first season, Pawtucket is off to a 1-2 start in Division III.

“We’re starting out a little slow, but we lost to some really solid teams,” said Seaver, who threw a complete game in a tough loss to Exeter West Greenwich.  “I’m hoping we turn it around. We’re still building chemistry. It will come along.”

Collaborating on the field has led to a strong bond and new friendships off the field.

After a recent intrasquad scrimmage at Slater Park, Murray noticed one of his swing players had his backpack on and was ready to leave to head to Max Read for Pawtucket’s jayvee game. Murray asked how he planned to get across the city. The player was planning to walk the 3.7 miles to the field. One of the Shea seniors overheard the conversation and without hesitation insisted on giving his new teammate a ride.

“They didn’t know each other,” said Murray.. “The kid that was going to walk was a Tolman kid. The kid who offered the ride was a Shea kid. He said, “No way, I’m not going to let you walk. I’ll give you a ride.’ It really was an awesome moment.”

ethan torres
Tolman Sophomore Ethan Torres – Photo Courtesy Pawtucket Baseball / Ethan Torres

For 15 years, Murray has taken his Tolman team to read at elementary schools throughout the city. This year, for the first time, he took his Pawtucket team. Together, wearing gray Pawtucket hats and sweatshirts, the players visited five schools across the city.

“The message we bring to the little ones isn’t just about showing up and reading a book. We tell them these kids can’t play unless they do well in school, pass their classes and do their homework,” said Murray. “We want them  to see that big things are coming if you just make sure you’re doing what you need to do in school, be nice to your teachers and be part of something. Our kids love it.”

It’s all part of Murray’s mission to teach his players how important it is to come together to give back to the community. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Shea or Tolman. The message is the same.

“I’m a Pawtucket kid,” said Murray. “I’ve had opportunities to leave and go to a higher level team. I don’t want to do that. This is my city. This is where I grew up. This is where I want to give back. When there’s any opportunity I can shine some good light on this city, I want to do that.”