Around the Newport Gulls, the organization swears by a tag line that speaks to playing a subtle yet important role in a ballplayer’s quest to reach the sport’s version of the Holy Grail.
“Major league stars of tomorrow in Newport today,” says Mike Falcone, the director of baseball operations of the highly successful New England Collegiate Baseball League club.
In the business of making Cardines Field a summertime attraction for the baseball enthusiast since 2001, the Gulls to date have seen 33 former players pass every minor-league check point on their way to earning the right to be referred to as an MLB player. It’s an impressive total that lends credence to the belief that a future big leaguer could wind up spending his summer honing his skills at the venerable ballpark located off America’s Cup Avenue.
If that proves to be the case, fans can proclaim, “I remember seeing him in Newport.”
As the curtain gets set to be raised on Newport’s 2023 opener – the first game is next Tuesday with the home opener scheduled the following night – it seems as good a time as any to shed light on those who made a pit stop at the City by the Sea on their way to the majors.
Newport players arriving from the University of Louisville are well aware that Will Smith spent time as a Gull. Ditto for Stanford products when Tommy Edman’s name gets brought up in conversation. Back in 2014, both players spent the summer in Newport and were part of that year’s NECBL title – one of seven the Gulls have captured in their history.
Smith debuted with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2019 and has solidified himself as a big-league starting catcher. That same year, Edman broke through with the St. Louis Cardinals as a valuable utility guy who rose to become a Gold Glove fielder. In 2021, Chris Taylor made Newport history when he became the first Gull alum – he called Cardines Field his summer home back in 2010 – to be selected to the MLB All-Star Game.
All three have been added to a Newport-to-MLB list that seems to be adding new names every time the ball flies out of Cardines.
“Whether it’s someone like Will or Tommy, it’s a big source of pride for us,” said Falcone. “It’s always great to track them after they leave us. Everyone has a different process or a different path that they take. Some guys when they’re here, you can say, ‘They’re going to be a major leaguer.’ Then you have other guys who get drafted and work their way up. It’s fun to see them live out the dream that they take.”
Enough of a track record has been established to say the odds favor someone on Newport’s 2023 roster someday getting the call to the major leagues.
“You’re bound to see one probably on our roster and countless others who come through on the other rosters. That’s another important piece to the puzzle,” said Falcone, words that pay homage to the talent on the other NECBL rosters that serve as the opposition at Cardines Field.
With all the great players of the past who went on to the majors, Falcone is just as excited about the roster that the Gulls have assembled this summer. A pair of Middletown High alums dot the roster (Ryan Andrade, Caleb Leys) as does Cumberland’s Zach Fogall, who earlier this week was named All-Big East First Team following a strong debut season at UConn.
“Zach is an older guy and someone who we think is going to be a key piece for our pitching staff,” said Falcone, who is appreciative of the interest expressed by Yurview in airing each Friday night regular-season home game – eight total with each one featuring a 6:35 p.m. first pitch.
2023 GULLS YURVIEW GAME SCHEDULE
- 6/9 – vs. Martha’s Vineyard
- 6/16 – vs. North Shore
- 6/23 – vs North Shore
- 6/30 – vs Ocean State
- 7/7 – vs Sanford
- 7/14 – vs Ocean State
- 7/21 – vs Keene
- 7/28 – vs Ocean State
“Operationally, it’s a big deal for us as an organization. It’s also big for the players where they can have folks watch them on legitimate TV just like when they’re playing in college,” said Falcone.
Brendan McGair is a sportswriter and columnist with the Pawtucket Times and the Woonsocket Call. A graduate of Providence College, McGair is a five-time recipient of the R.I. Sports Writer of the Year Award as voted by the National Sports Media Association (NSMA).