“We’ve known each other since we were kids.”
Without a shred of hesitation in his voice, Kyle Davenport speaks those words while standing next to Brandon Taylor on a recent Sunday afternoon. The seating area behind home plate at Newport’s Cardines Field serves as the backdrop for these two North Smithfield natives who know well what it’s like to be teammates.
Dating back to their Little League days in the same Northwest Rhode Island community – “probably started when we were either 10 or 11,” Davenport recalls – to playing on the same travel program (L&M Baseball Club) and later attending the same high school (La Salle Academy), Taylor and Davenport share an extensive history on the diamond.
This summer, the pair are donning the same uniform once again as part of the Newport Collegiate Baseball League – a four-team pop-up filling the void left by the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s COVID-19 cancellation. The venture is providing collegiate student-athletes with high-end summer competition after multiple months away from the game they love.
Straight from the “You just never know” department, Taylor and Davenport’s presence on the same roster came about by total happenstance. The four NCBL managers conducted a draft. It just worked out that two players who hail from the same hometown and can forgo introductions find themselves joining forces for what must seem and feel like the umpteenth time.
“Shot in the dark. We had no idea, but it’s very exciting,” said Taylor, who saw his first season at Bryant University cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s awesome to be playing with Kyle again.”
Davenport is authoring his college baseball tale at Roger Williams University. He credits Taylor for bringing him into the fold with L&M Baseball – based in Southern New England – and later La Salle. They were part of the same high school carpool that would take them to Providence each day.
In 2017, Taylor was a senior captain of a La Salle team that went on to capture the program’s first state title in 33 years. Davenport was a junior second baseman who just so happened to have Taylor as his double-play partner at shortstop.
“Knowing the type of baseball player that Brandon is, it definitely made things easier. The chemistry came naturally,” said Davenport when asked about the importance of the bond he formed in various youth baseball circles with Taylor prior to the three seasons they spent together with the Rams.
As they reflected on ending a lengthy La Salle title drought, Davenport and Taylor agreed that when it comes to each one’s top moments in the game, wrapping up the season in dog-pile fashion at McCoy Stadium is hard to top. The 2017 Rams finished 12-6 in the regular season and didn’t drop a single postseason game (5-0) en route to finishing on top. Seeded third, La Salle defeated No. 2 seed Cranston East to advance out of the regional bracket before sweeping No. 1 seed South Kingstown in the best-of-three finals.
“We knew we had something special. We hadn’t won a state title in 30-plus years and felt that  was the year,” said Taylor. “We had all the right pieces and everything happened at the right time. We came together. It was an awesome experience to be there at McCoy, but to win it after all those years was a great feeling.”
“Coming into that year, we knew we had a few young guys who would be coming into starting roles. We were trying to be around them on a consistent basis and show them how we do things at La Salle,” said Davenport. “We started winning a lot of games and said, ‘We have a chance but we’ve got to do the small things every single day and just get better.’ In the end, everything just clicked.”
Upon graduating from La Salle, Taylor took his baseball talents to Monmouth [N.J.] University. Davenport opted for Misericordia University, located in Pennsylvania.
After two years at Monmouth for Taylor and one year at Misericordia for Davenport, both opted for a change in scenery. Upon arriving at their respective new schools, both were immediately welcomed with open arms.
“They all took me in like I had been playing with them since my freshman year,” said Taylor, who as a junior appeared in three games for Bryant prior to the season’s cancelation.
Davenport also had no adjustment issues, and got off to quite a memorable start at Roger Williams. In the first game of his sophomore season, he blasted a game-tying, two-run home run in the ninth inning. He ended up batting exactly .500 (9-for-18) in five games for the 2020 Hawks while adding six runs and three stolen bases.
“Things just took off,” said Davenport.
During the pandemic shutdown, Davenport and Taylor kept their hitting strokes sharp by heading to All About Sports, an indoor facility located in North Smithfield. Spending a lot of time at home, both got creative in the name of staying in shape. Taylor transformed his family’s garage into a weight room. Davenport placed a gigantic net on the front lawn that was erected to work on strengthening his throwing arm.
When word came about what was brewing in Newport, they wasted little time in throwing their names into the player pool.
“If you want to play baseball again after all this time, get in this league. It’s good competition,” Taylor was told by the Bryant coaching staff. “No hesitation about it.”
Added Davenport, “You can’t pass up the opportunity that we’re getting.”
And the carpool service that became commonplace during their La Salle days lives again. Right now, Davenport says he’s handling the roughly hour-long driving duties from North Smithfield to Newport. If need be, Taylor is ready to step behind the wheel.
No doubt, the two have plenty of time in the car together to reflect on their past go-arounds as teammates and the latest installment of a relationship that’s rooted in baseball.
“It’s awesome to being playing with Kyle again,” said Taylor.
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