A slice of Newport baseball lore took center stage at Coors Field, site of this past Tuesday’s MLB All-Star Game.
Even more noteworthy, the first two Newport Gulls to ever be selected as MLB All-Stars found themselves separated by 60 feet, 6 inches. A summertime scene typically witnessed at Cardines Field was recreated in the seventh inning when Tampa Bay pitcher Andrew Kittredge (2009 Gulls alum) squared off against Los Angeles utility player Chris Taylor, who suited up for Newport in 2010.
Just like that, it was over. Two pitches into the at-bat, Kittredge got Taylor to bounce out to second base.
Closer to home, there’s a badge-of-honor element that comes with two former Newport alumni participating in Major League Baseball’s crown jewel of an in-season showcase. Up-and-coming talent has made it a regular habit of touching down in the City by the Sea before heading off to accomplish bigger and better things.
Yet to have two former Gulls players appear in the same MLB All-Star Game?
“It’s a surreal feeling,” said Mike Falcone, director of baseball operations for the Gulls. “One minute they’re here. Next minute, you see them drafted. Then they’re knocking on the door and making their major league debut. Then they’re in the All-Star Game which is really special.”
The recent accomplishment of Kittredge and Taylor seems like the perfect jumping-off point when looking ahead to what’s on deck at Cardines Field. Another glittering array of summertime baseball stars will be on display when the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) holds its All-Star Game at Newport’s beloved ballpark Sunday. First pitch is 5 p.m. with the contest airing live on Yurview, Cox Channel 4.
This marks the fourth time that Newport has hosted the NECBL’s answer to the Midsummer Classic. Falcone and staff have had Sunday, July 18 circled in red ever since the league’s membership voted to award the All-Star Game to the Gulls. Now that the actual day is imminent, it’s all about making sure that everything goes off without a hitch.
“To receive that vote of confidence from everybody else that we’re going to put on a good show … we’re going to treat everyone well when they come down here. It’s going to be a day to remember,” said Falcone. “It’s something that resonates with our organization, from the staff, to the interns, to the fans.”
It’ll be a busy day of activity at Cardines the moment the gates open at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. One representative from each of the 14 NECBL squads will participate in the Home Run Derby that begins at 2:30 p.m. Similar to the MLB version that prompts oohs and aahs from the spectators, NECBL sluggers will be allotted a specific amount of time per round.
The hometown Gulls will be well represented for Sunday’s marquee event. Five Newport players were named to the Southern Division squad which will be managed by Gulls skipper Kevin Winterrowd. The Southern Division roster includes 30 All-Star players – same as their Northern Division cohorts.
The list of Newport representatives includes three position players (Dawson Brigman, Sam Cochrane, and Spenser Smith) and two pitchers (Kellan Tulio and Grant Umberger). Smith replaces Justin Guerrera after the latter was selected by the New York Mets in the 20th round of the MLB Draft that took place earlier this week.
“All of our All-Stars have relished their opportunity both on and off the field,” said Falcone.
For those who have made it a point to tune into Gulls broadcasts on Yurview, the voice you hear describing Sunday’s All-Star action will undoubtedly be a familiar one. Newport broadcaster Zach Letson was selected by his peers as the Southern Division booth representative. Letson will be joined by Northern Division representative Quintin Pelzel.
“He’s worked hard all season,” Falcone said about Letson. “It’s great to see him get this opportunity. To be able to do it from a broadcast booth that he’s comfortable with, it’ll be exciting for him.”
Catch a rising star? As this week proved, all roads related to All-Star acclaim hold the potential to run through Newport.
Watch the NECBL All-Star game this Sunday at 5:00pm on Yurview