SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Throughout the 2019 summer baseball season USC Upstate starting pitcher Jordan Marks (Bright's Grove, Ontario) will be journaling his experiences in the New England Collegiate Baseball League as a member of the Newport Gulls. This is part one of a multi-part series.
Many people are unfamiliar with what the typical College Baseball player does in the long and hot summer months between college semesters. Of course, a 50+ game college schedule that drags into late May long after school is out is surely rigorous. But some players will play summer collegiate baseball for many reasons such as needing extra work or reps, opportunity for exposure to professional scouts, and maybe just for the love of the game. The coaching staff will try to set up players in leagues and locations all across the country that are the best situations for what each player is looking for. For me personally, I have been assigned to playing for the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) in Newport, Rhode Island.
When I arrived in Newport, it was quite the culture shock. This area of the country is very different from the south. As I came across the Newport Bridge onto Aquidneck Island, I could get a full view of beautiful Newport. As the Director of Baseball Operations drove me into the town, he let me know, Newport isn't like most cities. It is much more than just a quaint little New England beach town. As I had already heard from my former teammate Charlie Carpenter (Newport '16, USC Upstate '18) Newport is a very interesting place to be. The bay was full of yachts and sailboats, not something you'd see in Spartanburg. The more time I spend in this city, the more I realize how much everyone loves the Gulls! Our General Manager, Chuck Paiva, seemingly knows everyone in town and always has a story to tell you. One thing that was made clear on the first day, when you play for the Gulls, everyone knows who you are, so act accordingly!
The first place I was taken was the home stadium, "Cardines Field". A very unorthodox stadium to say the least. This stadium is considered to be one of the oldest fields in America. Opened in 1908, the field resides right on top of a busy street corner in Downtown Newport. So close to the corner that you can hear the idled vehicles in between pitches. The benches are "hockey style" side by side on the first base side of the field. This should make for some interesting encounters as the season goes on and emotions flair late in games. The field dimensions are another story in itself. The right field line is 285 feet with a 28 foot fence. So, as you can imagine the houses that are beyond the outfield fences get absolutely peppered during batting practice. It wasn't an encouraging feature for me as I am a pitcher. There is also a light pole and four storm drains scattered in the outfield grass. This field honestly has so much character it is truly difficult for me to put into words, so if you feel so inclined, I urge you to do some research on it.
As for the team, it reminds me of my freshman fall again. You've got a group of 20 or so guys that are complete strangers. New teammates from schools all across the country such as USC (Southern California), Vanderbilt, Tulane, and Kansas just to name a few. All guys in the same boat as you, experiencing this feeling for the first time all over again. The common theme that was reiterated to us in our first meeting was that it did not matter what school we went to, this summer we are to play together as Gulls. We immediately started bonding as a team after our first practice as we all recognized we are much more alike than not. So, after our first practice just a couple miles from the Atlantic Ocean where great seafood is scattered across the island, we all went out for a team meal at Chipotle… I am pretty sure Chipotle could be considered one of the main food groups for college athletes. Chipotle can bring together kids from all corners of the country. Anyways as we play our first game together, we get our feet on the ground. We lose 2-1 in a respectable ball game against the next town over from Mystic, Connecticut. Although no one likes losing, it was something to build off and a relief to get the nerves out. The Newport faithful showed great support as the seats were filled pretty well to the brim. I did see action in my first game as a Gull. It was good to see some work in the first game at Cardines Field to try to knock some of the dust off and get settled in. Looking forward to a good summer. In the next journal I will be covering Host family, Gulls Reading programs, Off days, and Gamedays.
To see Jordan's progression throughout the summer follow Jordan on Twitter @JMarksXXII, or follow @NewportGulls and @UpstateBSB for more information on the Spartan baseball team.