16 June 2006

Whitecaps have new field, Aís lose a lot

Guess where the Brewster Whitecaps will play their home games this year? 

For the first time since the team was founded in 1988, the answer is -- Brewster. 

The Brewster Whitecaps will play on a new field at Stony Brook Elementary School in Brewster. The view is from the third-base dugout toward the press box, with the school in the background

The baseball field at Cape Tech in Harwich was one of the Cape Leagueís best, with a terrific view from the big hill and impeccable grooming that tapped the landscaping of the school. 

But the Whitecaps were weary of competing with the Harwich Mariners one mile away and wanted a more convenient locale for the hometown fans. After much contemplation, the Stony Brook Elementary School was chosen. 

"My mission was to beat Orleans -- to beat the best field on the Cape," said Chester Robinson, who oversaw the project. 

The new park, which was scheduled to host the Orleans Cardinals in its debut last night, is located at 384 Underpass Road. For those who have never been there, Underpass Road is off Freemanís Way and Route 6A. 

"Itís been 4 1/2 years," Robinson noted. "The political stage was two years. The construction was 2 1/2." 

The grass is green. There is a bank of Cape Cod roses above what Robinson called the "Charlie Sumner" stone wall between the school and first-base line, referring to the Brewster town administrator. 

"We have 14 black cherries in the outfield," Robinson said. 

There is a snappy Brewster Whitecaps blue scoreboard in left-center, sponsored by the Doane, Beal & Ames and Nickerson funeral homes. 

The elementary schoolís play area and field, with slides, swings and such, is right behind the backstop, covered with a netting to keep foul balls from raining down on the youngsters. 

Along the right field line, just beyond the dugout, is a family picnic area. 

"Thatís unique," Robinson said. "There is an honor sign in back with all the names of people who gave money." 

The sign doesnít have any names, yet but quite a bit of money has been given. The Whitecapsí faithful raised $120,000. The Yawkey Foundation kicked in an additional $140,000 and the "in-kind" contributions (donated labor and materials) from local contractors amount to about $140,000, according to Robinson. 

Robinson believes the total value of the field is about $500,000. Itís a municipal park, belonging to the town of Brewster and available for Babe Ruth, American Legion, high school and middle school baseball, all built at no cost to the town. 

The field is 394 feet to dead center, 320 to right and 315 to left. 

The best "seats," according to Robinson and based on observation, are atop the hill near the school, on the right-field line, and atop a similar hill on the left-field line. The dugouts have been pitched high and will block some sight lines. 

There is plenty of parking at the Stony Brook School, and for big games, people can park at the Eddy School off Route 6A and cross through the woods. 

There are no lights at the park, and no plans for lights. Games will start at 5 p.m. 

A press box has been built behind home plate. 

As of yet, there are few bleacher seats available on the baselines, and the protective fencing is low. Best to bring a chair or blanket to the field. 

The school is accessible via the bike path, which intersects the entry drive. It is advisable to watch out for bikers crossing the drive. Parking is behind the school in several lots. 

The second game at the as-yet-unnamed field, will be Saturday at 5 p.m. against Chatham. The Falmouth Commodores are in town Monday, and Chatham will be back again next Thursday. 

Chatham Aís parking switch 

The Chatham Aís were treated to a welcoming diner at Chatham Bars Inn Wednesday night before practicing under the lights at Veterans Field. 

Aís fans and visitors should be aware that the old school next to the park is being remodeled into a community building. The parking lot, off Main Street, has been completely torn up -- a gymnasium is going in. That was the prime parking spot for Aís fans. 

The team has made an arrangement with the Holy Redeemer Church on Old Harbor Road (Route 28) to use its parking during games. Holy Redeemer is opposite the intersection of Depot and Old Harbor roads, just a short walk from the field. Depot Road is the road on top of the hill in centerfield, where the police station and elementary school are. 

Due to a dispute with the Chatham park and recreation commission, the Aís have also lost the use of Veterans Field for their baseball camps. But- team president Charlie Thoms believes that ruling will be rescinded at an emergency meeting today. The two sides will then discuss the issue again on Tuesday. 

Although the Aís didnít win the championship last year, they were one of the most talented teams the league has seen. Evan Longoria hit .299, led the league in homers (8) and RBI (35) and was named the Cape League MVP. The Long Beach State star was the third pick in the Major League Baseball draft this year, taken by Tampa Bay. 

Andrew Miller of North Carolina was the leagueís top pitcher (6-0, 1.65 ERA, 65 strikeouts) and was taken sixth overall by the Detroit Tigers. 

Reliever Brooks Brown (Georgia) (1.01 ERA in 26 innings) was picked 34th by Arizona. Chris Coughlan of Mississippi, a .346 hitter, was taken 36th by Florida, and David Huff of UCLA (2-2, 1.46) went 39th to Cleveland. 

Seventeen other Aís were also drafted. 

Cardinals seek repeat 

Orleans won its second league championship in three years last year as Kelly Nicholson, a coach at Loyola High in Los Angeles, won it all in his first year at the helm. 

Emmanuel Burriss led the league in stolen bases with 37. Steven Wright was named the top relief pitcher, and the team as whole posted a 2.22 ERA. The Cardinals were 17-5 on the road last year and 13-9 at Eldredge Park. 

But none of that means much this year. 

"Weíre just going with brand new young guys," Nicholson said. "Last year is over. We just want to go out and play the game the right way. Thatís our goal on and off the field -- do things right." 

The Cardinals sport their usual Georgia Tech connection that has brought players such as Nomar Garciaparra, Lance Niekro and Mark Teixeira to town. Six-foot, 4-inch catcher Matt Wieters of Goose Creek, S.C., and pitcher John Goodman are both at the College World Series now. 

But Kentucky pitcher Brock Baber is here, and his father was up on the hill watching batting practice Tuesday, all the way from Sharpsburg, Ky. The Cards will also have a 6-foot, 10-inch pitcher in Andrew Brackman of NC State. 

Orleans is missing six players. 

"Itís all brand new," Nicholson said. "Itís fun; itís the challenge. Every year, you have to put together a new puzzle. But good pitching and good defense, at every level, thatís what wins championships. Hopefully thatís what weíll have this year." 

Eldredge Park will be sunnier this year. Last yearís December storm blew down all the locust trees along the left-field line, taking down the power lines as well. The trees have been replaced and a hill re-banked. 

Harwich hosts three Huskers 

The Harwich Marinersí mound will be home away from home for three Nebraska hurlers: lefties Jared Cranston and Tony Watson and righty Johnny Dorn. They also have a pair from Seton Hall, righty Dan McDonald and lefty Dan Merklinger. McDonald was on the Mariners last year and posted a 1-2 record with a 4.46 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 34 innings of work. 

Infielder Chad Flack of North Carolina had 160 at bats with the Mariners last year and will try to improve on last yearís .160 average. He did hit three home runs and knocked home 16. Flack has good speed. 

Three Mariners have been invited to try out for Team USA: infielder/pitcher Sean Doolittle of Virginia, pitcher Nick Schmidt of Arkansas and infielder/pitcher Damon Sublett of Wichita State. 

Nick Hill of the U.S. Military Academy is a hard-throwing lefty from Bluff City, Tenn. He has been drafted by the Boston Red Sox with the 1,415th pick. 

Other pitchers include Rob Brant of Pittsburgh, Joel Brookens of North Carolina State, Josh Ellis of Wake Forest, Tommy Hunter of Alabama and Brett Jacobson of Vanderbilt (a teammate of Harwichís own Cody Crowell with the Commodores). 

The outfielders are Antone DeJesus of Kentucky, Brandon Guyer of Virginia, Matt Hague of Washington and Matt Spencer of North Carolina. Hague and Spencer are both big sluggers. 

In addition to Flack, the infield will be built around Doolittle if he doesnít make Team USA. Last year, he got only 18 at bats with the Mariners, collecting five hits. 

Johnny Giavotella of New Orleans, Josh Horton of North Carolina, who was leading Carolina with a .398 average; and Sergio Miranda of Virginia Commonwealth round out the infield crew. 

The catchers are Eric Fryer of Ohio State and Devin Thomas of Brown. 

By Rich Eldred