Every summer after the completion of the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA seasons, collegiate baseball players report to summer leagues to get some extra coaching, playing time, scout exposure, and experience. These summer leagues are based all over the United States, with the most prominent being in a parent federation called the National Alliance of College Summer Baseball.
The NCAA officially sanctions this alliance, which is made up of 11 different leagues, including elite organizations like the Cape Cod Baseball League, Northwoods League, Coastal Plain League, and New England Collegiate Baseball League.
The New England Collegiate Baseball League, or NECBL, has teams in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire and attracts high-level athletes to the area every summer.
If you’re interested in seeing the next generation of Major League players today, head out to the ballparks in Mystic and South Kingstown for a game or two; the caliber is almost second-to-none when it comes to amateur baseball.
A History of the League
The New England Collegiate Baseball League is relatively young, having been founded in 1993 and starting play in 1994. Teams frequently come and go from the league, with only the Mystic Schooners lasting from 1994 until the present, although they have relocated and changed names several times. In fact, the Schooners spent six seasons playing in Massachusetts while owned by former Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette.
The one constant in the New England Collegiate Baseball League is the championship series for the Fay Vincent Cup, which has been won a record six times by the Newport Gulls. The Gulls have also made 11 appearances since they were founded in 1999, making them by far the league's most successful franchise.
Over the years, alumni from the league have played for every single Major League team. Notable names include 2015 all-star and gold glove winner A.J. Pollock, 2017 NLCS co-MVP Chris Taylor, 2016 AL stolen base leader Rajai Davis, 2009 Team USA catcher Chris Iannetta, and 2009 AL all-star Matt Joyce.
All games are now shown live on the NECBL Broadcast Network, an online streaming portal, so even if you can't make it down to the park, you can follow your local team at home.
How Does the Season Work?
Due to time constraints, all collegiate summer leagues have a condensed schedule. The college players have to complete their spring semester and return to school for fall, so the regular season generally lasts about eight weeks, from early June until early August. The 2019 season, for example, starts on June 5 and ends on August 1.
The league has two divisions, the North and South, with teams playing opponents in their division six time each and outside their division twice over the 42-game schedule. Three teams make the playoffs from each division, with the second and third place teams playing a one-game wildcard series. From there, the division and league finals are a best-of-three format. The playoff winners from each division meet in the finals to decide the league champion.
Ocean State Waves
There are two teams in the South County and New London County areas, starting with the Ocean State Waves. The Waves are based in South Kingstown and play their games at Old Mountain Field, the town's oldest park, dating back to 1938. The park sits on Kingtown Road, just outside of downtown Peace Dale.
The Ocean State Waves played their inaugural season in 2013, and have already qualified for the league championship series twice, losing in both 2017 and 2018 to the Valley Blue Sox.
Making the finals so frequently makes the Waves one of the more successful franchises in the league right now, and means there's a better chance of seeing future Major League talent when watching them.
As was mentioned before, the Mystic Schooners are the oldest team in the NECBL, having started play in the league's first season. The Schooners' history has been full of change, as they were called the Eastern Tides from 1994-2001, the Thread City Tides in 2002 and 2003, the Berkshire Dukes in 2004, the Pittsfield Dukes from 2005-2008, the Pittsfield American Defenders in 2009, and the Bristol Collegiate Baseball Club in 2010. The team took its current name in 2011.
The team has also won two championships, in 1994 and 2016, but their history hasn't always been rosy. There were years of struggle for the organization, as they only qualified for the playoffs three times between 1994 and 2008, and were unable to remain competitive for most of those seasons. In 1999, the team won only nine games, which stands as the worst season in league history.
The Schooners play their home games at Fitch High School in Groton, Connecticut and have more stability than ever before thanks to the high-quality talent they attract each summer. Fans love winning, and few teams have won more over the last few seasons than the Schooners.
The Waves and Schooners have recently been two of the best teams in the league, giving you more than enough reason to head out to catch a game or two.
Get to a Game
Traveling to a Major League game can be burdensome because of the travel, expenses, and inconveniences that go along with visiting a large city. Luckily, future Major League talent comes to South County and New London County every summer, so you don’t have to travel far to check it out.
One thing for sure is that the NECBL is one of the world’s best amateur baseball leagues, so if you’re a fan of America’s Pastime, watching a game live should be a priority.