Perfect Game Final Ranking Top 50 2012 Summer Collegiate Teams
Team’s Unique Environment,
Gulls Finish Season on High Note
one of the more picturesque and historically-relevant cities on the
Eastern seaboard, Newport, R.I., is truly unique in the scope of
hundreds of communities across America that are homes to summer
college league baseball teams.
less unique is quirky little Cardines Field, a quaint, oddly-shaped,
wooden baseball structure located in the heart of town. Its
construction dates back to 1908, and it is believed to be the oldest
ball park in active use in the United States.
that unusual backdrop play the Newport Gulls.
prominent member of the New England Collegiate League, the Gulls have
been one of the nation’s most successful summer-league teams over
the course of the last decade. But the club has never done anything
on the playing field to set it apart as truly unique—in keeping
with the environment it plays in—until what it accomplished this
winning their fifth NECBL title in 12 years, the Gulls fielded
arguably the best club in their existence. They broke numerous team
and league records, and dominated to such a degree that they were
hailed as the No. 1 summer-league team in the country in 2012.
Perfect Game USA bestowed that honor on the team in its final weekly
ranking of the nation’s top summer clubs.
a sense, the Gulls may have moved into the realm of becoming ever bit
as unique as the city and the ball park that have collectively
defined the team and its very existence through the years.
is an achievement to win the NECBL championship, but an honor to be
selected at the top of summer-college baseball,” said Chuck Paiva,
the Gulls co-general manager and guiding force in recruiting this
year’s team. “I’m perhaps biased, but I think (Perfect Game)
got it right and could not imagine getting knocked off the top by any
team (once we were ranked No. 1).
was the best team in Gulls history, certainly the best that has ever
played here in terms of the body of work that was accomplished this
year. We produced the best overall record ever, for both the team and
the league; we broke league records for runs, doubles and on-base
percentage; we established Gulls records in almost every offensive
category; we had the batting champion, we had eight all-stars—and
it could easily have been 30. We dominated in impressive style from
the first game to the last.”
produced an impressive 31-10 record in league play, handily winning
the NECBL Eastern Division title in the process. The Gulls then ran
off six wins in seven games in post-season play to finish the season
at 37-11 and post the most victories in franchise history.
the start, I thought this year’s team would be good, one of the
most-special ones we’ve had here,” Paiva admitted. “But I
thought it would be driven by the pitching staff. On paper, I thought
this would be the best pitching staff we ever had here.
we lost five big arms at the start, and some of the younger pitchers
that we had counted on to carry us struggled initially. It was our
offense that carried us the whole season. As the season progressed,
our pitching started to catch up to our hitting, and by the finals
our pitching was dominant.”
Coombs, who won his third league championship in his eight years as
head coach of the Gulls, concurred with Paiva’s assessment of the
is the best balanced team we’ve had since I’ve been here,”
Coombs said. “We were solid in all areas—defense, hitting,
starting pitching, in the back end of the bullpen, in middle relief.
when we lost our 3-4 hitters at mid-season (Washington State
outfielder Yale Rosen to injury and Kansas catcher Alex DeLeon to
summer school), we had someone else just step in and do the job for
us. Even when some of our younger pitching prospects struggled in the
beginning, some of our older, more experienced arms stepped in and
solidified the staff. From start to finish, it was a team effort.”
a team, the Gulls hit .313 during the regular season and stepped up
their pace in the playoffs by swatting the ball at a .328 clip. In
setting the league record for most runs scored in a season, they
outscored their opponents 411-220. They produced the NECBL batting
champion in catcher Jeff Melillo (Rutgers), who hit .404. Rosen broke
the club single-season home-run record in just 30 games, before
re-injuring his shoulder at the league all-star game and returning
himself lost significant time to injury during the season but,
according to Coombs, was the player, more than anyone else, who
picked up the pieces when Rosen and DeLeon were lost and put the team
on his back. Rosen, who developed into the best prospect on this
year’s Gulls roster, has since undergone labrum surgery on his
shoulder but is expected to be 100 percent by the start of the 2013
Gulls were so deep and talented this summer that they hardly skipped
a beat when they lost the heart of their batting order and the
pitching staff struggled, and the five players, led by Melillo, that
returned to the team from 2011 were credited by the coaching staff
for keeping the club on track all season, even in the face of
were the foundation for our 2012 team,” said Kevin Long, the team’s
second-year pitching coach. “These guys set the goals for this team
with their personality—both on and off the field.”
in particular, had a breakout season at the plate after unexpectedly
going undrafted in June as a junior out of Rutgers. In the process of
winning the batting title, he set a league record for on-base
percentage. And yet it was his work defensively and in stabilizing
the pitching staff that may have set him apart.
did a great job with our pitchers,” Long said. “He solidified the
team’s game plan and was more responsible than anyone for pulling
the staff together.”
as Melillo was acknowledged as the team’s most indispensible
position player, righthander Peter Kelich, who attends nearby Bryant
University and also went undrafted in June, was the most effective
pitcher on the staff, pretty much from beginning to end. He worked
mostly in relief, or in any role he was needed, during the regular
season and posted a 2-1, 2.40 record with four saves and a staff-high
49 strikeouts in 41 innings.
Kelich, who was named the league’s all-star closer, may have saved
his best for last as he was dominant in a pair of starting
assignments in post-season play. He pitched the title-clinching game
for the Gulls, striking out a season-high 13 while allowing just four
hits in seven innings in a decisive 8-1 win over Danbury. Melillo set
the tone early with a towering two-run homer in the first inning.
raw stuff was not in the same league as some of the other
elite-level, projectable arms on the Gulls pitching staff such as
righthanders Adam Ravenelle (Vanderbilt), Brett Graves (Missouri),
Tanner Chleborad (Washington State) and David Schmidt (Stanford), and
lefthander Jon Hochstatter (Stanford), all rising sophomores that
were prominent draft picks out of high school. But Kelich outpitched
them all, especially when a lot was on the line.
was huge for us in big games,” Long said. “He doesn’t have
overpowering stuff but his ability to manage a game was exceptional.
If you could take him and put him in Adam Ravenelle’s body, he’d
be Nolan Ryan.”
by the contributions of veteran players like Melillo and Kelich,
along with second baseman Conor Keniry (Wake Forest), outfielder
Robby Ort (Indiana State), and righthanders Jon Prosinski (Seton
Hall) and Danny Wright (Arkansas State), the other returning players
on the roster, it was a distinct feeling of togetherness that brought
this team together and powered it to a league title and No. 1
only were we successful on the field, but we were an extremely close
group of young men,” Keniry said. “The chemistry on this team was
unbelievable, and I think that was one of the reasons why we were so
successful. A lot of great friendships were formed from this summer
and I hope they can last a life-time.”
the spirit of togetherness, the entire Gulls team had their heads
shaved just prior to the playoffs, all in support of the St.
Baldrick’s Foundation, a childhood cancer charity and one of many
community-oriented causes the team openly embraced.
team really liked each other,” Coombs said. “There was a lot of
camaraderie among the players. Having our heads shaved just before
the playoffs really brought us together and we ended up playing our
best baseball of the season. We really develop a ‘why not us’
an NECBL championship in hand, who knows what the Gulls might have
been able to accomplish if a true national summer-league championship
was in the cards, but several Newport players would have relished the
opportunity to take on all comers.
would absolutely love the opportunity to play for a summer-league
championship against the best teams across the nation,” Keniry
said. “If the Gulls were to play in something like that this year,
there is no doubt in mind that we would battle with the best of them,
and I think we would have a great shot at winning it.”
with no true on-field competition to settle the issue, comparing the
relative strengths of various summer leagues on a national level is
an apples vs. oranges circumstance, but Paiva, for one, leaves no
doubt that this year’s Gulls team had what it took to take on and
beat all comers.
year’s club was so special that I think it would have competed for
a championship even in the Cape Cod League. I have no doubt about
that,” Paiva said. “This is the most balanced lineup we’ve ever
had here, and our pitching staff is potentially as good as our 2010
team, when we had four pitchers (including Stanford righthander Mark
Appel, a first-rounder this year) that went on to be drafted in the
first five rounds.”
of Newport’s close proximity to the Cape Cod League, along with all
the talent it has churned out in recent years, it is only natural
that the Gulls have been closely linked to the Cape, whether as a
competitor or a potential partner.
don’t look at the Cape that way,” Paiva said. “In fact, we
don’t view our proximity to the Cape as a positive or negative.
We’ve developed our own reputation that we can compete with anyone
in summer baseball, the Cape included, and we’ve never pretended to
be in competition with the Cape. We have our own identity, both here
and around the country, as a place to send top college players and we
often have coaches with Cape-quality players that want to send them
tell kids if they want the chance to play in the Cape, then go there.
We encourage kids to play in the Cape if that’s what they want to
do. The Cape is the league that is the most respected, that gives the
players the most exposure. But if that’s not what they want, we’ll
welcome them here and we’ve often had kids here a year after they
have played in the Cape. We have a history of taking care of our kids
extremely well, and we do everything we can to make it a positive
experience for our players.”
Gulls have played the Cape’s Wareham Gatemen—ironically, this
year’s Cape League champion—in exhibition games prior to the last
two seasons, trading victories on the other team’s turf. The
Gatemen gained the upper hand in this year’s contest.
is located roughly 50 miles to the east of Newport, but the
conversation has never come up—publicly, at least—whether the
Gulls would ever entertain a move to the higher-profile Cape Cod
their credit, the Cape has had the same 10-team, closely-knit
alignment for nearly a quarter century.
my knowledge, the Cape has never looked at Newport as a possible team
for that league, nor are we actively looking at a move to that
league,” Paiva said. “We’re very loyal to the New England
Collegiate League, and it would take a lot for us to even consider
leaving. I’m not sure it would be in our best interests, but I’m
sure we would consider anything if the Cape were to look seriously at
almost every way imaginable, the Gulls would appear to be an
attractive fit for the Cape. Not only do they have a loyal fan base,
drawing an average of 2,200 fans a game for the last several
years—best in the NECBL by a wide margin—but they have the
ability to recruit the same type of college player to play in Newport
that typically ends up on the Cape.
network has been cultivated through the years by Paiva and co-GM
Chris Patsos, who jointly recruit all the Gulls players while
splitting the day-to-day operations of the club. They have always had
little or no trouble going head-to-head with Cape Cod League teams in
securing elite-level talent.
began his association with the Gulls in 2000, when the team relocated
to Newport after drawing sparse crowds in nearby Cranston, R.I. Even
in their first year in Newport, the team averaged less than 700 a
game at refurbished Cardines Field. But with back-to-back NECBL
titles in 2001 and 2002, interest in the team locally skyrocketed.
the time, the team’s ownership had a philosophy on how to operate
the team that didn’t jive with Paiva’s, so in 2003 a five-man
ownership group, led by Paiva, purchased the team and continues to
own and operate the team.
our group purchased the team,
we really wanted to establish our mission here, and our focus became
more community-oriented than the previous owners, because that was
not their interest. The previous ownership was running this program
to try to make a profit, and to have a successful team. When we took
it over, our focus changed to have a community-oriented baseball team
that gave back to the community that supported us.”
the years, the team has gained a significant foothold in Newport
while also developing a reputation nationally as a highly-desirable
location for college players to play summer ball. The team has never
had a losing season under the current ownership.
year, our goal is to win 25 games,” Paiva said. “That gives us a
good chance to win the division and potentially host the first round
of the playoffs. It’s always been our standard to win 25, and we
have managed to do that every year.
also my goal—and I tell the kids this when they get here—that I
want this to be the best summer-league experience they’ve ever had.
They look at me kind of funny when I say that, but by the end of the
summer it almost always is the best experience they’ve ever had.
There wasn’t a player on this year’s team that didn’t tell me
at the end of the summer that it wasn’t the best experience they
ever had. Even kids who had previously been in the Cape told me their
experience playing in Newport was the best they ever had.”
integral part of playing for the Gulls is embracing the community.
not just the baseball,” Paiva said. “It’s the whole experience.
We get our kids actively involved in going around to schools and
talking to kids, in charity work, in running our summer camps. But
it’s also what we do for them that makes it a special experience.
We place them with host families, we feed them, we take care of
the Gulls are renowned for all the success that they have achieved on
the field over the last decade, culminating in this season, and their
general commitment to fielding a competitive ball club, combined with
their commitment to a loyal fan base and the way fans have embraced
them in return, Newport’s
rich history and ocean-side
surroundings, plus the quaintness and quirkiness of century-old
Cardines Field, have
played no small part in the Gulls success and the team becoming a
prime destination for college players.
is renowned as the city that was America's First Resort, and remains
a prominent New England summer resort community. It is famous for its
Newport Mansions, lavish, multi-million dollar structures which
represent exceptional elegance and inspiration in architecture, art,
interior design and landscapes through 250 years of American history.
founded in 1639, was once a major center of
pirate activity during the late 17th and early 18th century. With
coastlines to the west, south and east, it is a maritime city with
unmistakable beauty. Its harbors teem with commercial fishing boats,
power and sail pleasure craft. It continues to be known as the
sailing capitol of the United States and hosted every America’s Cup
sailing competition from 1930-83.
like its more-famous contemporaries at the major-league level,
Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park, Cardines Field
is a definition of patchwork design in
ball-park construction. The facility is shoehorned into a small
corner lot in the older sector of Newport, and
effectively serves as a buffer between the encroaching residential
and commercial sectors in the area.
grandstand along the third-base line is so restricted in available
space by the street access along America’s Cup Avenue that it
encroaches within 15 feet of the third-base bag, and literally hugs
the left-field foul line. The backstop is a mere 30 feet from home
plate. The oddly-shaped, 20-foot-high outfield fence and cozy
dimensions in right field are a factor of the close proximity of
residential housing. A large, rundown private warehouse butts up
against the right-field foul line.
only are a wild assortment of nooks and crannies an integral part of
the facility, both on and off the field, but the odd shape of the
structure does not allow for a dugout along the third-base line, or a
bullpen in right field.
is the best place to play summer baseball, and I heard it all the
time in my two years playing with the Gulls,” Keniry said. “The
historic field located right in downtown Newport is an awesome place
to play at. The dugouts are located right next to each other on the
first base line so it gives you a throwback feel to the game. The
stadium fills up almost every home game too, so it’s very special
playing in front of 2,500-3,000 fans a night who love the Gulls.
lot of what the Gulls organization does is not always about baseball,
but about giving back to the community. Every morning for the first
two weeks we get to Newport, we go around the island to different
elementary schools and read to the children. The idea is to promote
summer reading for the kids on the island.”
Gulls players were equally effusive in their praise of the Gulls
organization and the entire Newport experience, unique as it is.
for the Gulls this summer and winning the NECBL title is an
experience that I will remember for the rest of my life,” said
Caleb Kellogg, a rising junior righthander from Louisiana-Lafayette.
“It was an honor playing for such a great organization. The support
of the community was unbelievable. After winning the championship,
our team bus was given a police escort for our arrival back into
at Cardines Field was like stepping back in time. I have never played
in a stadium this old before. The dimensions of the field—the high
fences and minimal foul-territory area—was something that we all
had to adjust to. One of the most-unique features of the field is the
dugouts for both teams are side by side, and so are the bullpens.
This allowed us to get to know some of the players for the other
who hit .326-1-18 this summer as the team’s regular second baseman,
may have summed up his experience with the Gulls best. “It
has been a very unique and life-changing experience playing as a
Newport Gull, and I will never forget these past two summers.”