WARWICK -- To say the inaugural year of the Rhode Island American Legion Fall Baseball team was a success would be an understatement of monsterous proportions.
In virtually every way, on the field and off, the fortunes of the team's first season could not have gone better, says head coach Jim Morrison.
The team, made up of some of the most promising returning players in the Rhode Island American Legion Baseball League, went 12-4 over their seven-week season, including an 8-3 record in the tournaments in which they participated.
"We started with 17 players who just wanted to play more baseball," said Morrison. "They were great kids--great to be around. They played hard, they played well, they all got better, and that's what it was all about. I couldn't be more happy with the way it went."
Winners of the Firecracker Tournament in September, the Rhode Island Legion Elite team enhanced their tournament schedule with games against other teams, including matchups against the Community College of Rhode Island. Morrison says those two games "turned out to be very, very competitive, and we thank (CCRI head coach) Ken Hopkins for giving us the opportunity to play them."
All 17 players will return to their regular-season clubs when the 2016 season begins next June, but Morrison says their fall experience will certainly carry forward for many others in years to come.
"We're going forward with more for next fall," he said, "We're hoping to have teams from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire join us." The formation of teams in those three other states and the creation of a regional league are part of the vision of State Senior Division Commissioner Jim Foster, who continues to work with Morrison on the project.
"I think we had to prove ourselves to the other states that this is an imporant piece of American Legion Baseball--that playing in the fall could really enhance the total experience," said Rhode Island American Legion Baseball Assistant Chairman John Parente, "Jim and Jimmy have put together a program that will eventually incorporate three other state organizations and create an exciting and unique playing opportunity for the best players Rhode Island has to offer. And they did it without burdening parents of the players with a large tab to pay. This idea flourish because it provide as much if not more bang for the buck than most other high-profile programs.
"It couldn't have been better for the promotion of Legion Baseball," he said.
Depending upon the interest, the potential of a second Rhode Island team is even a possibility for 2016. "It is something to consider, hopefully sooner than later," said Foster, "but it can be done." Morrison added, "I see nothing but growth for this idea....There's no where to go but up."
All 17 players will be back at their high schools next spring, including Greg Ballinger, Liam McGill, and Asa Nyblom of South Kingstown; Brendan Cavaco, Peter Rouse, and Peter Taraian of LaSalle Academy; Austin Alzate and Connor Kiernan of Cranston West; Jarrod Houle, Chris Reid, and Dave Simmons of Warwick Vets; Luis DeLeon and John Marzec of Moses Brown; Alex Levin of Lincoln; North Kingstown's Mark Halloran; Javier Brown of Cumberland; and Dylan Boisclair of St. Raphael Academy.