Central Vermont baseball fans welcome the Mountaineers

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(Host) The New England Collegiate Baseball League has just awarded a new franchise to the state of Vermont. The team will play in Montpelier and will feature some of the best college players from around the country.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) As winter approaches, one community’s thoughts are focused on summer. Several hundred people from throughout central Vermont gathered at a special meeting earlier this week to celebrate a new regional baseball venture: the establishment of a team in the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

The league, which was founded by former Major League Baseball Commissioner Faye Vincent, now has 13 teams located in all six New England states. The NECBL is one of a handful of special summer leagues where the top college players from throughout the country play a 40 to 50 game schedule.

The Vermont team, which will be known as the Mountaineers, will play their 21 home games at the Montpelier Recreation Field. The field, which was built in the 1930s as part of a New Deal construction project, was the home to a Vermont team in the old Northern League team.

The Northern League, which closed down in the 1950s, was just a step below the major leagues and Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts was a member of the Vermont team for a brief period of time.

At this week’s meeting, a barbershop quartet practiced what will become the new team’s signature 7th inning stretch song:

(Sound of quartet singing) “For it’s one, two, three strikes – you’re out! at the old ball game….” (Sound crowd cheering)

(Kinzel) The organizers of the team have worked for several years to bring a NECBL franchise to Vermont. They’ve embarked on an ambitious three-year timetable to raise $500,000 to renovate the Montpelier Field.

The field’s dimensions will be patterned exactly after Fenway Park, including a huge wall in left field that will be known as the “Green Mountain Monster.” Montpelier Mayor Chuck Karparis, who grew up in the Capital City, is very familiar with the field:

(Kaparis) “Thanks, everybody, for coming out tonight. You just take a look at the cross section of people that we have here tonight, what broad based support we have in the community for this franchise. Now, having grown up in Montpelier and spent many afternoons on that very field both in Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball and even the Twin City Twins for a while, which is a semi-pro team with players from Barre and other towns, it’s going to be great to see in the tradition of the old Northern League baseball on that level of caliber to be brought back to Montpelier.”

(Kinzel) Brian Gallgher, who is the team’s general manager, hopes to integrate the operations of the team with youth baseball programs throughout central Vermont:

(Gallagher) “We really want to start with the Little League. We’ll have Little League night at the ball park where all the central Vermont Little League teams will come and be admitted free of charge; will run out to the field with the player at the position that they play; be announced over the PA system in between innings of games; things with the mascot; lots of fun family stuff that we’re really hoping to connect with the Little League.”

(Kinzel) Gallagher says league officials are in the process of finalizing next summer’s schedule and that the actual dates for the Mountaineers 21 home games will be announced by the end of the month. It’s clear from the enthusiasm of the team’s supporters that central Vermont is eagerly awaiting the first pitch of the new season:

(Sound of barbershop quartet singing) “For the land of the free, and the home of the brave!” (Sound of crowd cheering.)

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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