Friday Morning Baseball in Bristol Featuring North Kingstown vs Mt. Hope High School
Admittedly, because of my work schedule, I do not get to attend as many baseball games during the work week (Monday through Friday) as I would like to. Most middle and high school baseball teams tend to play in the afternoon, after the school day is finished – makes sense of course. However, on those rare occasions, like scheduled school holidays, there is always the possibility of an early game during the week. Case in point, yesterday Friday, April 15th (Good Friday on the school calendar). I saw a game posted on the Rhode Island Interscholastic League baseball page featuring North Kingstown High School vs Mt. Hope High School and messaged the Head Coach of the North Kingstown Baseball club, Kevin Gormley to confirm. His response, “Yes, 11am start at Guiteras.”
Guiteras, in Coach Gormley’s message, is Bristol’s Guiteras Park, which sits behind Guiteras Elementary School at the intersection of Washington St. and Monroe Ave in Bristol. From my house in North Kingstown, you can either drive through Jamestown, Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, over the Mt Hope Bridge, through downtown Bristol to reach Guiteras. Or, like I did, drive North on Route 95 to 195 to Exit 5 (136), drive through Warren, and find your way onto Route 114/Hope St, then left on Washington to get to Guiteras. It is about 45 minutes or so either way to choose, and the drive takes you through some of the most scenic roads we have here in Rhode Island.
I arrived just before game time and found a spot in the bleachers behind home plate. Guiteras has a pretty good size bleacher section and there were fans set up around the backstop as well. Some of them were sitting so close they could prop their legs up against the metal fencing of the backstop. Temperature was a very Spring like 61° with blue skies and a pretty consistent wind heading out to right center field. Many of the younger fans actually had shorts and T-shirts on, with some of my peers dressed a little more for early Spring than Summer. As the first pitch approached, a really nice crowd had gathered in the stands and in the area around home plate.
Of course, it is always great to run into baseball friends I have made over the years. In particular, ones from North Kingstown High School/North Kingstown that have gone to school with my sons or have played organized sports with/against them. Truthfully, I could chat it up with them a lot more than I do. As a parent, I know they are there to watch their sons and I try to keep the chatter short, especially if I peek and their son is due up to the batter’s box.
I was speaking to one of the NKHS parents, Gary Lamond whose son Robby is the starting CF for NKHS, about the outfield dimensions. Specifically the center field dimensions. As I was watching the game unfold, I couldn’t help but notice the outfielders on both teams appeared to be playing rather shallow. After looking into it further from different spots on the field, I realized that the outfielders weren’t playing too shallow. The outfield is just massive. Check out this Google Map of Guiteras Field and the photos I took from the fence that surrounds the park.
570 feet to the triangle of fencing that forms the farthest point in Guiteras Park. Wow, that is a gigantic center field moon shot distance and one that most golfers would need a 3 iron to achieve. Here are a few views of what that looks like from center field.
When I was playing high school baseball in the late 1980s at North Kingstown High School, there was an All-Stater from Bristol named Manny DaSilva who could probably give that distance a shot. And speaking of my playing days, two of my former teammates (George Porter, Sean Maloney) were in attendance as spectators watching their sons (Luke Porter, Evan Maloney) play yesterday. I always love the connection baseball has from the past to the present, and this connection was personal.
On the mound for Mt Hope High School was AJ Jones. I first saw Jones pitch last fall in an Autumn Baseball League game at LaSalle Academy for Vogie. Jones throws hard, almost effortless on the mound, kind of like watching a guy wind up and play catch. Jones mixed in some off speed stuff nicely and held the North Kingstown bats pretty quiet while he was in the game. From my notes, Jones pitched into the 4th inning allowing only 1 run on a few hits spaced out over the 4 innings.
North Kingstown countered with Ben Napoli, a crafty left hander with a sneaky good fastball. Napoli had really good command of several off speed pitches, then would zip a fastball inside to surprise the Mt. Hope hitters. He worked fast and pitched to contact. The NKHS defense was up to the task on balls hit to the infield and high fly balls hit to the outfield. Napoli, by my notes, pitched into the 5th inning, allowing just 1 run on a few hits. Both Jones and Napoli pitched well enough to keep their teams in the game.
One of the notes I wrote down was about foul balls. Guiteras Park sits inside an upside L formed by Washington St. and Monroe Ave, which is a well populated neighborhood of houses. I watched as a few foul balls made it over the backstop and over the first row of houses on Washington St, possibly into someone’s back yard. I’m not sure if the two teams would have to go door to door asking for permission to retrieve the foul balls, or if they just come prepared with an extra dozen game balls for home games at Guiteras. Still, if you are a baseball fan and live on Washington or Monroe, you can watch some great baseball in the Spring and Summer there!
I wanted to get another view of the field, so I hopped out of the bleachers behind home plate and found a spot just passed the third base dugout. There were a few people congregating over there so I found a spot just passed them to catch some of the game action. NKHS 2nd baseman Will Brew lined a double to left field just inside the bag and an NKHS rally appeared to be imminent. However, the next two batters – TJ Gormley and Josh Lincourt – hit the baseball with authority with the same result. Two deep fly ball outs to end the rally. Both hitters got really good swings on the baseball but the Mt Hope defense was up to the task.
So, it was an exciting pitcher’s duel at Guiteras Park featuring Mt. Hope vs North Kingstown High School while I was at the game. For 4 innings it was Jones vs Napoli, both pitchers quieting the bats of their opponent. I left around the 5th inning to head to work. And checked the scores this morning to find out that North Kingstown was able to score 4 runs late in the ball game to edge Mt Hope by a score of 5-1. North Kingstown moves to 5-0 to start the season. Despite the loss Mt. Hope still sits at an impressive 4-1 to start the season. It was an awesome way to start the day – blue skies, light wind, two great Rhode Island High School baseball powerhouses, a pitcher’s duel, seeing some old NKHS parents/friends, and watching a fantastic baseball game.
Best of luck to the Mt Hope and North Kingstown High School baseball teams going forward this Spring!
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