by Annette Hinkle
Tom Gleeson, co-general manager and director of development for the Sag Harbor Whalers, one of seven teams in the summer Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League.
College players in the league come from all over the country. At this point are all your players here and your roster set?
There are still some players coming in at this point — students in the NCAA tournament are getting out of school late. I have one more player coming in late because of a wedding. I’ve also got a roster slot for a pitcher — one is on the disabled list.
The Riverhead team has lost two players who signed to go into the minors.
How is the league structured and is it different than most summer college baseball leagues?
Probably one of the things people don’t understand is most summer teams are owned by people, whereas we are completely a nonprofit organization that nobody owns. It’s the community as major sponsors — along with Bridgehampton National Bank, Skip Norsic, the Hampton Jitney and whatever sponsorship we get locally. That’s kind of a unique thing. We’ve had people from Chicago say they want to by one of our teams and we’re not owned.
This year what’s important is Major League Baseball is sponsoring us — we are one of 12 leagues in the country that receives some funding from MLB. They like the concept of housing players, which we do.
Because its not an “owned team” does that make it more challenging to attract players?
We actively recruit because we want a better quality player. We can fill our roster with Long Island kids, but our goal is to get the best possible players. Brett Mauser, the league president, has reached out to schools to develop relationships. Five of our seven head coaches are college head coaches. Another played at Villanova and the Center Moriches coach has been coaching on Long Island for 35 years.
Fred Cambria, our new commissioner, played in the majors for the Pittsburgh Pirates and coached in the minor leagues and at the college level. We’re excited about having a real baseball person with the league. We try to do things each year to improve.
What else is new this season?
This year we did brain trauma scans on all the players to give the doctors baseline data in case a kid gets hit in the head. I think we’re the first league in the country to do that. [Co-manager] Sandy [Kruel] is overseeing that. She’s a very knowledgeable baseball person and has been in it since the start. She’s a special mom for all the players during the summer.
Speaking of, I’ve heard from some host families that these baseball playing boys can eat … a lot.
They eat forever. We feed the kids after the game but still, they can eat all day. The host families are not required to feed them, but they often take it on themselves. We hope to get to a point where we’re able to supplement the families, but we’re not at that point yet. That’s what the Cape Cod league does. The players fee goes to host families. We still need help to make ends meet.
I know finding housing for the players is always a challenge. How’s that going?
Right now it’s OK, but I may have to move some players. That’s the biggest problem for all of us — to find housing.
The players started coming at the end of May and beginning of June. They’ll stay until the end of July or the beginning of August depending on the playoffs. Some families can host for a while, but then they might have family commitments. Another family will be away for a week and we have to find the player another place for that time.
We try to be flexible with host families. They’ve been wonderful. Host families and the community are the life blood of the league. Some teams have had more trouble than we did. We were pushed to the end, but the community always steps up. The players talked at morning program and that always leads to more housing.
Do you find that the players are becoming celebrities here?
The other day the two players from Xavier University had to sign a ball for a little girl. It’s a nice feeling for the community.
To learn more about the Sag Harbor Whalers and the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, visit www.Hamptonsbaseball.org.