by Andrew Rudansky
It was announced last week that Hamptons Collegiate Baseball (HCB), a division of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League (ACBL), was to undergo an expansion, letting at least one new team join the five team division.
The Center Moriches Battlecats are the newest expansion team to join the HCB in this planned growth. The Battlecats will join the Sag Harbor Whalers, Southampton Breakers, Riverhead Tomcats, North Fork Ospreys and defending champs Westhampton Aviators in the upcoming 2012 season.
Formerly a member of the FABL College Wood Bat Division, the Battlecats officially announced the switch to the HCB on November 18 through an online press release. In the same press release it was announced that new team manager Bill Batewell will take the helm of the Battlecats in their first year.
According to Sag Harbor Whaler’s co-general manager Tom Gleeson the decision to add new expansion teams was made in early September by the new HCB President Brett Mauser and the league’s general managers.
Mauser recently replaced the former president and founder of the HCB, Rusty Leaver, and it was this changing at the executive level which allowed for the expansion. Gleeson said that Leaver was against the inclusion of any expansion teams into the HCB, and without the change the expansions would have been doubtful.
“Personally, we were big proponents of having the Battlecats enter the league,” said Gleeson on behalf of his co-general manager Sandi Kruel. “I think it is going to be very positive for the league.”
Last year the Whaler’s finished fourth in the division with a .500 record of 20-20, however they were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the first seed Aviators. Now with the field even more crowded, the Whalers hopes for the HCB title become even slimmer. Gleeson said he was unconcerned with the increased competition.
“The whole idea of our league is great competition,” said Gleeson. “We are excited about the Battlecats joining because they are a very good baseball organization and frankly they make [the HCB] name better.”
The biggest hurdle for the Battlecats to deal with as an organization is the issue of player housing. As members of the FABL, the Battlecats previously only fielded local Long Island players; however a hallmark of the HCB is their ability to draw talent from top schools around the country. Their entrance into the HCB will force the Center Moriches team to now provide housing through host families in order to accommodate boarding players.
In an effort to bridge the teams on the north and south forks, plans are well underway on Shelter Island to create a seventh, completely new team to also compete in the HBC 2012 season.
The yet unnamed team is to be set up under general managers David Gurney and Mike Dunning. Currently the proposed Shelter Island team is seeking approval from the Shelter Island School District to use their baseball diamond as a home field.
“I think they already have a pretty good organization in place,” said Gleeson, who said once they get the okay from the district they will most likely be fast tracked into the league.
Gleeson reported that in addition to the inclusion of Center Moriches and Shelter Island there is plenty of support in the league to allow for a third expansion team for the 2012 season, bringing the total to eight teams.
“A community really has to reach out to us,” said Gleeson about the possibility of an eighth team.
Elsewhere in the ACBL other expansion teams have popped up for the 2012 season. The Kaiser Division has added the Long Island Storm this offseason, while the Wolff Division has added the Allentown Raiders and the Trenton Generals.
The 2012 HCB season, with however many teams that will be in contention, is slated to begin with player recruiting and selections in March. The games, free and open to the public, will begin in early June.
For more information about Hamptons Collegiate Baseball, visit their website at www.hamptonsbaseball.org.