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College Baseball to Flourish on East End

By Drew Budd, 27 East, 08/12/08, 11:59PM EDT

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Photos by Drew Budd

Team President Rusty Leaver said on Monday that the Hampton Whalers season was taken from a story book and that there were many positive things to take from the first season of collegiate baseball on the East End.

So much so that Leaver plans on bringing in three more teams to place on both the North and South forks of Long Island.

Although the plans are still in the works, it appears as if Sag Harbor, Southampton, Southold and Riverhead would be the host locations for the teams, although nothing has been confirmed by the league.

“It’s what we want to do and we feel we have every ability to make that happen,” Leaver said.

If the teams are established, they will make up a new “Hamptons” Division in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, the league in which the Hampton Whalers won the Kaiser Division before losing in the league championship on Saturday.

Leaver and Mike “Butch” Caulfield, vice president of baseball operations and general manager of the Whalers, are already starting to recruit players for the four teams. They are also starting to form committees in the perspective towns, as they did this past season in Sag Harbor and Southampton, where the Whalers alternately played their home games.

“Our mission is to make sure we end up with great coaches, great players and great organizations in each community,” Leaver said.

Leaver gave a lot of credit to the Whalers success to Caulfield who started recruiting for the Whalers in October 2007.

“Butch hasn’t gotten enough credit,” Leaver said. “He single-handedly worked on it for many, many months. After the team settled in, they got a sense of community support in Sag Harbor and in Southampton. Not too many first-year franchises accomplish what we did. We had starters that were lights out. Good relief pitching, really good defense, and our offense was good enough at the right time to get us to the championship.”

Caulfield, who has been an assistant coach at New York Tech, a Division I baseball school, for nine years, recruited many of the Whalers players based on the recommendations of head coaches from around the Northeast.

“It’s a lot of work to get 25 strong players,” Caulfield said. “Between e-mail, phone calls, returning e-mails and phone calls, it takes about four to five hours a night. You’re going over information from scouts, stats online and checking out all the different leagues. It ends up being five hours a day, seven days a week. At the same time, we’re trying to get kids that will work into our system.”

As for the Whalers, if all goes according to plan, they will stay put in Sag Harbor. Players such as Alan Parks, Karl Derbacher and Mark Houck Jr. will not be eligible to return because they will be seniors in college. Freshmen, sophomores and juniors are the only eligible players in the ACBL.

Houck said he will miss a lot of the aspects of summer baseball in the Hamptons but what he’ll miss the most is the team camaraderie.

“That was just amazing,” he said. “The away trips were always fun. Before the game, the joking around and getting together after the games. That will all be missed.”

Houck said he will make sure that he will come back to the East End in some capacity whether it’s as a fan or, possibly, as a coach. As of right now, by just counting the number of juniors on the team, the Whalers will have at least six roster spots to fill.

Leaver said that they would like to keep as many players as possible to keep the team chemistry going.

Plans are also being made now to have a festive first week to launch the second season, which will begin the first week of June. Leaver and the Whalers are in talks with Team USA to have it come out and either play a four-game series against the four East End teams, or else form an all-star team from among the four East End teams to face Team USA.

Leaver is also in talks with well-known universities such as the University of Miami and Pepperdine to try and bring them in for some good exhibition baseball. Leaver will then try and combine those games with a fund-raising event such as a softball game that will feature celebrities and former major league baseball players.

Another mission that Leaver is on is to get a new field built on the campus of Stony Brook Southampton. The field would be used by the new team in Southampton and would also serve the community. The Southampton High School varsity baseball field, which was used this year, would still be used as an alternate field.

As opposed to the Cape Cod Baseball League, which recruits more sophomores and juniors than freshmen, Leaver wants to start recruiting more freshmen and sophomores for the Hampton Division. Leaver is also in the process of looking at some high school players to get them interested in the division as well and is hoping that local high school players will look up to the new division as an obtainable goal.

Right now, Leaver said he needs help with many different aspects of getting the venture together. Finances, finding host families for the 100 players that will make up the new division and finding part-time jobs for them for the summer are just a few of the things Leaver said he needs help with. For more information, call Leaver at 631-668-3901.