The last we heard of the Hampton Whalers, they were a newly formed, grass-roots baseball team with big ambitions. Now, a few months later, the Whalers are looking at the possibility of making it to the local playoffs. And with two wins against the Jersey Pilots in Sag Harbor this past Sunday, things are looking good for the team.
"We started off a little slow," said Rusty Leaver, the team's organizer and owner of the famous Montauk ranch, "but we have five more games left and the team has really gelled." Proving their hard work ethic and love of the game, the Whalers hit the ground running this season, which may have caused some losses at the beginning of the summer. Julio Vega, the team's manager and former member of the San Francisco Giants, said, "There were some tough road trips really early on in the season." While the taxing travel may have affected the team's game plan, the early struggle inspired the players to work harder. "The team learned to battle in order to win. We are still battling."
The Whalers, fighting to prove themselves on the field, claim Sag Harbor as sacred ground. "Sag Harbor is good for us," Vega said, "I think we've won something like six games here. The fans are great." A roar echoed from behind Vega as a Whaler ran into home with his fist in the air. The fans, an integral part of any team, have supported the Whalers throughout. "A non-league showcase game in Southold last Sunday night drew 300 people. Everyone was there to show their support," said Leaver.
The Whalers, warriors on the field, are normal college kids off the field. Living with families all around the Hamptons, the Whalers have made themselves at home. "The host families refer to the kids as their own kids. The guys just love being here," said Leaver. And the team members agree. Alan Parks, an outfielder for the Whalers, said, "It's a great place to play ball for the summer."
More college students will get the chance to play on the team when recruiting starts in August. Future players will also have more than one Hamptons team to join. "We should have four teams for next year: one in Southold, one in Riverhead, one in Southampton and one in Sag Harbor. We are thinking about a team for East Hampton, too," said Leaver.
The playoffs will be a big accomplishment for the Whalers, if they make it in. The playoffs put the top three local teams head to head - the Whalers are currently tied for the third spot. Having won 12 out of the 19 games played within the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, things are looking good for the team.
And while they fight to make it to the playoffs, some MVPs have already made an impression on the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League. Four Whalers players will participate in the 2008 ACBL All-Star Game. For the game, which will take place at St. John's University in Queens on July 28, only the best of the best from the Kaiser and Wolff Divisions are chosen to face off. Many professional contracts have come out of this All-Star event.
One of the All-Star game participants, Phil Klein, a 19-year-old Ohio native, is already taking the Whalers into the headlines and making history. In the 8-0 victory against Metro N.Y. in Sag Harbor's Mashashimuet Park, Klein became the first Whaler in history to throw a perfect game. Not only did Klein win team notoriety - he is also the first player to toss a perfect game in Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League history, a record that dates back to 1977.
Equipped with baseball bats and caps, the Hampton Whalers step onto the field, warriors in their sport. The Whalers explode onto the field, throwing baseballs like grenades. Take cover.
For more information on upcoming games, visit www.hamptonsbaseball.org