For the third consecutive summer, Shelter Island is home to a team in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League. This means that college ballplayers from all corners of the country are here, making the Island their home for two months.
The young men, all in their late teens and early twenties, live with host families who provide them with a bed, somewhere to store food and a place to do laundry, although in most cases the families step up to provide the players with a lot more than what’s required. Some of the players get jobs for expenses and to pass the time. When they’re not working, they spend what little downtime they have taking advantage of Island life.
Two of the players on the Bucks this summer are Max Watt and Trevor Freeman. The two knew each other prior to arriving on the Island, playing together at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida, and now are living together with Bucks General Manager Dave Gurney and his family.
As one might expect, living with one of the men that runs the team presents Max and Trevor with a different housing situation than other players. It’s not without pressure — both players noted that they analyze games with Mr. Gurney with Trevor adding that living with the GM means “bigger expectations.”
The players didn’t hesitate to sing the praises of the Gurney family. Trevor called living with them “amazing.”
Amazing and busy.
Mr. Gurney and wife his wife, Laura, recently had a baby, Kenny, joining brother, Johnny, 3, and sister, Lauren, 12. It’s not surprising with a crowded house that Mr. Gurney’s highest compliment for the players was “self-sufficient.” And Max, who Mr. Gurney described as bigger than life for his personality as much as his six foot nine inch stature, has become heroic in young Johnny’s world. But the more the merrier, according to Mr. Gurney. “Having two works so much better than just having one,” he said. “They can help each other and keep each other company.”
Max said “it’s fun living with the Gurneys. They’re very supportive of me and Trevor living at their house. I’ve never stayed with a host family before and never been in that process. Having someone I knew and having a good friend with me made it a lot easier.”
The two players had been playing baseball for a long time before their paths crossed in Tampa. Trevor spoke about first getting involved in the game at the age of five thanks to his dad, who played himself when he was younger. But before getting too serious about the game, he left it for a few years.
“I got to the point where I just got overused and everything, so I switched to soccer for two years,” Trevor said. “My heart just wasn’t in it and I came back to baseball two years later.”
Max first started playing the game when he was four and simply fell in love with it. At seven he first started to pitch and has enjoyed the position since because of the control it puts into his hands.
“I’m very controlling in my life,” he said. “I like to have a plan and figure out everything before it even happens.”
Max got serious about playing college ball after his junior year of high school. He began putting everything he had into training to improve. After a solid senior season he was off to Tampa to play at the next level.
Trevor was quick to point out that it is no easy life being a college ballplayer. “Nobody really understands what happens outside the game,” he said. “We have schoolwork and workouts on top of the baseball stuff. It’s very exciting and fun, but also it’s a grind.”
After his first season playing in Tampa, Max came home to Babylon, New York to play for the Center Moriches Battlecats of the HCBL last summer. He remembers hearing about celebrities like Jerry Seinfeld endorsing the league and being excited about the prospect of playing in the up and coming organization. Now, having played in the HCBL, he credits the good fields and community support as reasons why the HCBL could someday be mentioned along with the Cape League.
While he was playing for the Battlecats last summer, Max experienced one of the greatest moments of his life. During a game against the Bucks, he found out he had been drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 37th round of the Major League Baseball Draft. Icing on the cake was his family was attending the Bucks-Battlecats game and he was able to inform them of the news first.
Max was able to help get his friend into the league this summer. Trevor had never heard of Shelter Island before the two were placed on the Bucks roster. Max said he was “intrigued” about the Island, and after doing some research his first conclusion was that they were going to be doing a lot of fishing.
As the season winds down and the Bucks try to make the playoffs both players will be important role players. Trevor leads the team in hitting and Max’s three wins are tied for first among the team’s pitchers.
Even though the players get little down time, Max and Trevor try to make the most of what time they have. Trevor spends his free time visiting other towns in the area. Max stays closer to home, shooting hoops and hitting the beach.
An unbreakable part of their schedule is going to the Shelter Island Pharmacy for breakfast together every morning for “two eggs and cheese on a roll with three coffees,” Max said.
They talk to the boys working behind the counter about sports. Wherever they go, people tell them, “Go Bucks.”
Trevor ‘s reaction? Simple. He “loves” Shelter Island.