How do the 2014 Shelter Island Bucks find something positive to take away after being swept in the finals for the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League championship?
Easy. Talk to the team and you hear of a summer filled with success for the college ballplayers who called the Island home for two months.
The happiest takeaway seemed to be the friendships forged on this particularly close team.
“That’s what it’s about,” Bucks Manager Jon Karcich said about the friendships made. “You bond and you create routines with players and you hang out and you develop relationships.”
Karcich noted that he keeps in touch with players and coaches he met through summer and college ball, adding that it’s through those friendships that “you learn about who you are as a person.”
Anybody who witnessed a Bucks game this season could observe the strong sense of camaraderie. Two players pointed out that it’s unusual for such strong bonds to develop on teams that are only together for a couple of months before heading back to homes across the country.
“I think it’s really rare,” outfielder Trevor Freeman of Florida Southern College said. “I played last year on a summer ball team and about this time everybody was ready to go home, people were homesick and everything.”
First baseman Jimmy Jack of Loyola Marymount University played for the Bucks in 2013 and admitted that he wasn’t as close with many of last summer’s team as he was with this year’s edition.
“It’s been special,” Jack said. “I feel like I’m going to have some relationships that I take away from this summer.”
Why was the team able to get so close? Shortstop Scott Donaghue of Quinnipiac University had a simple answer: “There’s just nice guys on the team. You can’t beat that.”
It also helped that the team had a successful team on the field.
Making it to the championship series was no small accomplishment. And the Bucks ended up losing to a Southampton team that seemed unstoppable, peaking at exactly the right time by winning ten straight games at the end of the season.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t how we wanted it to end,” Karcich said. “But somebody has to win, somebody has to lose and we have to tip our caps to Southampton who played almost perfect down the stretch. It’s not easy to do in any league.”
General Manager Dave Gurney was proud of his team. He said their performance in the final game of the season, coming back from a 5-0 deficit after four innings to send the game to extra innings, was representative of the season. “They were warriors, they kept fighting,” Gurney said.
Freeman agreed that the final comeback spoke volumes about the team. “Heart, we all have heart,” he said. “We all love this game. We all go out there and give it our best every time.”
An essential part of the Bucks’ season was the support from Shelter Islanders, Gurney said. “Shelter Island fans are the best,” he added
All of the players echoed the thoughts of their general manager, with several players noting that games at Fiske Field drew some of the biggest crowds they played in front of.
Some of the young ballplayers had adjustments to make to Shelter Island life throughout their two-month stay.
“It was a different experience than what I had before, much quieter and just a different type of lifestyle,” said Troy Scocca of Fairfield University, who hails from Nassau County. “But I adjusted to it and staying with my host parents, they were great, so they made the transition real easy.”
Looking ahead, Donaghue is thinking about law school after he completes his final year at Quinnipiac and will take the LSATs in September. Freeman hopes he has a strong senior season at Florida Southern and gets a chance down the road to play professional ball. Jack will also be a senior in the fall and is excited about Loyola Marymount’s team, believing they will be “a big force on the West Coast.”
First, though, Jack will focus on completing a documentary he’s been filming here for a school project. He said a Shelter Island summer is a perfect topic for a documentary. Plans are for a YouTube debut and the young filmmaker has high hopes it takes off.
“I’ve got over 15 hours of footage now and I’ve worked hard on it,” Jack said. “A lot of the guys have helped out and been great about being in this big project of mine. Hopefully it’s a good way of remembering how great the summer was and how we did and how great this Island is, too. I’m just excited to put it out there and see what people think of it.”
After college, if baseball as a career doesn’t work out for Jack, he says he will be “appreciative” of his years in the sport and ready to “go face first into film.”
Scocca will be a sophomore this fall at Fairfield. After a summer where he “definitely” feels he improved as a player, he won’t have much down time before diving right back into baseball.
He said he “can’t stop for too long” and will now just be getting ready for fall baseball and being back at college.