Christian Molfetta of the Shelter Island Bucks stood behind the popping crease and looked across the pitch at the bowler, with a bat in his hand. He wore batting pads, padded gloves and stood in front of the wicket. The bowler bounced one in and Molfetta swung — he may have tipped it — the wicket keeper caught it on a fly and a cry went up: ”Howzat?”
For an American reader, all the sports terms above would elicit the same response. “Howzat,” it seems, is cricket slang meaning “How is that?” It’s immediately shouted by players appealing to an umpire — yes, same as in baseball — for a decision.
On Saturday, July 23, the Shelter Island Cricket Club (SICC) set about educating some experienced baseball players in the arcane ways and words of a game considerably older than our national pastime. Englishmen David Shillingford, Justin Bateman and Buck’s General Manager Frank Emmett came dressed in traditional whites to Fiske Field where Manager Casey Buckley and five of his players gamely attempted to learn a new sport. And a new language.
Justin Etts may be a shortstop during the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League season, but Saturday he was positioned as a deep midwicket eschewing the silly mid off — really — position as a bit too dangerous for the first day. Pitcher Peter Beattie set up as a long off, which to a baseball fan might look like deep right field. Pitchers Ty Madrigal and Nick Rand rounded out the Buck players who had come out to learn the ancient sport.
When Madrigal had a turn at striker, he hit a long line drive to the boundary that would be good for four runs in an actual match. When Beattie had his turn, he swung and missed at a dodgy bounce before lacing a sharp grounder to the left of the bowler, but dropped his bat like a baseball player rather than carrying it between wickets, which is the proper way to act in this game. So much to learn.
“It’s pretty tough” Beattie said. “I can’t imagine standing in there with a guy throwing 85 or 90 miles an hour.”
The midsummer cricket match, which has become an Island summer ritual, will take place on the large field next to the Island Boatyard from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 30 with food and drinks available from 11 a.m.
The Shelter Island team and “The Rest of the World” team are tied 2-2 going into this year’s match. There will also be a kids cricket match during the lunch break from noon to 1 p.m. SICC merchandise will be on sale throughout the day. There is no admission fee but donations are encouraged.
Match founder and organizer David Shillingford explained how the team’s rosters are decided. “We draw concentric circles,” on a map, he said. “The closer your relationship to Shelter Island determines who you play for. Once our team is full, anyone outside of the circle becomes part of the Rest of the World team.”
Mr. Emmett grew up playing cricket in Keighley, England, where he was raised. “It’s like sandlot baseball is here,” he said. “Everyone plays cricket.”
After about 45 minutes of instruction and translation, the workout broke up. Buck players signed HCBL baseballs and brand new orange team bats as a contribution to the SICC’s fundraising efforts.
The cricket club has raised over $65,000 for the Shelter Island Ambulance Fund in the four years since matches were organized, which supports the all-volunteer Shelter Island Emergency Medical Services squad. At their match Saturday, in addition to selling merchandise, the club will accept solicit donations. You can also visit the SICC website at sicricket.com to donate.