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Shelter Island star taking the field for the Bucks: Ben Waife is home and ready to pitch

The beauty of Fiske Field on a sunny day might best be appreciated from the bleachers when the field is empty of players. Soon, another type of beauty will be on its way, when the quiet emptiness is filled with cheers as one of the Island’s residents steps onto the field.

The Reporter met with Ben Waife for a chat in the bleachers of his hometown baseball diamond. Ben, who graduated from high school in 2023 at the P27 Academy in Lexington, S.C. — a school for elite high school baseball players — will be running onto the field as a pitcher for the Shelter Island Bucks this summer season.

The 6’2” lefty was known for his power and control on the mound when he played for the Shelter Island High School baseball team, and for his strike outs mixing a nasty two-seam fastball with a slider. 

On the mound for Shelter Island High School. (Reporter file photo)

Now at home with his family — father Bert, mother Laurene, and younger brother Ari — Ben has been able to reflect on his senior year at P27 Academy. “It was such an awesome experience going to P27”, he said, adding that unfortunately he was unable to pitch while he was there due to new injuries, and a recovering shoulder injury.

“I was dealing with a shoulder injury from a past season and then this past spring dealing with a forearm elbow issue,” he said.

Undeterred by setbacks, Ben went on to finish his senior year at P27 Academy, saying, “Being a part of the program was so much fun.” And, regarding his injuries, “It’s just part of being a pitcher.” 

When asked about playing for the Bucks this season, Ben remembered his middle school days, saying, “I would come up here every single day and hang out with the kids who were on the team. I would come when they had batting practice before a game and take flyballs with them. It’s just kind of like a full-circle moment getting to play on the team.”

Along with acquainting himself on the field with the college players, his family participated in the Island tradition of housing Bucks players, giving Ben an ample opportunity to learn from the people he looked up too. 

“We still need housing for this season.” Ben said.

Bucks General Manager Brian Cass also gave a statement expressing the increasing need for beds as the beginning of the season comes closer. “We need seven beds for June and July,” GM Cass said. “We hope the community will continue to open their homes for our team.”

This long-standing tradition on Shelter Island has been the lifeline for dozens of successful Bucks seasons. “If the community doesn’t step up, then there might not be a team in the future,” GM Cass warned.

Ben responded to the housing situation, saying, “Anyone who could even pick up a month, that would be super appreciated.”

Any households with available rooms who are willing to host players for the season, please contact Brian Cass for more information by emailing [email protected] or calling 631-445-0084.

What’s expected of host families is very little. They are asked to provide room for a player to sleep, access to a washing machine to keep their uniforms clean, and space to store food in the refrigerator. 

As an incoming college freshman at Charleston Southern University this fall, Ben has become one of the youngest players in the East End’s Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League. In the HCBL, players are generally expected to have a full season from college under their belts before joining one of the league’s franchises. The opportunity for Ben to play on his hometown team this season is a testament to his talent and dedication.

“It’ll be a good experience to play against older college guys,” Ben said, not intimidated by the prospect. “It’ll just be super fun and I look forward to competing.”

He also believes that playing against older college players will only aid him in sharpening his skills, before taking the mound in college.  

With the 2024 season just around the corner, Ben has high expectations for how the season is going to go. “I think overall we have a good group of guys,” he said. “We have a pretty good pitching staff, and we have a lot of arms, so I think it’ll be a ton of fun and super competitive.” 

In the meantime, before the intense pace of the season, Ben is participating in rehab to heal any lingering ailments. He also hopes to take this time to relax and spend time with his family. And when Ben isn’t on the field or at home, he can be found in the Heights working at Isola. He’s back for a second summer at the popular Island restaurant, at a job he loves, he said.

As a rising star in the world of baseball, Ben will soon have young fans looking up to him the same way he did when he was their age.

When asked what he would say to the young fans of baseball who want to follow in his footsteps, he gave an inspiring message, “Just have as much fun as you can in the game. At the end of the day, it’s a sport and you should just be as joyful as possible while you’re out there.”