A summer of baseball and fun in Newport

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Citizen’s News contributing writer Kyle Brennan, of Beacon Falls, broadcasts a game for the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball League during his summer internship. CONTRIBUTED
Anybody who reads my Overtime column each week in Citizen’s News knows what I was up to this summer. I guess it’s time to share with the class.

I’ve been back in Beacon Falls for a little more than two weeks now and it already feels like I’ve been here for two months. I love this place, but it’s not the same.

The two and a half months I spent working for the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball League ranks up there as the best time of my life.

It would be regrettable not to first start with acknowledging and thanking my grandparents, with whom it was my great pleasure to stay the summer at their summer cottage in Charlestown, R.I. I had always sort of taken that place for granted, but I really grew to appreciate it and all of their hard work this summer.

Plus, the crazily outrageous, 110-percent Italian neighbor who sped around with fish in the back of his golf cart made it plenty worth my zero cost of lodging. But less talk about the guy who claimed he saw a 30-pound black cat roaming around our backyard just after he paraded over in an authentic Elvis costume.

Anyway, internships are a pretty important and almost necessary part of a college education these days, so as a broadcast journalism major and sports studies minor (surprise, surprise) at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, I tried to find somewhere I could apply both these skill sets.

Enter the Gulls, the most successful franchise in the history of the NECBL. I applied for an internship and with my experience in writing, broadcasting, and baseball, I got a position.

The NECBL is a 12-team league with franchises in each of the six New England states which operates as a summer collegiate baseball league. Each team hosts a full roster of college players who stay at the homes of volunteer host families.

Newport, having just completed its 11th season in the league, has a reputation for having one of the best teams annually. This year, our team had players from Vanderbilt, USC, Washington State, Wake Forest, Maryland, East Carolina, Michigan, Kansas, Seton Hall, Rutgers, and more.

I settled into a role as the team’s color broadcaster, which was supposed to be my only job until the official scorer and publicist was fired after the first game. The assistant general manager asked me to save their bacon—mmm, bacon—so I took those reins.

If I wanted to tell you what I did every day, I’d have to use up the entire sports section. (No offense, but I don’t necessarily want to know what you do every day, either.) But there are a few highlights I have to share.

As the team’s color broadcaster, I made a nice role for myself of both adding legitimate baseball analysis and comic relief during the game. I could have explained just as easily the relay lineup on a throw to the plate as I could have the dozens of uses for a beach towel on a giveaway night—which included cleaning up oil spills and weapons in a locker room.

I also hosted a segment on our pregame show called the Gulls Eye View. I’m not a fan of boring—maybe you’ve noticed in the past—so I liked to spice things up by making my segment as close to laughable as it could be while keeping a straight face.

In one interview with Marist pitcher Dan Zlotnick, we discussed the magical powers of the superstitious T-shirt featuring eight different jungle cats that he wore underneath his jersey. He made it clear that he always left the top buttons undone so the tiger would intimidate hitters.

In another interview with Virginia Tech pitcher Eddie Campbell and East Carolina pitcher Joseph Hughes, we chatted about their adventure in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, in which they ventured into the woods in the middle of the game to cut down a tree using a metal rod so they could have shade in the bullpen. They proceeded to replant the tree and watered it when one of the pitchers had to relieve himself instead of the starting pitcher.

But in perhaps my favorite interview ever, I held a three-way talk with Wake Forest pitcher Michael Dimock and his penguin, Captain Solo. Dimock told the full story of how he and his friends rescued the penguin from Old Orchard Beach and they became friendly with him on the bus. He also claimed he caught Captain Solo sneaking out at night and trying to drive his truck downtown. Did I mention Captain Solo is a stuffed penguin they won at a carnival?

The guys made up the best team I’ve ever been around and they had just as much talent on the field, posting the best record in the league with eight all-stars and four All-NECBL players.

I made sure to get all of their autographs because some of them, like Vanderbilt freshman Conrad Gregor and Maryland freshman Tim Kiene, wouldn’t surprise me if they turn into major-league talents.

Did I mention I was living two minutes from the beach in Rhode Island for the summer, too? Not too bad. Not a day passed when I took the trips over the Jamestown and Newport bridges and didn’t realize how cool it was that I was working in Newport.

It’s good to be home, but I wouldn’t mind going back.