Play ball, Rhody-style

By IAN DONNIS  |  April 6, 2007
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6TH INNING: WHO’S THAT GUY BEHIND THE PLATE?
Frequent TV viewers of Red Sox home games are accustomed to seeing a familiar-looking guy sitting in the front row on the aisle behind home plate. Who is this guy, and how does he get such good seats? It’s none other than Providence native Jeremy Kapstein, a senior Red Sox adviser.
 
Kapstein has had a storied career. As the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy wrote in 2005 — when Kapstein had offered to succeed the departed Theo Epstein as the Sox’ GM — “In the mid-1970s, he was baseball’s first superagent, a forerunner of Jeff Moorad and Scott Boras. He won the first three arbitration cases in major league baseball history. He corralled almost all of the best players in the early days of free agency, including young Red Sox superstars Fred Lynn, Carlton Fisk, and Rick Burleson.”
 
Kapstein’s power was such, Shaughnessy recounted, that Twins owner Calvin Griffith told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1976, “Sure, I’m afraid of him. He can decide who wins pennants. He can regulate the structure of baseball.”
 
After marrying into Kroc family of McDonald’s fame, the Providence native became part of the San Diego Padres’ management and worked with Larry Lucchino. Lucchino, of course, partnered with John Henry and Tom Werner to buy the Red Sox in 2002, and he then brought Kapstein, among others, back east.

7TH INNING: A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
When girls were denied the chance to play Little League baseball in Pawtucket in 1973, a couple of their parents resolved to form their own girls-only hardball league. The ensuing effort, the Rhode Island Women’s Baseball League (womeninbaseball.com), is about to enter its 34th season.
 
Until 2002, the maximum age for players was 18, although there are now four age divisions — 5-7; 8-10; 11-13; 14 and up — and the senior division has included one 55-year-old participant, says minor division director Deb Bettencourt. More than 200 girls and women take part in the league, whose games are played either at the Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket (with lights donated by the PawSox) or at Slater Park.
 
Bettencourt, whose day job is coordinating special projects at Johnson & Wales’ College of Culinary Arts, joined the league in 1981, playing as a catcher (“I have the knees to prove it”) until she reached the then-maximum age of 18.
 
Thirty-four years after the Pawtucket Girls were told to take a hike, the Rhode Island Women’s Baseball League is represented, with a jersey and photos, Bettencourt says, at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

8TH INNING: NEWPORT’S LINK WITH THE PAST
While the City-by-the-Sea is known for its trappings of wealth, it is also the site of Cardines Field, home to the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, and a throwback to those vintage ballparks — like Fenway and Wrigley Field — that ooze old-time character.
 
Richard A. Johnson, curator of the Sports Museum of New England, calls Cardines Field “one of the few ballparks where Babe [Ruth] played that haven’t changed much.” The Sultan of Swat appeared as part of the fabled Sunset League, an entertainment geared to Newporters during the gap between day and evening activities. Satchell Paige and Jimmy Foxx are also said to have played there.
 
According to the Gulls’ Web site, baseball was first played on the site in 1908, and Baseball America Magazine more recently rated Cardines as the fourth-best park for summer collegiate baseball in the US.

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9TH INNING: AN ALL-RHODE ISLAND TEAM
First base: PAUL KONERKO (Providence)
Second base: DAVEY LOPES (Providence)
Shortstop: JAMES EDWARD “JIMMY” COONEY (Cranston)
Third base: JOE MULVEY (Providence)
Left field: HUGH DUFFY (Cranston)
Center field: ROCCO BALDELLI (Cumberland)
Right field: NAPOLEON LAJOIE (Woonsocket)
Catcher: GABBY HARTNETT (Woonsocket)
Pitcher: ANDY COAKLEY (Providence)
Relief pitcher: CLEM LABINE (Lincoln/Woonsocket)
Manager: Lajoie
General manager: LOU GORMAN (Providence)
Special adviser: JEREMY KAPSTEIN (Providence)

Email the author
Ian Donnis: idonnis@phx.com

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