On Wednesday evening, the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks showed promise for another summer of first-rate baseball, crushing the North Shore Navigators 11-1 in the season opener.
But for many in the audience, Wednesday’s game was less about the score than the spirit surrounding the event.
To kick off the night, all Little League and Babe Ruth players from around the Island were invited to join the Sharks on the field. Together, they raised the American flag and the 2013 Future Collegiate Baseball League championship banner, which the team earned last August for the first time in their three years of existence.
After the National Anthem, three “young, lucky hurlers,” as the announcer described them, threw the first pitches to catcher Tim Graul.
Throughout the evening, the Shark Tank buzzed with a symphony of sound. On field, the thick slap of Austin DeCarr’s 90 miles per hour pitches pounding the catcher’s mitt accompanied the hearty clunk of a wooden bat hitting gold. In the stands, the chatter of parents resonated with the laughter of their children and the patter of little feet as kids chased each other ceaselessly around the bleachers.
“Ice cream!” a spectator would shout each time a foul ball flew behind the stands, a herd of eager kids with mitts and hats outstretched quick to take notice and running off to chase down some baseball treasure.
One boy’s somber report of “I didn’t get it” received more heartfelt “awws” from his friends than when the Sharks struck out at the end of a scoreless inning.
At the bottom of the third, second baseman Jack Roberts, a former regional high school star now attending Williams College, hit a single. This sparked a six run rally bringing the Sharks’ lead up to 7-1.
In the fourth inning Kyle Brenner replaced Austin DeCarr as the Shark’s pitcher. As Kyle walked onto the field, some young fans shouted to him from the stands. “We’re the Cardinals, the kids you taught how to pitch!”
Between innings, young audience members partook in sack races, a seven-minute long hot dog eating competition, and challenged team mascot Sharky to a sprinting dash. In a biologically shocking turn of events, Sharky came out victorious, demonstrating an unforeseen prowess on land.
As the sun sank below the horizon, a slight chill descended over the field. The starless sky grew misty and a light fog enveloped the ball field. Perfect Shark weather, evidently, as the home team continued to devour their opponents in the innings to follow. At the bottom of the fifth, first baseman Steve Buckley Jr. hit a home run, batting in two of his teammates. Second baseman Brendan Cox then ran home to score the 11th, and final, run of the night.
As the game came to an end, the young fans who stuck it out through the ninth inning gathered excitedly by the Shark’s dugout to meet Sharky and get autographs from their favorite players.
One young girl peeked at Sharky through the legs of her father. “She wants to know if you’re a real shark,” her dad said.
Sharky, donning oversized sunglasses and a sombrero, simply answered with a wave.