Baseball returns to the Shark Tank when the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks open their sixth season against the North Shore Navigators at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 2.

Posing for an informal team photo. — Timothy Johnson

The 2015 Martha’s Vineyard Sharks won the regular season FCBL title but lost to the eventual champion Worcester Bravehearts during an extra-inning playoff thriller.

“The goal is the same thing every year,” said first-year head coach Mike Cassidy, during a practice session earlier this week. “We had a great year last year but when we lost that final game, it hurt.”

Mr. Cassidy served as an assistant coach on last summer’s squad. Determined to fulfill unfinished business, the new head coach sees room for improvement and a realistic shot at another title run.

“Building off of last year we want to win the regular season, we want to win the tournament and I want to help these kids develop into better baseball players so that when I send these kids back to their schools, their coaches will want to send more of their players here to the Vineyard,” Mr. Cassidy said.

Fresh crop of young pitchers will take the mound at Shark Tank. — Timothy Johnson

The coach has high hopes despite significant question marks in the roster.

One question is who will replace the production of former FCBL All-Stars Jon Mayer and Brian Campbell? Both sluggers finished last season within the league’s top-10 highest batting averages and RBIs. Also, a gaping hole exists at the top of the Sharks’ pitching rotation due to the departure of Soren Hanson and his team-leading five wins.

Citing the team’s high number of college underclassmen, Mr. Cassidy remains optimistic, especially with a fresh crop of young pitchers. Sophomores make up more than half of the roster’s 16 pitchers.

“A lot of these young guys might not have thrown a huge amount at their schools and their arms should be nice and rejuvenated,” Mr. Cassidy said. “It’s my job to put them in the best position for them to succeed.”

First year coach Mike Cassidy has high hopes. — Timothy Johnson

While Mr. Cassidy likes his young team’s potential, he trusts his returning upperclassmen to lead by example. Returnee Christian Bahlinger will be the Sharks’ opening day starting pitcher.

Bahlinger, a senior from Spring Hill College, dominated Division II competition with 1.72 earned run average. Lefty pitcher Mac Curran, a fellow senior from Division II UMASS Dartmouth, also returns.

The 2016 Sharks roster includes players from community colleges to Division I powerhouses.

“When we look at a player we never, ever, will look at what division they play,” said Sharks president Kyle Fiore. “Talent is talent.”

Mr. Fiore recruits from all 50 states when assembling the team’s roster. Over a third of the 2016 roster plays for a Division I NCAA program, including Boston College, Virginia Tech, Northeastern and Oklahoma.

Pre-season pep talk. — Timothy Johnson

Two players, Dominic Hardaway and Jack Nelson, will have to miss the Sharks’ first few games. Their college team, Boston College, earned its first postseason NCAA Division I tournament berth since 2009.

Not all the roster’s talent arrives by ferry. Vineyarders Jack Roberts and Tad Gold have been familiar faces in the Sharks’ dugout for a number of summers. Gold was later drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, and Roberts, a senior at Williams College, had planned to return this summer but has been sidelined by an injury. No other Vineyarders make up the roster this season.

Mr. Fiore, the Sharks president, said he loves staying in touch with all his past players. A quick text or phone call reminds him why he loves his job.

“Getting to know these kids who come from all over the country from 20 different schools and 20 different states is just special,” he said. “Who knows, they’re just as good as anyone you might see playing in the World Series.”

With 56 games ahead, every inning counts for the Sharks. — Timothy Johnson

Cassidy and Fiore share a common vision for the future of baseball on the Vineyard.

“As an organization, part of our goal is going beyond the Sharks and growing baseball on the Island,” said Mr. Fiore. “I think the Sharks are taking baseball on the Island to the next level.”

The Sharks continue to see their influence grow in Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s baseball program. According to Mr. Fiore, MVRHS’s baseball involvement recently blossomed to nearly 50 students. Many of the players also take part in youth camps offered each year, teaching Vineyard Little Leaguers throughout the summer.

With a full 56 games ahead, every game counts toward a championship season. Let the road to redemption begin. Play ball.

Tickets are available on the team’s website and at the ballpark located next to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. For more information, visit the team website at