As Major League Baseball begins spring training, a different sort of preparation is under way for summer baseball on the Island. The Martha’s Vineyard Sharks, who were Future’s Collegiate Baseball League co-champions in 2018, have switched to the number-two rated collegiate summer baseball league in the country — the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

The change means heightened competition, more recruits from division one schools, and the presence of Major League scouts at the Shark Tank field at the regional high school.

It’s an exciting development for a team that was little more than an idea a decade ago.

“We’ve got 100 days until opening day,” Sharks general manager Russ Curran told the Gazette this week. “It’s going to be a competitive season. We’ve got to get ready.”

Team has joined the New England Collegiate Baseball League, sponsored by MLB. — Ray Ewing

Founded in 2010 as one of the four charter Futures league organizations, the Sharks have seen nearly 10 years of success as a collegiate summer team on the Island. The team won the Futures league championship in 2013 and shared the title last year.

But after a strong year in 2018, Sharks decided they wanted to swim in different waters, formally requesting admittance into the New England league. The Futures league went to court to try to block the move. In January the lawsuit was dropped, clearing the way for the league switch.

The New England league has been named the second best collegiate baseball league in the country by the Collegiate Summer Baseball Register, a college baseball recruiting and placement organization, right behind the historic Cape Cod League.

“That is huge . . . to be just below the Cape Cod League, it puts things in perspective,” Mr. Curran said.

A 13-team, wood bat league with franchises located in every state in New England, the New England league has existed for 25 years. Unlike the for-profit Futures league, it is a nonprofit, partly funded by Major League Baseball. The funding structure allows teams to receive tax-deductible donations and sponsorships, and the relationship with Major League Baseball gives players greater exposure on a national scale.

“The biggest difference is that the NECBL is supported by Major League Baseball,” Mr. Curran said. “They actually have an interest in the league. They make it a point to come out and watch the games, and they will make it a point even though we are all the way out here.”

He said the team hopes to incorporate an advanced analytical tool into their facility called TrackMan that uses Doppler Radar to measure spin rate and velocity from pitchers and exit speed and distance from hitters. The new league also has a full player evaluation day, where every member of the team will perform for Major League scouts.

“We may have to cordon off an area behind home plate for scouts to sit,” Mr. Curran said. “That would be pretty wild.”

NECBL alumni including three-time all-star and former number one overall draft-pick Stephen Strasburg, San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson, Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams, and outfielder Rajai Davis. In 2014, there were 100 NECBL alumni playing in Major League Baseball, and the league has had over 100 players drafted every year for the past 10 years. The Futures league had 28 players drafted in 2018. Six were Sharks.

Although the Sharks plan to bring back some top players from 2018, the team will change recruiting tactics.

“We’re adding some guys from big schools,” Mr. Curran said. “To be able to compete we have to recruit better. Better players from bigger universities.”

New players will include a first baseman from Purdue, pitchers from Kansas and Duke, and the team’s first player from the University of California at Berkeley, infielder Conner Bock. The Sharks will also be returning some of the stars from their team last season, including Oklahoma State player Josh Spiegel, catcher Nick Raposo from Wheaton, outfielder Kai Nelson from Georgetown, and leadoff hitter and last year’s defensive player of the year, Matt Chamberlain.

Playing for the University of New Haven in South Carolina, Chamberlain went 12 for 17 with four home runs this winter.

“He absolutely killed it,” Mr. Curran said. “It was unbelievable.”

Mr. Curran believes the slew of returning players, combined with a complement of new ones, will help the Sharks stay competitive in the new league.

“I think bringing back some of the guys who have been here before will help the transition,” he said.

He also hopes that the league’s nonprofit status and lighter schedule with 12 fewer games will allow more opportunities to give back to the Island community.

“We’ve had a lot of community involvement in the past two years, but we can have more,” Mr. Curran said. He envisions park cleanups, an increased presence at Island libraries, and expanded day camps for young ball players on the Island. A Little League clinic is planned for June 9.

He plans to print a media guide to sell at stadiums to help with sponsorships.

And continuing a long tradition, the team will be looking for host families for players. Anyone interested in hosting a Sharks player is asked to contact Mr. Curran at

Opening day is June 5 at 6:30 p.m.

“Nothing negative about what we’ve done in the past nearly 10 years,” Mr. Curran said. “But this is different.”