Jun. 3—GROTON — Everything is in place for the Mystic Schooners to begin their 10th season playing summer baseball.
The Schooners will have enough members of their talented and deep roster on hand for opening night on Thursday at Fitch High School despite being without nine players who are competing with their college programs in the NCAA tournament.
Vaccination cards, which are required to play in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, have been collected.
Manager Phil Orbe is in charge once again and Dennis Long, the pitching coach and co-owner, will begin another season as well.
Of course, Orbe has a long list of things he’s worried about before the season’s first pitch against the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks at 6:05 p.m.
“I’m wondering if we’re going to get an out (Thursday),” Orbe said before Wednesday’s workout at Fitch. “That type of thing. … It’s always the mindset, are we going to be good enough? When in all likelihood, we are. That’s always the way my brain operates.”
One thing Orbe doesn’t have to worry about is Mystic extending its string of consecutive playoff appearances to eight, the best active streak in the league.
For the first time, all 14 NECBL teams will automatically qualify for the postseason. That decision was made earlier this year after last season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other changes made due to COVID include teams only competing against opponents within their division in order to limit travel. Mystic belongs in the Southern Division with Danbury, Valley (Holyoke, Mass.), Newport, Ocean State (Wakefield, R.I.), Martha’s Vineyard and newcomer Bristol.
The Schooners gathered for the first time on Sunday, held their first practice on Monday and scrimmaged against an under-20 AAU team on Wednesday.
“It’s been a little crazy,” Orbe said. “We are very, very fortunate we had eight position players show up on Sunday and about 14 pitchers. I’ve heard some horror stories from other managers in the league about having their first practice with like four guys, or seven or eight.”
Orbe is especially looking forward to this summer after last season’s cancellation.
“To be back at the ballpark and be able to work with high quality, talented, collegiate players like this, it’s good,” Orbe said.
The Schooners will have three local players on the roster, with North Stonington’s Bowen Baker, Waterford’s Jared Burrows (Hartford) and East Lyme’s Trystan Levesque (Rhode Island) all on the pitching staff. Ben Dellacono (Holy Cross), an outfielder from Stonington, also is part of the team.
Orbe expects about 12 pro scouts to be in attendance on opening night to watch 6-foot-2 left-handed pitcher Rohan Handa, who attends Yale but had its spring season canceled.
In about two years, Handa went from throwing in the low 80s to reaching 96 this spring while working out. He’s expected to be drafted as high as the top five rounds.
“It’s an amazing story,” Orbe said.