By Will Wetzel
As the smallest state in the Union, Rhode Island does not have the luxury of being a burgeoning state ripe for professional sports team to make their home here. The Ocean State had only one team, the Pawtucket Red Sox, colloquially and affectionately known as the “PawSox,” that they could call their own.
In a decision excoriated by many native Rhode Islanders and PawSox fans, the Pawtucket Red Sox agreed to relocate to Worcester, Massachusetts for the start of the 2021 season. That gives the team a somber two-year farewell tour before McCoy Stadium becomes empty for good.
The majority Pawtucket residents are understandably apoplectic. The team had loyally represented the city since it was founded in the 1970s.
“This is their home, don’t send them to Worcester,” Pawtucket resident and PawSox fan Andrew Howe added to WPRI.com.
Negative fan sentiment to the relocation was clearly evident in online polls. In a poll posted on Twitter, WPRI conducted a survey asking Pawtucket residents if they would still drive to Worcester to watch a “WooSox” game. The answer was a resounding no.
The displacement of Rhode Island’s only sport team was a few years in the making and was a multistep process. The team, unfortunately, got caught in a political predicament as legislative haggling and an overreach by team owners in their Providence ballpark proposal proved to drive more opposition than support for the project. Coupled with the failed business venture of 38 studios, Rhode Island taxpayers were already on the hook for $75 million dollars.
With the entire state knowing that the Pawtucket Red Sox will be gone in two more seasons, they now have a new challenge: to keep public interest in baseball alive.
In order to accomplish this, Rhode Island baseball fans will turn to their local college scene where numerous top prospects are emerging as talented players destined for long baseball careers. One of these colleges that are primed for a successful future is in the heart of Providence, Rhode Island’s capital city.
The average baseball fan may not have heard of the small Division III school of Rhode Island College, but for those who ardently follow baseball, they know that their future is exciting, hopeful, and optimistic—three characteristics that are antonyms to the PawSox’s situation. The college is receiving three of Rhode Island’s best high school prospects from the Class of 2019. Cameron Anderson, Dylan LaBelle, and Ross Audet all committed to the small Division III school once they graduate from high school this spring.
But that isn’t the only exciting news emerging from the small college. The Anchorman have also ushered in a new era for the upcoming season. At the start of the 2018-2019 Academic Year, Rhode Island College hired Frank Holbrook, a Rhode Island native, as head coach. His main task—building a program that will meet the high expectations in the Rhode Island community.
“I am honored to lead the Rhode Island College baseball program as the next head coach,” Holbrook said to GoAnchorman.com, Rhode Island College’s Athletics website. “I would like to thank Don Tencher, President Frank Sánchez, Art Pontarelli and Eric Blanchard for this great opportunity. I look forward to working with talented student-athletes who want to be a part of a culture with high expectations on the field, in the classroom and in the community. With the vision and support of our administration, our goal as a baseball program is to win championships and that will be the expectation going forward.”
Winning championships has been an elusive pursuit for Rhode Island College. Last year, they failed to compete for the Little East Conference Championship, concluding the 2018 campaign with a fourth-place finish.
Holbrook had spent the last five years at Wheaton where he left his mark with numerous accolades and a positive reputation. His main responsibilities as Wheaton were serving as the program’s recruiting coordinator and developing the Wheaton College pitching staff.
The success of the Wheaton pitching staff is the major reason why Anchormen fans should like this move. Under Holbrook’s tutelage, the Wheaton pitching staff was developed into a well-rounded bunch that produced stellar results. In the 2016 season, the Wheaton pitching staff had the second-lowest WHIP in the country at 1.16 and one All-American closer who led the nation in saves with 13. Over the five years Holbrook was at Wheaton, he coached 21 All-Conference players, 10 All-New England players, and two All-Americans.
Meanwhile, the Anchormen could certainly benefit from Holbrook’s arrival. RIC’s pitching staff struggled all season in 2018:
Statistics came from GoAnchorman.com
Despite the pitching staff’s ongoing issues, the RIC Anchormen did manage to post a winning record (20-15) in 2018 thanks to their stellar offense, which in most games made up for their pitching. Over the course of the year, the Anchorman carried a team batting line of .331/.420/.463.
The hope with Holbrook’s appointment is that he can ignite moderate improvement in the pitching staff. Coupled with an offense that consistently performs well, the hope is that the Anchormen can compete for the Little East Conference Championship next year and beyond.
With Rhode Island’s main team exiting the state in the near future, the Anchormen have an opportunity to fill the void. With a new proven head coach and talent on the horizon, the Rhode Island College Anchormen have a chance to become one of Rhode Island’s top baseball teams.