The final game of the season had no significant consequences whatsoever for the North Fork Ospreys, and yet the heat was on.
Oh boy, was it on.
On Sunday, when the Ospreys closed out their 2019 Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League season with an 8-1 loss to the Long Island Road Warriors at Bellport High School, the maximum temperature in Bellport was 97 degrees, according to Weather Underground. Now that’s hot, any way you cut it.
Not that one heard any of the players really complaining about the extreme heat.
“It’s baseball,” Ospreys shortstop Tyler Gillespy said. “I’ll take it anyway it comes, honestly, you know what I’m saying.”
Perhaps that attitude shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. After all, baseball is largely a summer game, and many of the HCBL players emanate from warm parts of the country, so this was nothing new to them.
Miles Kelly of Mattituck, a former Shoreham-Wading River High School player who plays for the Road Warriors, is a Long Islander, but he’s also no stranger to playing in hot weather. He had played for a Florida travel team.
“It was 98, 99 [degrees] down there,” he said. “I’ve played in this before, but some kids are not happy about it.”
As Ospreys manager Patrick Riley sees it, hot weather is part of the game. “I think some guys are more accustomed to it, but I don’t know if guys get used to it,” he said. “I mean, it’s really hot out and … you got to really grind it out and it’s a mentality thing. You can say it’s hot or whatever the case is, but that’s baseball. You want to play at a high level, you’re going to have a lot of hot weather.”
Joe Tardif, the Ospreys centerfielder from Mattituck, looks at the weather from a different perspective. “It’s tough, but I’d definitely rather this than 15 degrees up at school,” said Tardif, who plays for SUNY/Cortland, where it’s awfully cold in the early spring.
Players stayed hydrated and neither team took batting practice in order to conserve energy for the game, cut to seven innings in consideration of the weather.
“It’s tough,” Road Warriors manager Bruce Kern said. “Our team is all from Long Island, so we’re used to cold weather. They threw a little curveball at us with this heat, but they did fine.”
Some players actually seem to prefer playing in the heat.
“I like playing in the heat better,” Kelly said. “I feel like the ball travels more when you’re in the hot weather.”
Gillespy could compare conditions with what it’s like back home in Raleigh, N.C. He said, “In North Carolina, yeah, this is a nice fall day.”
• Vaz was missed
The Ospreys didn’t have one of their most productive players for their late-season playoff push. Javier Vaz, an infielder for Louisiana State University, left the team a week before the end of the season. Patrick Riley said Vaz’s college coaches shut him down.
“So that’s hurt,” Riley said. “You know, other teams are going through similar stuff and that’s not to make excuses, but we lost some guys over the past week and it’s been tough.”
Vaz compiled a .333/.883/.448 slash line with two home runs, 10 RBIs, 20 runs scored and 13 stolen bases.
“He had a great season for us,” Riley said. “Defensively, he’s very athletic, a strong arm. He makes the routine play look easy. Offensively, we batted him one through three and he did a lot of good stuff. He could steal bases. He’s got a bright future and we were lucky to have him.”
• Kelly compliments pitching
Miles Kelly, who played for the league champion Riverhead Tomcats last year before joining the Road Warriors this summer, has noticed a change in the HCBL. “The competition’s a lot better than it was last season,” he said. “Every team has a lot of stud pitching.”
Kelly, who attended Rutgers in 2018, finished a semester this past spring at Rockland County Community College and committed to Pace last week. The infielder had quite a freshman season for Rockland, with a .379/.497/.716 slash, seven homers and 44 RBIs in 39 games.
“This summer I wanted to hit a few more home runs and that might be affecting my average a little bit,” said Kelly, who took a .179 batting average with a homer and 15 RBIs into Long Island’s final regular-season game Monday against the Tomcats. “I’m trying to hit the ball up more, and the average has gone down.”
• The next level
Angus McCloskey is no stranger to summer leagues. The Ospreys pitcher spent the previous two summers playing in the Long Island Collegiate Baseball League before making his debut in the HCBL. “This is just much better competition, and for myself, I mean, I wanted exposure,” he said. “I want to play at the next level. That’s what everyone in this league wants to do … The competition, the knowledge that you surround yourself with out here, it’s just next level.”
Photo caption: North Fork centerfielder Joe Tardif, who plays for SUNY/Cortland, where it’s awfully cold in the early spring, said playing in the extreme heat is “tough, but I’d definitely rather this than 15 degrees up at school.” (Credit: Bill Landon)