Originally founded in 2008 by Montauk resident Rusy Leaver, the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League (HCBL) wasn’t much of a league at all. Featuring only one franchise, the Hampton Whalers, and functioning as just a division of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, the organization was a modest attempt at establishing an athletic tradition in the Hamptons. In 2009, in a flurry of development, four more teams joined the division, boosting the membership to five with the arrival of the Southampton Breakers, North Fork Ospreys, Westhampton Aviators, and Riverhead Tomcats (The Hampton Whalers were subsequently renamed the Sag Harbor Whalers). Another two teams (the Center Moriches Battlecats and Shelter Island Bucks) joined up in 2012, and beginning this year, for the first time in its history, the HCBL will truly be its own league, rather than just a subdivision of the Atlantic League.
Along with this increase in development has come a corresponding increase in recognition. The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League is now one of only twelve summer leagues to be recognized by the MLB, the list of which includes the much-esteemed Cape Cod League. The HCBL is also now big enough and established enough to host its own all-star game, the inaugural version of which will be held Saturday, July 13, at the North Shore Cochran Park in Southold. President Brett Mauser said they had also entertained the idea of holding interleague competitions with other established and recognized organizations like the Cape Cod League, but said he wanted to focus on “getting everything in order at home first.”
The league is exclusively made up of college athletes who are recruited in the fall and placed into teams in March. The official rosters are established a month into the spring season, to allow the coaches and league officials to get a more well rounded idea of the players and their roles on the team. This system keeps the teams even and competitive and balanced in terms of position. The league “ensures that the players are spread out for the sake of parity and personal development,” Mauser explained. “You don’t want to put three 2nd basemen and no shortstops on one team.”
In its history, the Hamptons League has featured more than 100 universities and over 600 different players. Many of these players have gone on to play professionally, both in the major and minor leagues. In its five-year history, 21 players have been drafted, including Nick Tropeano of the Riverhead Tomcats and Stony Brook University, who was drafted by the Houston Astros minor league organization, and Nick Ahmed, University of Connecticut/Westhampton Aviators alumnus who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 2nd round. This year’s draft reflected the great strides the league’s administration has made in developing the league, with a dramatic increase of major league representation. The number of professional athletes drafted out of the Hamptons League doubled with an additional 20 players graduating to major and minor league baseball in 2013.
The administration is still focused on continuing to develop and improve the league, but they also took the time to appreciate how far they’ve come in such a short time. The ultimate goal is a day when kids growing up in the East End can watch major league stars who played just down the street from them, and President Brett Mauser doesn’t think that day is too far away. “It’s wonderful to see them grow into the ball players they become,” he said.
For more information and this season’s schedule visit www.hamptonsbaseball.org.