Martha's Vineyard joins NECBL, becomes league's 13th team

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The managing partner of the Martha's Vineyard Sharks said he's confident 13 will be a lucky number for his team.

That's because the Sharks have left the Futures League and will be the new 13th team in the NECBL this summer.

"I hope so," Sharks managing partner Scott Lively said. "I think the way the NECBL is going and has a 25-year history, I'm looking forward to competing at that level."

The Sharks replace the Plymouth Pilgrims in the 13-team NECBL. The Pilgrims dropped out of the NECBL after the 2018 season, its sixth in the summer wood bat college baseball league.

"We felt like we were becoming a brand," Lively said in a phone interview with The Eagle. "We felt like the NECBL was better exposure for that brand.

"For our players, our fans and sponsors, to have what the NECBL offered was a better opportunity."

Martha's Vineyard will move into a six-team Southern Division in the NECBL. The Northern Division, which includes the North Adams SteepleCats, will remain a seven-team division. The league will have a 44-game schedule that will be unveiled later this month.

The Sharks were one of the original four teams in the Futures League along with Torrington, Nashua and Seacoast, when the league began back in 2011. Nashua is the only one of the original four still playing in the Futures League.

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"Our time in the FCBL had run its course," Lively said. "I don't thing the Cape Cod League was going to take us. It seemed like a really good fit."

Martha's Vineyard heads to its new league as the Futures League's co-champions in 2018. The Sharks beat Brockton 2 games to 1 and split the first two games with Worcester. Inclement weather forced postponement of the deciding game, and the lateness of the schedule forced the teams to share the championship.

The Sharks bring a history of success into the NECBL. They won the 2013 Futures League title, won division titles in 2014 and 2015, and won the regular-season title in 2013 and 2018.

"We are also confident in the Sharks' ability to recruit a high caliber of college student-athletes from around the country in order to compete in one of the most premier summer collegiate baseball leagues in the country," NECBL commissioner Sean McGrath said in a statement from the league. "On the diamond, the Sharks have continued to raise their baseball profile, and we are confident they are prepared to compete in the [NECBL]."

Martha's Vineyard had been seventh in the Futures League in attendance over the past four years, but had seen some steady growth. In 2018, the Sharks cracked the 1,000-fan mark, averaging 1,069 spectators per game. The Sharks drew 856 per game in 2017.

Comparing that to attendance numbers in the NECBL, the Sharks would have been fifth in the 13-team league in attendance in four of the last five seasons.

"We have a really unique demographic of fans," Lively said, referring to a core group of full-time island residents plus the folks who summer on the Vineyard. "I feel like our attendance has always been strong."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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