The future of the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks is looking bright — and a lot more comfortable, too.
When the Sharks, who play in the wooden-bat Futures Collegiate Baseball League, begin their third season in June, they will do so at a much-improved home field, situated at the regional high school. Planned upgrades to the field include new seating, reworked fencing and the coup de grâce for the Sharks organization: lights.
“We’re definitely going to have lights, I’m excited,” Sharks general manager Jerry Murphy said in an interview Tuesday.
The makeover is intended to improve fan experience, as well as the team’s viability. While the Sharks have been a steady draw during the past two seasons, they have not attracted the crowds needed to break even each year. A schedule consisting entirely of day games meant that the team was competing with the beach for fan attention; additionally, three games last year had to be suspended because they extended past sunset. The installation of lights will counteract that problem, Mr. Murphy said, and was a priority for team ownership after the 2012 season.
This year, all home games except four will have a start time of 6:45 p.m. The team arranged its schedule so that its first two games will be away match-ups, to allow more “breathing room” for the park renovations and specifically the light installations, Mr. Murphy said.
Six lights in total, including two in the outfield, will be added to the ballpark. Because the field is so close to the airport, the Sharks had to receive permission from the Federal Aviation Agency to put in lights.
“That kind of held us back; we didn’t get that until the end of January,” Mr. Murphy said. But in the next month, he said, everything fell into place, from financing to approval from the high school.
“We’re in a good state,” he said.
Other upgrades to the ballpark include repositioning the fencing supports to allow for better visibility and the installation of stadium-style seating. Foundation for the seats was scheduled to be poured this week. For the past two seasons, fans have used the high school bleachers; the new seats provide back support and are slightly larger than typical ballpark seats, Mr. Murphy said.
And their pedigree is top-notch: the seats to be added behind home plate are from Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. The major league ballpark began renovations last year, completely replacing its old seating, and the refurbished seats were put up for sale.
The Sharks already have set their roster and coaching staff for the upcoming season. Mike Morris, last year’s assistant coach, moves into the head coaching spot, while former Sharks players Anthony Corona and Ryan Morris take on assistant coaching duties.
Two Vineyarders will compete for the Sharks this year: outfielder Tad Gold, a member of the inaugural Sharks squad, and infielder Jack Roberts, who is currently a senior at the regional high school. Although the Futures Collegiate Baseball League is, as the name implies, for college players, the team is allowed to have one exception to include a recent high school graduate. Roberts, shortstop and occasional pitcher for the Vineyarders, will be playing baseball for Williams College next year.
For the non-Vineyard players, a key part of the Sharks experience is staying with local families; Mr. Murphy said the team is still searching for people to take in a Shark for the summer. “We still need quite a few host families,” he said. Those interested in hosting a player this year can contact Doris Clark at 508-693-5833 or 774-563-8752.
The Sharks are also seeking to raise money to pay for the lights and seating. For information on how to help, visit mvsharks.com.