'We found an identity'
After a down 2017 summer, the New England Frozen Lemonade Legion baseball program faced some questions heading into 2018.
How will the team respond? Do they have the talent? Where does Warwick baseball stand against the rest of Rhode Island?
NEFL would respond, finishing the regular season with a 13-8 record and making a final four appearance. NEFL dropped its first game to eventual champ Upper Deck, but came back the next day and beat South Kingstown 3-2 before falling to Gershkoff for its second loss.
“We showed heart. We came out with good energy, we were aggressive, we didn’t strike out much. When you put the ball in play you make things happen. We came out and showed some fight and put some good at bats together,” said NEFL coach Mike Fratus.
Fratus was proud of his club’s mental toughness, and felt that 2018’s success has helped the players regain their confidence while also reestablishing Warwick as one of the top baseball communities in the state.
“They had a down year last year and people were kind of down on baseball in the city … what is Warwick going to look like with baseball, what about NEFL, our junior team … I think we put Warwick baseball back on the map, especially in the Legion level. This was huge for these guys confidence-wise since some of them had a tough high school season so being able to win some games and have some fun really helped their confidence,” said Fratus.
Not only did this year’s NEFL team regain the respect of its opponents, but it also gained a new look and philosophy throughout the season.
“We found an identity. At the beginning of the summer we knew we had a good team but we didn’t know how good we were going to be. Our identity is that we bring the game to the other team. I’ve been preaching that for the last four or five weeks. We formed an identity and began bringing the game to them. It paid off for us. You put the pressure on the other team and sometimes they fold under it,” said Fratus.
More than anything, Fratus believes that the team found success by staying loose and enjoying the game of baseball.
“Fun, we have fun,” said Fratus. “We teach the game and try to help the guys build on the skills that they’re good at, improve the ones they’re not, but at the end of the day we have fun. You can’t be tight, you can’t be tense. You have to remember that you’re playing the game that you love. We keep it loose because if you’re tight, you’re not going to come through in those tough and tight situations.”