The Providence Grays held the first-ever Rocky Point Historic Baseball Festival at the park last week, hosting teams from all throughout the northeast that competed in all-day event.
Historic baseball provides players the opportunity to experience what ballplayers in the 1800’s did during their time on the diamond. Games at the festival were played according to 1864 and 1884 rules, and players dressed the part as well.
Rocky Point has a well-documented baseball history. The park was the only field in New England that held Sunday baseball games from 1891-1917. Babe Ruth also played an exhibition game at the site when he played for the original Providence Grays back in 1914.
Jon Henson, a pitcher for the current Grays who also manages the club’s social media and outreach, was excited to finally hold the festival that has been in the works for the past few years.
“We were really excited with the turnout and it means a lot. We have been working toward this for a few years now, we had played a double header (at Rocky Point) two years ago and we were happy to hold this event. It really is the ideal setting. We don’t really have a spot to play our home games yet, but this is the perfect spot to hold this festival. I think that this was a really good starting point for us,” said Henson.
Teams outside of Rhode Island included the New York Mutuals, Connecticut Bulldogs, Boston Union and Dirigo BBC of Maine.
Players were excited to hit the field at the historic venue, and to enjoy the day of baseball with an ocean view.
“This is now one of the few historic baseball festivals in the country, and is one of about half a dozen festivals in the northeast where it really got its start. (The out of state teams) were really impressed with the setting and being right on the water, as well as being very interested in the connection with the Providence team of the past,” said Henson. “It is a nice, open field that can hold many fans but also provides an opportunity for others at the park to stumble upon it.”
Henson and company hope to bring the festival back every summer and to host even more teams.
“We are planning on bringing this back next year and are hoping to expand it as much as we can. We want to make this a big showcase event every year and we hope that it will expand moving forward … maybe getting more teams to compete and to turn it into a weekend event instead of just a one-day event,” said Henson, who also encourages all fans to get involved with historic baseball. “It’s an amazing experience. Most people grew up playing some type of baseball, either youth, high school and beyond. This is a completely different experience, things like playing without a mitt, things that are completely different from what you grew up learning. Once you pick it up you get hooked, you build your summers around it and you can’t get enough of it.”