PLYMOUTH — Three months ago, Forges Field in Plymouth was not much to look at.
But in the time since, it has become home to the expansion Plymouth Pilgrims of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, which wrapped up its first season last week.
The park boasts a scoreboard as well as Internet access, lights, and a sound system. Its outfield fence is now fully covered with banners from sponsors that have purchased space for advertisements. The players themselves tended the field.
“Our guys work on it every day,” said coach Greg Zackrison of Bridgewater. “They’ve rebuilt the mounds, they’ve redone the batter’s boxes, they got a scoreboard, it’s a lot of stuff.”
Zackrison was brought on board Jan. 6, the day after the new team was approved by the league. He was hired by Newport Gulls vice president and part owner Chris Patsos , a Scituate native who was appointed to be the new club’s general manager.
A few weeks later, the two sat down for their first meeting, which took place at Al’s Restaurant in Plymouth.
“That was our office for the first few weeks,” Patsos said. “You need a vision.”
The Pilgrims, who finished 15-25 and in the league basement without a playoff berth, have come a long way from those days at Al’s.
The players have come from all over, like Galt, Calif., native Joe Setum , who came to the East Coast from the University of Nevada to play for the Pilgrims this summer. He has lived in Plymouth with host parents P.J. and Lisa O’Hanley who opened their home to Setum and teammate Scott Robinson of Florida.
That same welcome was reflected by fans in Plymouth, who showed up 1,200 strong for opening night on June 8 against the Sanford Mainers. Attendance was 1,100 at Forges Field for the final home game, a 2-1 win over the Mystic Schooners on Tuesday.
Dan Fratus, the only Plymouth-born player on the roster, said he has been getting steady support around town.
“There’s bulletins around town,” he said. “People come up to me and ask me about it. Pilgrims baseball is definitely the big word for the summer.”
Attendance dipped after the opener to an average of 400 per game.
Assistant coach Anthony Lauretto said that despite the team’s shortcomings, just having its name out there has helped build the fan base, and he hopes the team can build on this first season to generate more support in the community.
Lauretto was the head coach of the Duxbury American Legion Post 223 team last year and said he knows how passionate the area is about baseball, including a loyal following for Plymouth North High School. For some fans who are on vacation, a Pilgrims game caps an itinerary of beachgoing and whale watching before they go home.
Zackrison said the casual observer might think the team just shows up and plays, but there is plenty of behind-the-scenes work to get players on the field.
“We still have to figure out their flights home,” Zackrison said. “How are they getting to the airport, when’s this guy coming in — at one point we were down to one catcher, we had to find another catcher as soon as possible. People don’t realize, they see nine guys on the field and they think it’s easy.”
Patsos said he expects things to go smoother heading into Year 2 of an expansion team because of the work the team put in this season. He also predicts that current players will help build the Pilgrims’ reputation nationwide when they return to college and talk about their summer.
“You wrap it up and you roll into the next year,” Patsos said. “Our sponsors are all set for next year, out host families are set for next year, all you’ve got to do is pick the team. We’re going to have a hell of a team next year because people want to come to Plymouth.”
Quincy American club bound for World Series
Coach Tim Kelly’s undefeated (11-0) Quincy American 12U team flies to Indiana on Wednesday for the Cal Ripken World Series, which begins on Friday.
The club clinched the New England Regional Championship title in Marlborough and scored 90 runs while only allowing 13 in its 11 games this season.
Last year, competing as 11-year-olds, the American squad, which is returning its 2012 players with one addition, went undefeated and won the New England Regionals, except its season ended there because no World Series for their age bracket existed.
Manager Mark Free said a World Series title is possible this year, but his team cannot bank on last year’s success to carry them this season.
“They realize it’s going to be a tough one,” Free said.
Pitcher Colin McGrath struck out 15 as he threw a perfect game against Mount Washington Valley, N.H., on July 20, and Free said he expects McGrath to continue his strong season. He said hurler Connor MacDonald will also be expected to lead the pitching staff.
The American team, which opens the World Series against South Lexington, Ky., on Friday, has a guarantee of four pool-play games. Single-elimination rounds begin the following Wednesday
Pembroke-based team sweeps Plymouth Rock
The Boston Prospects 16U tournament team, which is out of Atlantic Baseball in Pembroke, went 4-0, including two shutouts, to win the Plymouth Rock U16 Wood Bat Classic last Sunday.
Manager/pitching coach Jim Mann’s club topped the Atlantic Mariners 16U squad, 7-3, to claim the title. The Prospects’ shutouts came against the South Jersey Roadrunners (3-0) and the Dugout Dawgs (1-0) on Saturday and Sunday respectively.Peter Cappiello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @petecapps.