Vermont Mountaineers base runner Austin Gauthier slides safely into home plate during a New England Collegiate Baseball League game.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. – For the second consecutive year, the New England Collegiate Baseball League is growing.

In 2018 the league announced its expansion to the unfamiliar waters of Martha’s Vineyard. And now there is another, more familiar destination with the return to Bristol, Conn.

NECBL commissioner Sean McGrath announced Thursday that the Bristol Blues will join the mix for the 2020 season. The Blues will play their home games at Muzzy Field, which seats nearly 5,000 spectators. It will be one of the biggest venues in the league, and the travel time each way for the Vermont Mountaineers will be 3 hours and 30 minutes.

The new addition gives the NECBL a presence back in the heart of Connecticut. The Blues are the third NECBL team in the Constitution State alongside the Danbury Westerners and Mystic Schooners, two of the oldest organizations in the league. The Blues were founded in 2015 by a leadership group led by Elliot Scheiner.

“It has been a dream of ours to be a part of the NECBL,” Scheiner said. “We are thrilled to be a member of one of the greatest summer collegiate league in the country. Our organization and the fans of Bristol will be excited to see the elite caliber of player that the NECBL possesses.”

The emergence of the Blues marks the third time an NECBL organization has forayed into the suburban Hartford area. The Bristol Nighthawks played in the league in 1994 and 1995. The Bristol Collegiate Baseball Club competed in 2010 before moving to Mystic.

“The NECBL is comprised of 13 scenic communities in New England which all share a passion for baseball and their hometown team,” McGrath said. “What makes them all special are the fan bases and individuals who lead these organizations. The Blues organization has done a tremendous job through the years at integrating the team in their community, and we look forward to bringing some of the best college players in the country to Bristol.”

Blues general manager Nick Rascati has a lot of respect for the quality of play in the NECBL and can’t wait for opening day.

“As a young boy, I fell in love with the game of baseball,” Rascati said. “As a player, coach and now general manager of the Bristol Blues, I am truly blessed to be here. The NECBL is a fantastic league, and I am thrilled to see the entirety of Bristol stacked up against the elite competition.”

Bristol is well-known as the home of ESPN, and it also has the nation’s oldest continuously operating theme park (Lake Compounce). The Blues will be slotted in the Southern Division with Danbury, Martha’s Vineyard, Mystic, Newport and Ocean State. With the league remaining at 13 teams, a 44-game schedule will still be utilized. The entire 2020 schedule will be unveiled during the upcoming weeks.

“On the field, we are confident the Blues organization and general manager Nick Rascati will be able to assemble a roster of elite level college players from every conference and every part of the country,” McGrath said. “The NECBL offers high-caliber college players the opportunity to play with and compete against some of the best players in the country each summer. On average, about 25 percent of our players are chosen in the MLB Draft annually.”

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