This summer, my ten-year-old grandson and ten other kids about his own age, encouraged by a large group of conspiratorial island adults, poured a pitcher of ice water over the head of an older island man who certainly had it coming.
In 1998, after too many years during which Vinalhaven had no organized baseball, Steve (Nipper) Ames and Dewey Ames cobbled together a bunch of kids they hoped would constitute Vinalhaven’s participation in organized Midcoast play. They were too late that first year, but the teams have certainly been very enthusiastic participants in Oceanside Little League ever since.
During that time, Coach Nip and the team have enjoyed the help of others—like Dewey early on—most of whom were very enthusiastic dads who’ve been assistant coaches while their own kids were part of the team. But Nip has been the stalwart bond that has held Little League alive and well, very well, in fact, on Vinalhaven.
The young pitcher who is responsible for this unbelievable achievement is Hunter Hamilton who’s been at it since he was eight.
On several occasions during those 23 years, Vinalhaven, given its much smaller school population, had to be given a waiver from regulators that would allow them to play an eight-year-old so they could have enough players to round out a team that’s customarily restricted to nine to 11-year-olds.
During this most recent, his 23rd consecutive year, Nipper led the Ravens to the end of a season that can rightly be described as stunning. It’s enough that they were undefeated. The best record ever recorded in major league baseball was 116 wins and 23 losses by the Cubs in 1906.
The Ravens’ record for the year was 12 wins, no losses, but the particulars of those12 wins would not be believed, were they not witnessed by so many of us and by so many awestruck opponents.
Let’s begin slowly. The total runs scored by the Ravens during the 2021 season was 134, in excess of 11 runs per game. The total scored by opponents was three. That’s 134 to 3!
But there’s more! Nine of the Ravens’ 12 wins were shut-outs and the three that weren’t account for the three runs scored by opponents.
But there’s more—rather much more! Two were perfect games! A perfect game is accomplished when each three batters in every inning is retired in order without ever reaching base. No major league pitcher has ever recorded more than one perfect game and certainly none has managed two in a single season. Only 23 perfect games have been recorded during 150 years of major league ball.
The young pitcher who is responsible for this unbelievable achievement is Hunter Hamilton, who’s been at it since he was eight but who will now, at 12, soon age-out of Little League and, given the particulars of his birthdate in the scheme of things, will not be eligible for high school ball for another year unless a successful petition for exemption is made.
Given Hunter’s extraordinary performance, the Raven fielders have not had the experience they might have gained if every now and then an opponent managed a hit. Still, practices have been and will continue to be focused on polishing the skills that will be needed for another successful season.
Over the years, Nipper has acquired a perceptive eye for the insecurities that attend adolescence and for the respective strengths of the kids who play for him and that’s been fodder, not only for creating teamwork and achieving strategic placement on the field, but for overcoming those apprehensions. The Ravens are a single cohesive and enthusiastic unit, devoted to the game, to one another and to their coach.
Phil Crossman lives on Vinalhaven and owns the island’s Tidewater Motel.