ROWLEY — Richie Fecteau’s baseball journey has taken him all over the country. Since graduating from Salem State, the Newbury resident has played in places like Arizona, Iowa, Utah, Southern California and most recently the Hudson Valley of New York.
But this week, after months away from the game due to the coronavirus’ impact on the sport, Fecteau finally had the opportunity to return to the diamond. And as luck would have it, the latest chapter of his baseball story opened right back where it began.
Fecteau returned to Greater Newburyport this week as a member of the Northeast Tides, a Seacoast-area club playing its inaugural season in the North Shore Baseball League. The Tides played their first-ever NSBL game on Tuesday against the Rowley Nor’easters at Eiras Park, a place where Fecteau honed his craft as a young player years ago.
“Last time I played on this field would have been my senior year of high school, so 2012, maybe before then,” Fecteau said. “I played for [Nor’easters coach Tim Southall] in junior legion for a long time, and this was always our home field, so it brings back some good memories playing on this field.”
Fecteau, a former Triton baseball standout, is the most successful player to come out of a Greater Newburyport school this past decade. A two-time All-CAL selection who batted .410 for his career with the Vikings, Fecteau went on to become one of the greatest players in Salem State history, graduating as the program’s all-time hits leader while leading his team to back-to-back MASCAC titles and three NCAA Tournament berths.
Following college, Fecteau embarked on a professional career after being drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the 39th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He played three seasons of minor league ball in the Angels system and then last year joined the Rockland Boulders of the independent Canadian-American Association, where he tied for the league lead in home runs with 16 in 78 games.
Fecteau had planned on playing with the Boulders, now known as the New York Boulders after the Can-Am League’s merger with the Frontier League, again this season, but those plans were thrown into disarray after the coronavirus effectively shut down the sport back in March.
With no clarity on what the future held, Fecteau said he took a job at Powerhouse Sports in Seabrook, which gave him an opportunity to stay involved and keep in shape in case the season resumed. Once there he connected with fellow minor leaguer Tommy Lawrence, a former UMaine star and Tampa Bay Rays draft pick who pitched Fecteau on the idea of joining the Northeast Tides.
“He asked me to come play for this team,” Fecteau said. “I was supposed to play [for the Boulders] this coming season. Still haven’t had a set in stone word on that season yet, so I saw this opportunity to play and wanted to keep playing.”
Upon hearing that Fecteau was interested, Northeast Tides coach Scott Bleakley didn’t need any convincing. Having just founded the Tides after more than a decade away from the NSBL, the former Kingston Night Owls manager said he was looking for good ballplayers and good people to fill out his roster, and Fecteau was everything he could have asked for and more.
“When Tommy told me that Richie may be interested in joining us, that was a no brainer,” Bleakley said. “Another thing I appreciate is we have a really young team, it’s all college kids with the exception of Tommy Lawrence and Richie. ... So Tommy and Richie are like the big brothers, it’s good to have around, they’re going to help me out a ton giving lessons and passing out wisdom.”
How long Fecteau sticks around will depend entirely on whether or not the Frontier League resumes play this summer, but even if his stay with the Tides is short, it will have been a mutually beneficial arrangement, he and Bleakley said. For Fecteau, the Tides provide an opportunity to play meaningful baseball against good competition, keeping him ready in case the Boulders come calling. For Bleakley, Fecteau provides a big bat in the middle of the lineup and an example for his younger teammates to follow.
That benefit was clearly evident on Tuesday when the Tides picked up a 3-0 win over Rowley in their inaugural game. Fecteau was all smiles throughout, and why not? After months of uncertainty, he was finally home.
“It feels great to be able to play again,” Fecteau said. “After all this stuff that’s happened, being locked in your house for a while, it’s nice to be able to come outside and even better to be able to play baseball.”