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Nothing green and gold can stay


Sean Gulliver clearly remembers his first St. John’s Senior Baseball League base hit with the Shamrocks.It was the summer of 1981 and he was 16, a call-up from St. Pat’s, the club’s junior affiliate at the time, and facing veteran Feildians knuckleballer Bill Wheeler, “the Phil Niekro of the senior league for many years.

“I hit a knuckleball back through his legs that probably landed about 12 feet out on the outfield grass,” recounts Gulliver, the former Shammies bat boy who would become the team’s starting shortstop in 1983.

On Thursday night at St. Pat’s Ball Park, Gulliver collected his last regular season hit, a double off the Gonzaga Vikings’ Matthew Peterson, one of two extra-base hits in an 8-2 loss.

After four decades patrolling the middle infield — and sometimes third base — for the green and gold, Gulliver, who’ll turn 51 at the end of the month, has decided to call it a career.

“I knew I would play as long as I could because I love the game so much. Without baseball, I don’t know where I’d be, honestly.

“I’ve had a great run and I have no regrets. To play with this team for so long ...,” Gulliver says before trailing off, his eyes filling with tears.

The Shamrocks — like soccer’s Holy Cross and St. Lawrence — are a sporting mainstay in this province.

In the 1980s, they were the most dominant team in St. John’s senior baseball, winners of nine straight titles and boasting a lineup that included many St. John’s Capitals’ stalwarts and future Hall of Famers.

When Gulliver broke in, most of the players, including his older brother, Gary, were at least a decade older. He was the kid on a squad of that included the likes of Dave Buckingham, Brian Power, Dan Reardon, Peter Cornick, Pat Cochrane, Bob Kent and Bas Whelan.

“I knew it was a special group and I was playing with some of the best players to ever play the game in Newfoundland,” Gulliver says of his early days.

One of those teammates was Cornick, and the two developed a fast friendship that’s lasted to this day. They would warmup together before every game, and when they weren’t playing ball, they would spend hours talking baseball and strategizing. Their families even vacationed together.

“He’s a special teammate and everybody should have had a chance to play with him,” Gulliver says of the Shamrocks’ longtime catcher.

Cornick, who left the Shamrocks a few years back to play intermediate ball with Feildians, was on hand Thursday night for one last warmup toss.

“In the mid-1990s, there wasn’t a better hitter in Newfoundland, in my opinion,” says Cornick, who noted Gulliver had a Rod Carew style at the dish, referring to the Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, a contact hitter who recorded a .328 career batting average.

“He could play anywhere in the infield, and he knows the game inside out.”

When the Shamrocks lost most of its core roster to retirment in the ’90s, it was Gulliver, Cornick says, who worked the hardest to keep the team alive and strong.

“He was the kid on the team in the 1980s, but through the ’90s, 2000s and this decade, he’s the one that’s shepherded it,” insists Cornick.

Over his 30-plus seasons with the team, Gulliver has had the privilege of playing with two generations of Shamrock players. Buckingham, Power, Whelan and Kent all had sons who would go on to join the team and play for Gulliver.

“These guys are in their late 20s and early 30s and now I’ve got two of my own coming through,” Gulliver says of sons Parker and Jaxson, who joined him in the Shamrocks’ starting lineup Thursday night.

“This whole Shamrock mystique has now carried on through three generations and he’s been right in the middle, keeping it alive” adds Cornick.

Of course, the always-humble Gulliver insists he’s had plenty of support along the way. A lot of thanks goes to his wife, Karen, former coaches Paul Moores and Brian Farewell, and his brother, Gary.

“I was in his back pocket when I was a kid. I wanted to be everything he was,” Gulliver says of the player many consider to be among the very best to toil the greener pastures of St. Pat’s. “If he didn’t start playing baseball, I don’t know where I’d be. He did a lot for me.”

Gulliver’s playing days may be coming to a close, but he’s certain to remain a fixture on the team’s bench for years to come.

koliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @telykenn

“I hit a knuckleball back through his legs that probably landed about 12 feet out on the outfield grass,” recounts Gulliver, the former Shammies bat boy who would become the team’s starting shortstop in 1983.

On Thursday night at St. Pat’s Ball Park, Gulliver collected his last regular season hit, a double off the Gonzaga Vikings’ Matthew Peterson, one of two extra-base hits in an 8-2 loss.

After four decades patrolling the middle infield — and sometimes third base — for the green and gold, Gulliver, who’ll turn 51 at the end of the month, has decided to call it a career.

“I knew I would play as long as I could because I love the game so much. Without baseball, I don’t know where I’d be, honestly.

“I’ve had a great run and I have no regrets. To play with this team for so long ...,” Gulliver says before trailing off, his eyes filling with tears.

The Shamrocks — like soccer’s Holy Cross and St. Lawrence — are a sporting mainstay in this province.

In the 1980s, they were the most dominant team in St. John’s senior baseball, winners of nine straight titles and boasting a lineup that included many St. John’s Capitals’ stalwarts and future Hall of Famers.

When Gulliver broke in, most of the players, including his older brother, Gary, were at least a decade older. He was the kid on a squad of that included the likes of Dave Buckingham, Brian Power, Dan Reardon, Peter Cornick, Pat Cochrane, Bob Kent and Bas Whelan.

“I knew it was a special group and I was playing with some of the best players to ever play the game in Newfoundland,” Gulliver says of his early days.

One of those teammates was Cornick, and the two developed a fast friendship that’s lasted to this day. They would warmup together before every game, and when they weren’t playing ball, they would spend hours talking baseball and strategizing. Their families even vacationed together.

“He’s a special teammate and everybody should have had a chance to play with him,” Gulliver says of the Shamrocks’ longtime catcher.

Cornick, who left the Shamrocks a few years back to play intermediate ball with Feildians, was on hand Thursday night for one last warmup toss.

“In the mid-1990s, there wasn’t a better hitter in Newfoundland, in my opinion,” says Cornick, who noted Gulliver had a Rod Carew style at the dish, referring to the Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, a contact hitter who recorded a .328 career batting average.

“He could play anywhere in the infield, and he knows the game inside out.”

When the Shamrocks lost most of its core roster to retirment in the ’90s, it was Gulliver, Cornick says, who worked the hardest to keep the team alive and strong.

“He was the kid on the team in the 1980s, but through the ’90s, 2000s and this decade, he’s the one that’s shepherded it,” insists Cornick.

Over his 30-plus seasons with the team, Gulliver has had the privilege of playing with two generations of Shamrock players. Buckingham, Power, Whelan and Kent all had sons who would go on to join the team and play for Gulliver.

“These guys are in their late 20s and early 30s and now I’ve got two of my own coming through,” Gulliver says of sons Parker and Jaxson, who joined him in the Shamrocks’ starting lineup Thursday night.

“This whole Shamrock mystique has now carried on through three generations and he’s been right in the middle, keeping it alive” adds Cornick.

Of course, the always-humble Gulliver insists he’s had plenty of support along the way. A lot of thanks goes to his wife, Karen, former coaches Paul Moores and Brian Farewell, and his brother, Gary.

“I was in his back pocket when I was a kid. I wanted to be everything he was,” Gulliver says of the player many consider to be among the very best to toil the greener pastures of St. Pat’s. “If he didn’t start playing baseball, I don’t know where I’d be. He did a lot for me.”

Gulliver’s playing days may be coming to a close, but he’s certain to remain a fixture on the team’s bench for years to come.

koliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @telykenn

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