Muskrat calls Alton home for the summer



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JAMES BECK spent the summer living in Alton while playing for the Laconia Muskrats. Iona College - Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
August 22, 2011
ALTON — Technically speaking, James Beck wasn't too far from home.

But in reality, he was about as far away from home as possible.

Beck, who will be entering his senior year at Iona College just outside New York City, played this summer for the Laconia Muskrats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League and spent his summer living with Gwen and Cal Bennett of Alton.

The NECBL is one of a number of baseball leagues around the country that helps college players get more exposure. Probably the most famous of these leagues is the Cape Cod Baseball League.

"NECBL is one of the top leagues in the country," Beck said. "Baseball America ranked it second behind Cape Cod."

The league features players from all over the country including Beck, who is from Long Island, about 30 miles outside Manhattan.

For Beck, spending the summer in Alton was a unique experience, something that was nothing like what he experienced in New York.

"This was definitely a complete change of pace for me," Beck said. "Everything closes a lot earlier and runs a little slower.

"But it's a nice change of pace," he continued.

With his college just 15 minutes from New York City, Alton was certainly a new look at life for Beck.

"This is the nicest, most scenic place I've seen in my life," he said.

It also helped that the Bennetts' home is right on Lake Winnipesaukee, giving Beck a first-hand look at the amazing scenery that residents of the Lakes Region get to see every day of the week.

"I can look out the window and the lake is like 40 feet from me," Beck said. "There's nothing to complain about."

Taylor Dorsey, an intern with the Muskrats and a relative of the Bennetts, also lived in the home for the summer, so Beck had an advantage when it came to finding his way around the Lakes Region compared to some of his teammates.

Additionally, two of his collegiate teammates from Iona were also on the Muskrats, helping Beck to feel a little more at home in the Lakes Region.

"I had two other guys from Iona playing up here with me, so I had some friends," he said. "And having Taylor here made things easier with getting everywhere."

The Muskrats enjoyed a successful second season, making it all the way to the championship series, where they eventually fell to the Keene Swamp Bats and Beck was happy to be part of a successful step in the right direction for the youngest team in the league.

"Last year they made it to the playoffs, but were eliminated early," Beck said. "So making the championship game this year is a step up for the future."

Beck, who is one of the team's catchers, was absolutely thrilled with the level of play that he encountered in the NECBL during his summer visit.

He noted that there were six or seven guys who were drafted right before the season started, meaning new players had to be brought in for the season.

"The Cape Cod League gets all the attention, but this league definitely has its good prospects," Beck said. "The competition at school, you see some good competition, but this summer the competition has been more consistent than I've ever seen it."

Beck noted that from high school to college, the competition obviously leaps, as the best players from each high school team move on to college and the same thing goes for the summer leagues, as the best players from each college get the chance to improve their game against one another.

"Seeing such consistent competition is going to make me a better player," Beck said.

While the Muskrats had a pretty busy season, there were a few days off and Beck got to spend some time on the lake, which was a highlight of the summer months.

"I got out on the lake in the boat," Beck said. "The water up here is so nice and clear, it's like a giant swimming pool."

The Muskrat season came to a close after the championship series and Beck headed back to New York to get ready for his senior season at Iona.

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