Hailing from as far as California and Missouri, college players traveled great distances to make it to the North Shore Navigators’ first practice on June 1.
But for University of Hartford sophomore Kyle Gauthier, the trek to Frasier Field doesn’t stretch outside the city he was born and raised in.
Returning for his second season with the Navigators, the Lynn native will take the mound at 7 p.m. Saturday in the team’s home opener.
After watching Gauthier develop last season with the Navs, Manager Jon Cahill gave him the nod to start Opening Night.
“Kyle was one of our key pitchers last year, and this year he’s going to take on more of a starting pitching role,” Cahill said. “I want him to be one of the leaders on the team.”
Gauthier said this season is more about taking command of his pitching rather than achieving big numbers.
Yet both he and Manager Cahill know the value of Gauthier’s hometown roots.
“This is Kyle’s hometown,” Cahill said. “I hope he takes pride in that every time he goes out. He’s not only representing the Navigators, he’s also representing himself out there.”
By Cahill’s design, Gauthier will pitch just three innings before being relieved by the next man up.
Cahill said he wants to assess each pitcher during opening week, which began on Martha’s Vineyard, where the Navigators will take on the Sharks.
“By the end of game five of the start of the season, every pitcher will get at least three innings pitched,” Cahill said. “From there we’ll be able to dictate our rotation and see who’s going to have what role on the team.”
Junior Cole Chandler of Point Loma Nazerene University in California will be the first pitcher to see the mound for the Navigators.
Following two more games on the road at Old Orchard and Seacoast, the team expects a full house at Frasier Field on Saturday.
At last year’s home opener, the stands were packed with nearly 2200 fans.
Gauthier said the crowd—which will include his family and friends he’s grown up with his entire life—adds excitement to an already electric Opening Night.
“It’s right down the road; it’s competitive baseball,” he said. “What more could you ask for?”