Valley Breeze

The North Providence Breeze 07-08-2020

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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North Providence Edition Sports & Recreation JULY 8-14, 2020 valleybreeze.com @ NORTH PROVIDENCE – After getting cut from his high school base- ball team as a junior and from a col- lege ballclub three years later, Nick Feola could have easily packed away his catching gear, called it a career, and probably pursued another sport or pastime. But on both occasions, the North Providence native kept his chin held high and went back to work to become a better player. As a result, he returned to action and not only gradu- ated from Bishop Hendricken High with a state championship ring, but also Rhode Island College with a .338 career batting average. Feola, whose baseball career started in the North Providence West Little League in the late 2000s and is going strong with the North Providence- based R&R Construction Knights in Newport's Sunset League, checked in with The Breeze on Monday morning and everything's going well with the 23-year-old catcher. Feola earned his bachelor's degree in business management at RIC and is currently looking to step into the business or banking world. He has a neat side gig as a catching instructor at the New England Sports Training complex in Warwick, and he's count- ing down the days until the start of his fifth season with the Knights. And while he was talking about the present and the future, Feola also spent some time talking about his playing career and his senior sea- son with the Anchormen getting cut short in the middle of March after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NCAA to put a halt on the rest of the spring season. Feola's career has made quite a few stops since his days playing for Christiansen's Fine Milk in the NPWLL and Admiral in the North Providence-Smithfield Babe Ruth League. He also spent the 2014 and '15 seasons suiting up for the North Providence entry in the Connie Mack Baseball League, and he saw action with the South County-based Ocean State Waves in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. And, of course, he's seen his career take a couple of timeouts, but those setbacks wouldn't stop Feola from get- ting back on his feet again. "I want to let kids know that if you get cut from something or hit an obstacle or adversity like I did, then you shouldn't give up," he added. "If you love something and want some- thing and you put your mind to it, you can achieve it. Getting cut twice didn't just make me a better player – granted I worked hard and the results obviously showed how much I worked – but that made me a better person and built my character." Feola's first setback came in the spring of 2014 during his junior year at Hendricken. Hoping to make the Hawks' baseball team, which even- tually went on to capture its third straight state title, Feola was among the players who got cut during the preseason workouts. For someone who dearly loved baseball and was accustomed to play- ing it each spring, the news devastated Feola. "I went home to my father, and my parents both told me, 'You're going to Hendricken for school,'" he recalled. "'You're not going there for baseball.' But my dad told me, 'Don't let this bump in the road affect your future. If you still want it, go train this year and try out again next year.'" Feola took his father's advice, religiously worked out at the Extra Innings complex in Warwick, and that summer, joined the Connie Mack team "and another team to get more reps," he added. The following spring, Feola tried out again for Hendricken, "and (head coach Ed) Holloway came up to me and said, 'You had a very good try- out,'" Feola added. "'We usually don't add seniors to the team' – because Hendricken likes to grow its program with younger players – 'but we want you to back up Gian.'" Gian, of course, was Gian Martellini, who was arguably the best catcher in the state last decade, a two-time R.I. Gatorade Player of the Year who continued his baseball career at Boston College. Feola and Martellini are very good friends, and "if you gave me a dollar for every person that ever told me, 'Weren't you Martellini's backup?' I'd be rich," Feola added with a laugh. Feola knew that backing up Martellini meant seeing very little playing time, "but there was a game where Gian got hit (by a pitch), and Holloway just gave me a look to get ready," Feola said. "I ended up play- ing the next three games and doing very well. I think I got six hits, but then obviously when Gian came back, I went back to the bench." The Hawks ended up capturing their fourth straight state champion- ship, and the following spring, Feola was back in action, playing for Anna Maria College in Paxton, Mass. And even though he started right away and enjoyed some success with the Amcats, he knew deep in his heart that he wanted to continue his career at a school closer to home. That fall, he enrolled at Johnson & Wales University and went out for the team the following spring, only to get cut from it before the Wildcats embarked to Myrtle Beach for its season-opening road trip. "I told my dad, 'Here we go again with me getting cut. Should I just hang 'em up?'" Feola recalled. "And he said, 'If you want something in life, like I've always told you, then go get it. Don't just quit on yourself." Again, Feola went back to the draw- ing board and continued to train, and when the summer started, he rejoined the Knights and set his sights on trans- ferring to RIC. In 2018, he earned a spot on the Anchormen's roster as one of their four catchers, and he made the most out of his limited play- ing time by going 4-for-10 with his only career home run in five games. But last season, Feola's career took off under the guidance of RIC's new head coach, Frank Holbrook. Splitting the catching duties with classmate Sam Franco, Feola batted .360 (18-for- 50) in 16 games, scored 15 runs, and collected two triples, a double, and 17 runs batted in. His .444 on-base per- centage was also the third-best on the team for players with more than 55 plate appearances. "I give (Holbrook) a lot of credit because he's one of the best coaches I know," Feola noted. "He actu- ally made me the player I was, even though I only had him for two years. He made baseball a lot about life les- sons and how to become a man, and that's what I loved about him." With his sights set on receiving his bachelor's degree last fall, Feola didn't plan on returning for the ballclub this past spring. But he needed to take another class, and as a result, he was eligible to play. Feola's spring got off to slow start offensively, as he only wen 2-for-11, but the Anchormen were off to a 7-1 start for the second year in a row, and optimism for the rest of the season was running high as RIC headed into the final doubleheader of its season- opening Florida road trip against Penn State-Altoona. That's when the news broke that the NCAA was going to cancel the rest of the spring season. "(Holbrook) took us into right field to tell us the news, and he got choked up," Feola recalled. "We were all cry- ing, and he pulled me aside and said, 'This is your last game ever, right?' I told him it was and he said, 'Go make the most of it.'" And that he did. In the second game of the doubleheader, a 7-3 vic- tory, Feola went 1-for-3 with a two- out, run-scoring single to right-center in the fifth inning. "It was a crazy time to remember, but it was a special time to remem- ber," said Feola. "You could see the brotherhood and the bond that was formed throughout the year. A lot of us were local kids, and it was a touch- ing moment and it was bittersweet at the end." Great catch Despite getting cut twice, Feola enjoys excellent baseball career, caps outstanding run with RIC By ERIC BENEVIDES Valley Breeze Sports Editor sports@valleybreeze.com In 26 career games with the Rhode Island College baseball team, North Providence's NICK FEOLA batted .338 and had an on-base percentage of .444. He col- lected 24 hits in 71 at-bats, scored 20 runs, and added 25 RBIs. Feola is currently play- ing for the North Providence- based R&R Construction Knights of the Sunset League. In your time of need, The North Providence Breeze will print your loved one's full obituary for a small charge. The paper also places the obituary on our Web site, valleybreeze.com, as soon as it is provided to us by your family's funeral director. Notification to friends and neighbors is also made weekdays on WOON-AM radio announcements. Should you desire our services, kindly inform your funeral director. The full charge is $90, or $125 for lengthy obituaries, in the edition of your choice. You may place the obituary in any of our other editions for $50 each. Thank you. OBITUARIES

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