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Riding the Baseball Train

Members of the Wareham Gatemen board the CapeFLYER for their trip to Hyannis (photo credit Priscilla Merritt)
06/22/2016 6:59 AM

Article By: Priscilla Merritt

    On a day tailor-made for baseball, the Wareham Gatemen waited patiently for their ride to the field. But instead of waiting for the bus, they were, on that bright Saturday morning, waiting on a platform for the CapeFLYER to take them to Hyannis.  

    The CapeFLYER travels between Boston and Hyannis, with stops along the way, including Wareham, providing a convenient way to get to Cape Cod, and in this case, transporting the team in style and comfort to their afternoon game against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks.

    After boarding the train at Wareham Village, the players quickly spread out and made themselves comfortable, something they can’t easily do on the typical school bus. Some passed the time looking at the scenery out the windows, others listened to music and relaxed before another day of baseball. One group entertained themselves playing games, drawing from an arsenal of pastimes that every college ball players knows.
 

A group of Hyannis Harbor Hawks met the Gatemen at the Hyannis Transportation Center (photo credit Priscilla Merritt)

     They stopped briefly when the train halted In Buzzards Bay, waiting for the iconic railroad bridge to lower, so the train could cross the Cape Cod Canal. Tom Gay, president of the Wareham Gatemen, informed them of the uniqueness of the vertical lift bridge. It is the second longest such bridge in the United States, and raises and lowers as needed, to let a train pass over the canal. Gay joked, “Now that you’ve crossed the rail bridge, the only thing left is the Great Wall of China.”

    Head coach Jerry Weinstein and assistant coach, Don Sneddon, took advantage of the smooth and steady ride, and prepared for the upcoming game. Passengers on the train were curious about the abundance of baseball players. One passenger was all too familiar with the Cape Cod Baseball League. After asking if the Gatemen were part of the CCBL, Abby Gordon, who was visiting from California, revealed that her brother, Eric Valent, had played for the Cotuit Kettleers years ago. She remembers that he had enjoyed his summer on the Cape.

    In fact, Valent had played for Cotuit in 1996, two years before being drafted in the supplemental first round, number 42 overall, by the Philadelphia Phillies. He played at the major league level with the Phillies in 2001 and 2002 and finished out his professional career with the New York Mets in 2005.
 

The day included a tour of the Cape Cod Baseball League's Hall of Fame in Hyannis (photo credit Priscilla Merritt)

  The Gatemen were greeted by a group of Harbor Hawks and their mascot, Ossie, upon arrival at the Hyannis Transportation Center. A crowd of onlookers and fellow passengers took a few minutes to take photos and have autographs signed before the players walked the short distance down Main Street to the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, to tour the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame.

     John Allen, Director of the JFK Hyannis Museum, welcomed the team and encouraged them to look around and absorb the history of this prestigious organization they are now a part of. The players oohed and aahed over memorabilia and watched the documentary, Touching the Game, which runs on a loop in the Fenway room, with a quiet intensity, recognizing famous faces and realizing that they too, were now a part of the Cape League fabric.

     There was still a baseball game to play and the team made their way to McKeon Park, home field for the Harbor Hawks, where lunch was provided by the host team. Before batting practice, K.J. Harrison, a catcher from Oregon State University who hails from Hawaii, said that he had never ridden on a train before. “It was really great. Better than a bus ride, that’s for sure.” He also enjoyed the beautiful scenery, stating, “It reminds me a bit of Oregon.”

     But the highlight for Harrison was the Hall of Fame. “It was unbelievable. It just goes to show you how lucky we are to be here.” He also shared a sentiment felt by many Cape Leaguers, “When you see the history of the league you realize how blessed you are to be a part of it.”

     Tom Cahir, administrator of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA), rode the train from Wareham along with the players. Cahir has long been involved with the Cape League and played in the league in the seventies. He has contemplated the last couple of years how the CCRTA could partner with the CCBL. “When the train began running from Wareham to Hyannis it seemed to make sense to have the players travel by train instead of by bus.”

     The plans for the Cape League to pair up with the CCRTA has been over a year in the making. According to Bill Bussiere, CCBL Vice President, Director of Corporate Development & Deputy Commissioner, “This all started with a simple brainstorming session last year between the CCBL and the CCRTA. We wanted to help each other out.” After the success of this year’s excursion, Bussiere said, “We are hoping to build upon this and make it an annual event.”

     The CapeFLYER offers train service Friday through Sunday, and also on Monday holidays until Labor Day weekend. For more information and a complete schedule and fares, please visit www.capeflyer.com.