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Joining Something Special

 I have been asked to write an introductory column now that I have taken on the role of web editor and senior writer for the Cape Cod Baseball League. So in the words once uttered by Tiger Woods when he joined the PGA Tour years ago, “Hello, world.”

     On second thought, scratch that. I don’t think I want to be associated with Tiger’s world these days.

    How about this: I’m thrilled to be part of this league and working with people like Judy Walden Scarafile, Paul Galop, Lou Barnicle, John Garner and Steve Wilson. I’ve been “on the job” for about a month, and I can assure you that I never realized how much time and effort these people put into their “labor of love.” I’m beginning to think I will need a second laptop to hold all the emails I receive on a daily basis concerning league matters.

    I covered the league for 24 years as a reporter for the Cape Cod Times. And I was a fan long before that, often finding my way to games during summer visits to the Cape.

    I didn’t write much about the league in recent summers, mainly because the paper’s CCBL beat writer, Russ Charpentier, does a fabulous job blanketing the league on a daily basis. But I always found time to take in a few games at Lowell Park, where I’d be certain to spend an inning or two standing next to Ivan Partridge ---- just listening.

    “Have a hit!” he would shout from behind the backstop, while clapping his hands. “C’mon, let’s have a hit!”

    Over and over and over.

    I’m sure those words have rung in the ears of every player who came through the Cape League for the past 40 years or so, from Mark Teixeira to Jacoby Ellsbury to Nomar Garciaparra to Jason Varitek to Kevin Youkilis to Tim Lincecum.

    Patrick Robinson, a summer resident of Cotuit and author of such novels as “Shark Mutiny,” “Kilo Class” and “Nimitz Class,” once called the Cape League “pure sport.”

    Robinson used to bring his friend, the late actress Lee Remick, to Lowell Park in the early 1990s.

    “Even when she was ill, she loved coming,” he said. “She’d look out onto that field and say it could be 1930.”

    I know I’m probably preaching to the choir when I tell you that the Cape League isn’t merely about baseball. It’s not even solely about quality baseball. Oh sure, the fact that it was the first collegiate summer league to switch back from aluminum to wood bats ---- which draws both the country’s finest amateur talent and a busload of Major League scouts ----- is a major reason for its appeal. But it’s not why books are still being written about the league and why movies have been made.

    In my view, the Cape League is unique because of so many little things that make fans feel like they’re part of something special. Of course, the fact that admission is free is big. Is anything free anymore? We’ve become so accustomed to paying for everything. I’m old enough to remember when people laughed at the notion of cable TV, insisting that no one would pay when they could watch for free. As for the concept of paying for bottled water? Yeah, right.

    The idea that you can walk into one of 10 Cape League parks on virtually any night in June, July or August and watch top-notch baseball without flattening your wallet (or at least making a dent in it) might seem inconceivable if those of us who live here took the time to really think about it. I wonder how many tourists arrive on the Cape each summer, oblivious to the league (Yes, there are people like that!), and are amazed to learn that the games (and the programs) are free. They pay to park at the beaches. They pay to dump their trash. At many restaurants during peak summer, they pay a valet for the “privilege” of dining at the establishment.

    But at Cape League games they pay only what they choose to place in the baseball cap that is circulated through the stands during games. Which, like Ivan Partridge, and the pro scouts with their radar guns, and the rosters being held down by a paper rock so as not to blow away, and the handwritten lineup cards posted on a cement wall, and the old-timers wearing windbreakers and sitting in lawn chairs, and the kids chasing down foul balls (and promptly returning them!), is all part of the league’s charm.

    Arnold Mycock, who after nearly 60 years of involvement might be called the godfather of the league, once put it to me this way. “It’s just a wonderful form of family entertainment. You see kids running around having a great time, people in deep conversation not even watching the game, and others just enjoying baseball.”

    Not a bad way to spend a warm summer evening.