The Cape Cod Baseball League's annual First Pitch Brunch had something for everyone. Sunday's event at the Ninety-Nine in West Yarmouth featured old acquaintances, new jokes, a tribute to fallen friends and the dawning of a new season as executives, team managers, personnel and media members gathered to usher in another summer of the nation's premier amateur baseball.
After Cape League director of public relations and broadcasting John Garner Jr. stepped up to the podium to welcome everyone, he requested a moment of silence in memory of five men who were very special to the Cape League and to baseball: Dick Sullivan, Lennie Merullo, Dick Bresciani, Art Quirk and Bill Enos.
“These men created legends out of the league while also being legends themselves,” Garner said.
Next, Cape League president Judy Walden Scarafile took time to thank two of the league's two vitally important sponsors, the Ninety-Nine Restaurants and Curry College, as well as the roughly 200 volunteers who keep the league running smoothly year in and year out.
“This kind of local volunteer support is what diversifies our league from other summer amateur leagues and sets us apart,” Scarafile said.
CCBL commissioner Paul Galop made brief remarks before presenting the Cape League championship banner to Y-D Red Sox president and general manager Steve Faucher and field manager Scott Pickler after an exhilarating run to the 2014 title.
Before digging in to brunch, the audience was treated to a viewing of the recently aired “60 Minute Sports” segment featuring the Cape League. The special provided a behind-the-scenes view of the league, which has nurtured such MLB stars as Nomar Garciaparra (Orleans, 1993) and Mark Teixeira (Orleans, 1999) and is widely known as the most prestigious summer baseball league in the world.
“Norman Rockwell would be smiling down as he sees the Cape players sign balls for children, notices the volunteers selling snacks and T-shirts, and the free admission into the games,” Galop said in an interview that was part of the segment, which aired in late April on Showtime.
A mainstay at the brunch is the opportunity to hear from the 10 team's field managers. Rob Bradford, senior editor and beat writer for WEEI.com and the Boston Red Sox, served as master of ceremonies for the second year in a row and provided fitting introductions for the Cape League's skippers.
The 2015 field managers for 2015 are as follows: Steve Englert, Harwich Mariners; Pickler, Y-D Red Sox; Jamie Chevchik, Brewster Whitecaps; Cooper Farris, Wareham Gatemen; Harvey Shapiro, Bourne Braves; Mike Roberts, Cotuit Kettleers; Jeff Trundy, Falmouth Commodores; John Schiffner, Chatham Anglers; Kelly Nicholson, Orleans Firebirds; and Chad Gassman, Hyannis Harbor Hawks. While many of the managers are longtime friends, they are also competitors who are looking forward to another thrilling summer season ahead.
Each manager spoke fondly of the league and the profound effect it has had on their lives, their families and their careers. All of the managers expressed excitement for the upcoming season to begin, and some compared the league opener to Christmas Day.
Nicholson, the Firebirds' field manager, thanked everyone in attendance and spoke in a heartfelt manner about how the Cape League is like a family and how everyone supports one another.
Longtime Anglers skipper Schiffner polled the audience to find anyone who was experiencing the Cape League for the first time. Schiffner said despite his more than 30-year affiliation with the league, he feels that kind of excitement every year.
A sentiment that echoed throughout the event was the vital importance of the league's countless and tireless behind-the-scenes personnel.
“We don’t have owners. We have volunteers,” Scarafile said.
Galop added, “Without the volunteers, there is no Cape Cod Baseball League.”