CHATHAM, Mass. - Every June when college players arrive, towns on the Cape seem almost dead, it’s quiet at night and games seem almost ghostly-empty, for the ocean breeze has not warmed yet and school’s still in-session for most tourist families.
In light of this, some big city players want to run for the hills when they first get to the Cape. Nope, we’re not in California anymore, boys.
Fast forward to July, and towns are a whirlwind of tourists, traffic, beachgoers, downtown shoppers, and most importantly, baseball lovers. In the heart of summer, baseball follows you through the Cape like an incoming tide.
You can’t go anywhere without catching a glimpse of signs inviting folks to attend evening games or hearing warm-up music blasting from your car window as you weave through each and every Cape Cod backroad.
Seven o’clock games under the lights become packed with locals who haven’t missed a game in 50 years and tourists who’ve never experienced a Norman Rockwell painting come to life until now.
Dads watch with sons who dream of playing on Veterans Field mound one day, just like current players once did; big league scouts crowd behind home plate with their radar guns, picking the best talent in baseball at their fingertips.
As the sun sets, the cool ocean breeze rolls in and the crack of the bat echos through the Cape. The lights turn on, illuminating the entire town, luring in crowds to see the boys of summer, those who were once strangers to one another or enemies on their college fields, come together and become teammates for one summer, friends for life.
One thing fans do not get to see is behind colorful crowds, the smell of popcorn that hits you like a wall when you walk into the ballpark, and Cape League uniforms, is a strong foundation of host families, volunteers whom the team would be nowhere without.
Every year in Chatham, my family, along with 27 other families spread along Chatham’s sandy coast, offer up their homes to a strangers-- young men who come to this foreign town to play for the Chatham Anglers for a summer on Veteran’s Field.
These families have the pleasure of hosting college baseball players from some of the best baseball schools in the country. We’ve had young men from UCLA, Army, Sacred Heart, Cal-Berkeley, Pepperdine, Kennesaw State and the list goes on.
Hosting players has given families the opportunity to watch these young men, who begin the summer as strangers and end the summer as family, improve over a summer of sturdy competition in the Cape, and eventually the opportunity to see the men that become a part of our summer families get drafted to the MLB.
But families do not only have the pleasure of hosting these young men; the boys also have the pleasure of becoming a part of these wonderful peoples’ homes in the quaint little town of Chatham. Some players have experienced delicious omelets made in the Schmitt family’s home for breakfast, while other young men had the pleasure of gaining 12 new host brothers, sisters and cousins while staying at Streeter family’s house.
Five or more Chatham players live together in Miss Mary Ann's home, becoming closer than they ever imagined to the boys who used to be opponents on their college fields.
Fishing trips in the Atlantic are a given if you’re staying with the Falvey family, an experience most of them have once they come to Chatham.
A lucky player or two will also have the pleasure of staying with the West family, where the President of the Anglers invites a few players to stay in his home above the ballpark, making Veteran’s Field, literally, their home for the summer.
While players work hard all summer to make their dreams come true while playing baseball in the Cape League, families strive to make a home for these boys who’ve traveled from across the country to our little beach town.
These host families truly represent the core of what the Cape Cod Baseball League is all about.