04/29/2020 5:34 AM
Article By: Matt Hyde
The loss of the 2020 Cape Cod League season brings all of us heartache and sadness. For those who have been fortunate enough to spend time at those magical fields, the cancellation of the season is the loss of one of life’s greatest treasures. For many, the Cape Cod Baseball League is the closest thing to Heaven that we experience here on Earth.
We are told every Summer that this is where the “Stars of Tomorrow Shine Tonight” - names roll off the tongue: Thurman Munson, Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Robin Ventura, Mo Vaughn, Nomar Garciaparra, Buster Posey, Todd Helton, Carlos Pena, Jason Varitek, Chris Sale, Tim Lincecum, Aaron Judge, Andrew Miller, Rich Hill, Evan Longoria, Lance Berkman, George Springer, Darin Erstad, Ron Darling, Buck Showalter, Joe Girardi, Aaron Boone...the list is endless. But beyond the names, there are the stories. Stories about future big leaguers that make legends come to life, stories about characters that make you laugh until you cry, stories about the best collegiate baseball prospects in the country competing every day on simple high school fields where admission is free and donations are welcome.
On a Summer night at those uncomplicated venues we get a sudden glimpse at greatness. We see the cream rise to the top. We find out who the true “baseball players” are, not the imposters who just have ability or accolades thrown their way, it’s on the Cape that they have to prove it, day in and day out, against the best. It’s baseball at its purest form - the players aren’t wearing a Vanderbilt uniform or a Michigan uniform or a Texas uniform, they are wearing the uniforms that represent 10 different towns and on those fields, you prove how good you are not by where you go to school but how you are able to play the game.
On the Cape, some players face true adversity for the first time, their first brush with the reality that they might not be the top dog and it’s going to take work to realize just how good they can be - during a Cape League Summer, some players run from the challenge and some players embrace it - those who stay, and stick it out, will be champions. For some who frequent the games, who set up rusty old lawn chairs faded by countless sunny Summer days, it’s not so complex or detail oriented - it’s about the cookies at Harwich, the burgers at Falmouth, the hotdogs at Cotuit, the bread bowl of chowder at YD - it’s about the 50/50 raffle, the chance to win a harbor cruise when you go to Wareham, the prediction of when the fog is going to roll in at Veterans Field - it’s about kids collecting autographs, families setting up blankets on a terraced hill, the caveat for returning a foul ball being a free ice cream from the concession stand - it’s the view of a perfectly manicured baseball field swept by a light ocean breeze.
There is a certain Norman Rockwell American Innocence that transcends time - when you squint at the setting sun of a Cape Cod afternoon, you can almost see not only the great names of the past who played on those fields but also the essence of why we love the game of baseball. There’s a certain peace and tranquility we all feel when we cross one of the two bridges and set up shop at our familiar spots - the longest drive between fields is 47 miles, there are some Summer days you can see 3 games if you want to.
Whatever draws people to the ballpark, no one ever forgets the sound of the ball hitting the wood bat, the atmosphere of each unique setting, the experience of Cape Cod League baseball. Our way of life will eventually be back, our country will eventually bounce back, the game of baseball will return to our lives, and in 2021 the Cape Cod Baseball League will return, thanks in a large part to the countless loyal legions of volunteers who sacrifice time and commitment to make things run effectively and efficiently. When it does, we will all be ready...and grateful.
About Matt Hyde
Northeast Area Scout for the New York Yankees
Grew up in Chatham, was a batboy for the Chatham A’s, Bullpen Catcher for the Orleans Cardinals, coached with the Falmouth Commodores, Chatham A’s, and Brewster Whitecaps, part of 2 Cape Cod League Championships teams (1993 Orleans and 1996 Chatham). Been scouting the Cape Cod League for the Yankees since 2006.