When I was a little kid, summertime was nothing short of magical. The kind of stuff you only read about nowadays, it seems. Fireflies in glass jars, all manner of fun games with friends, and days that stretched well into the evening further enhancing our sense of freedom. The world has changed, but there is a way to capture that summertime magic in a way that is uniquely Cape Cod: baseball.
Only a covert sports fan when I moved to Cape Cod many moons ago – though I did love baseball – I hadn't yet heard of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Even so, I'd see the lights of myriad fields blazing at night and wonder what they were all about. With more than a decade of sportswriting under my belt, I am confident that I now know that answer: magic.
If you've been to a Cape League game, you understand. If you haven't, but have been meaning to, make this your summer to do so. There is truly something singular and special about Cape League games.
First and foremost, there is baseball. But not the kind where popcorn will set you back half a month's rent, and simply getting to a game requires praying you can get a handful of tickets all in the same row and that the weather will hold out. Nor is it the kind dictated by seven- or eight-figure paychecks.
No. This is baseball at its purest, its finest, featuring the best players from colleges across the country all holding in their hearts a love of the game most have played since they were barely walking. That love shines through in each game, too, from the friendly banter in the dugouts to the jovial (and patient) post-game meet-and-greets.
Then there are the fields, some lit, some not, all boasting that soft green grass you'd love to wiggle your toes in, but know that doing so would go against all manner of baseball tradition. Instead, such grass is admired from afar (mostly), along with clean white baselines, and the reddish brown of the pitcher's mound, complete with divots worn into the hill by the cleated feet of last night's pitchers.
But the Cape League is more than just baseball. At so many of the parks where the fields are found, children and their families are able to escape, if only for nine innings, into a world where the glaring light of digital screens takes a backseat to the peachy hues of the sun setting above the treeline at Veterans Field. Where parents join forces in keeping one eye on the game and the other on the joyous throng of kids – theirs and others – as they race after foul balls and each other as games of tag stave off the restlessness of sitting too long on the bleachers.
Within that throng of young faces, new friendships are made, some that will last a lifetime, not unlike those between Cape League players and their host families, many of whom remain in contact long after a season ends.
The air is pungent with salt, hot dogs, shell peanuts and bug spray, and its chorus one of wooden bats smacking into new leather balls, the voices of fans uniting in harmonious cheers over double plays, stolen bases, and home runs, with the merry echo of the laughter of children as backup. Above, the sky fades to velvet as day flows into night, with stars above and on the fields below.
This is Cape Cod Baseball, the magic of summertime.