CHATHAM ─ The music has stopped at Veterans Field. While some neighbors of the ballpark might feel a sense of relief, true baseball fans know what the silence means: another summer season of the Chatham Anglers has come to a close.
Fans knew it was baseball time when the tunes started playing through the sound system beginning in June, peppered with the announcements of players at bat, the on-field action, how big the 50-50 pot had grown, and the ever-popular seventh-inning singing of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” by the team's younger fans.
Once the A's kicked off their weekly kids' camps, the music filled the air in the mornings as well, a cheerful reminder that America's favorite pastime was being passed down through those who might one day become the talk of the Major League to those still developing a love of the game.
Like many teams, the Anglers' early roster included a number of temporary players, some of whom, such as JB Bukauskas and Mike Rivera, would move on to Team USA, while others, like Willy Boyd and Trevor Gay, were there to enjoy a short stint on the team before the full-timers arrived.
Those full-timers included first year players John Aiello, DJ Artis, Orlando Garcia, Hagen Owenby, Gunnar Troutwine, and Jake Palomaki, as well as second year veteran Kyle Adams.
It was a bumpy season for the A's, who kicked off the summer of 2016 with a 7-4 loss to Falmouth on June 11, opening day for the illustrious Cape League. The struggle continued throughout the regular season, resulting in a 17-26 record that included what longtime head coach John Schiffner said were some “real stinkers.”
Yet there was something about the 2016 Anglers. Quite unexpectedly, after an admittedly difficult season, the team came together to defeat Harwich in the first round of the playoffs with two 3-1 victories across three games to advance to the next round.
Though they fell to the Y-D Red Sox, the team that was crowned League Champions on Saturday for the third year in a row, their spirits remained high as players reflected on their Cape Cod adventures. At the top of the list of “What will you miss the most” was fellow teammates, host families, and new friends.
Pitcher Simon Mathews said that along with improving his skills, the relationships formed with his teammates made it a memorable summer.
“Sitting down in the bullpen and talking and hanging out while we're going out and everybody's giving it their best shot,” Mathews said. “I think what's special about baseball is the people you play with. Ninety percent of the game is just hanging out with your friends, and I think that's what I'm going to miss the most.”
Catcher Hagen Owenby enjoyed his first summer with the Anglers immensely.
“All the wonderful people I got to meet, all the wonderful teammates that I had, all the wonderful coaches I had, it was just a blast,” he said.
Owenby came to Chatham from East Tennessee State, where he was named to the SoCon All-Freshman Team and played in 47 of the team's games. Traveling to the Cape, he said, was a singular experience.
“Being on the Cape is just where I want to be for summer ball,” he said.
Gunnar Troutwine was one of three Chatham players named to the 2016 East Division All-Star lineup, and in his 27 games with the A's, had 22 hits and 10 runs, with 11 RBIs. Troutwine, who hails from Wichita State, said it was the connection with his teammates that made the 2016 Chatham season special.
“Team camaraderie,” he said when asked what he'd miss most. “It was an awesome time playing with this group of guys. It's probably one I'll never forget.”
So what will Schiffner remember most about his 2016 team?
“Their heart,” he said. “The heart they showed all summer long. Just amazing heart. They wouldn't give up and they had such a great attitude.”
Schiffner added that his favorite moments from the season were Chatham's walkoff wins against Orleans, courtesy of Donovan Casey, Stuart Fairchild against Y-D, Orlando Garcia against the Whitecaps, and Tanner Gardner against Wareham.
“To beat Orleans, that pushed us into the playoffs. That was incredible,” Schiffner said. “The Tanner Gardner home run. Those are phenomenal. That just shows you that's what the team has. They've got that spunk.”