CHATHAM – On a balmy summer afternoon, Paul Galop sat on the front porch of his home doing a little Sudoku in his favorite rocker, another Cape League summer in the books, Galop's last as commissioner. Though his retirement from the League approaches, don't expect Galop to take up a more permanent place in that rocker. He's got bigger plans, although baseball will always be a part of his life.
Galop first became involved with the Cape Cod Baseball League in the summer of 1980 when he and his wife Laurie moved to Chatham.
“There was a sporting goods store downtown called Webster's Sport Shop, where Carmine's Pizza is now. The store was half sporting goods and half yarns and needlepoint and stuff like that,” Galop said. “We were here on vacation, and long story short, we ended up buying the store.”
The couple lived above the shop in a one-bedroom apartment. The manager of the sporting goods store was also the director of the Chatham Athletic Association, which bought uniforms from the shop. He opted to turn the directorship over to Galop, along with the uniform purchases.
“Come to find out the profit margin on uniforms is almost incalculable,” he quipped.
Galop remained a part of the CAA until 1987 when his banking career took him and Laurie to New Hampshire for two years. After returning to Chatham in 1989, Galop once again became a part of the CAA, working as treasurer and then president of the organization. Then, in 2003, when commissioner Bob Stead stepped down, Galop was asked to take on the role.
“I was approached by some people around the League to see if I'd be interested in doing that,” he said. “So I got elected commissioner in 2003 and that's where I've been.”
Galop's list of positives about the job is lengthy, but at the top is working with the myriad people comprising the League.
“Working with the volunteers, working with the players and the coaches,” he said. “Every year is different. All the kids are different, but the same goal is to give them a good summer and prepare them for professional baseball, and without the volunteers none of that would happen, ever.”
To the volunteers, Galop gives a huge shoutout.
“When I say that the Cape League would not be here it if wasn't for the volunteers I'm not kidding,” he said. “The volunteers at these 10 franchises just give it up all summer, their homes, their time. You see bankers selling hot dogs, builders selling 50-50 tickets and flipping burgers. I'll miss the volunteers. I'll miss the players. I'll miss the coaches, the general managers. It's been a wonderful ride.”
Galop also appreciated the unique freedoms of being commissioner, which allowed him to attend games at ballparks across the Cape.
“I could kind of come and go as I wanted throughout the summer,” he said. “Whereas when I was with Chatham we'd be down there at 4:30 setting up merchandise, and at 10 minutes to seven I'd be doing the starting lineups on the PA system. It was always the same, which was fine. But [the commissioner job] was a whole different variety. A whole different level in terms of people that you meet and deal with nationwide. It was accepting a challenge that I thought I might be able to add some value to.”
Among the challenges Galop has faced during his 15-year tenure, along with the day-to-day work of organizing games and various League events, were changes regarding players on each of the League's teams.
“The heavy influx of agents, the importance of the draft. Most recently would be the innings limitation for pitchers.” he said.
Galop said when he first joined the League, team rosters numbered around 18 players. The limitations on pitchers inspired an increase to 30.
“The Cape League record is like 117 innings pitched, a guy from Chatham. We'll never see that again,” Galop said. “I'm not sure any pitcher this year threw over 40 innings. You have a lot of influence from agents sending their guys home because there's nothing else to prove; you've got college coaches bringing their kids home because they've reached their pitch count or innings count, and you've always got the issue of tobacco that we try to curb as best we can. We're dealing with 19- to 22-year-old guys who you can't be with 24/7 so you try to guide them as best you can and hope they'll make good decisions on and off the field. There's a different challenge every year.”
But with the challenges were also the highlights.
“The biggest highlight would be that the board of directors in the league had the confidence in me to have me doing this for 15 years,” said Galop. “They trusted me with representing them, basically, because that's really what I do.”
But seeing a former player reach the “Bigs” never gets old, Galop said.
“When you see kids that progress from the Cape League, how well they do in the draft, and then...bang, you notice that they got called up, that's very exciting for the host parents, for the volunteers at each franchise because they all had a little part in that,” Galop said.
The relationships formed through the host family arrangements are lasting, as Galop knows well.
“We hosted kids for about 13 years,” he said. “It's really a spectacular experience. There's a lot of people that are apprehensive to do it because they think 'uh-oh, we've got 21-year-old guys, what are we going to do?' Ninety-eight percent of these kids are spectacular. They're very respectful. You develop friends for life. You get wedding announcements, birth announcements, they come out here with their families and show them where they had the best summer of their lives and they look you up. It's pretty cool. You've got guys that became pretty high profile. Mike Lowell, Todd Frazier, Eric Byrnes.”
Baseball, said Galop, has always been a part of his life.
“No matter what goes on around here my wife will say, 'It always comes back to baseball,'” Galop joked. “A tree could fall down and there's a giant acorn in the tree the size of a baseball. I'll go, 'look! I wonder if I could throw a curveball with this!' and she'll say, 'It always comes back to baseball.' My daughter Kate says the same thing. So does my son, Peter. I think it gets in your blood. It is the American pastime.”
But Galop said the time for a new adventure has come.
“The amount of energy that this position demands, requires, deserves, I'm not sure I've got that left in my tank,” he said. “I think you need somebody younger, energetic, with fresh ideas. I loved every minute of it and I'll be there every step of the way they need me. But my tank is running low and that level needs to be maintained.”
In January he'll hand the reins over to Eric Zmuda, former general manager of the Falmouth Commodores.
“I want him to put his own stamp on things, which he will do,” Galop said. “But on the same token I don't want him to flounder or be confused, so I'm doing everything I can to make a smooth transition.”
As Galop's days as commissioner wind down, he's got one hope.
“Did I leave it better than I found it and was I fair?” he said. “That's all that matters to me. That I was fair and that I left it better than I found it.”
But what does Galop plan to do if not baseball?
“My wife and I want to do a little traveling,” he said. “She's been a baseball widow for about 37 years and always supportive. But I won't be far away. I'll always have what I call the red, white, and blue of the Cape League in my blood.”