For the first time since World War II, there will be no summer baseball in Chatham. In fact, there will be no baseball at any of the Cape’s ballparks until 2021 after the Cape Cod Baseball League officially canceled its 2020 season amid concerns regarding COVID-19.
News of the cancellation was announced by the League on April 24 via a statement on their website that reads: “The Cape Cod Baseball League Executive Committee has voted unanimously to cancel the 2020 Cape Cod Baseball League season. The decision was based on the health concerns and safety needs of all involved. Following CDC guidelines and medical recommendations, the league determined it would be impossible to guarantee the safety of players, coaches, umpires, host families, volunteers and fans during this unprecedented health crisis.”
Cape League President Chuck Sturtevant said that the decision was a tough one for everyone involved.
“It was not just me, but for everyone, very, very difficult,” he said. “In my 34 years it was something I thought we’d never have to do.”
Sturtevant said that League officials are still determining the financial impact of the decision, which affects not only the overall League but also each franchise, including the Chatham Anglers, the Orleans Firebirds, and the Harwich Mariners.
“I’ve asked all the franchises about canceling the rental agreements and coaches’ contracts, Sturtevant said. “My guess it’ll take a few weeks or more and then we can go from there.”
Sturtevant also noted that players signed for the 2020 season have had their contracts released at this point, allowing them to play in local leagues, should those take place.
“The only good thing is, if there is a good thing, with the change in the Major League draft, this means that more high school kids will probably be going onto college if they can, so there may be some more top players available than otherwise,” Sturtevant said. “That’s how we’re trying to look at it anyway.”
While the health and safety of players, host families, volunteers, and members of each of the franchise athletic associations was the priority in making the decision, Sturtevant also offered a reminder that baseball fields associated with area high schools are also closed until the end of June in many cases, making it unclear when Cape League teams would gain access.
Mary Henderson, president of the Harwich Mariners, said she feels for the many locals that support the League during its summer season.
“We have tremendous support from our local sponsors, including restaurants, hotels/motels and many family-owned businesses, who will unfortunately all be impacted by the team not playing at Whitehouse Field this summer,” Henderson said. “Fans come to support the Mariners, but also support the local businesses as well. Our fan base, including players families and friends, come in from out of town and stay at our local hotels/motels, eat at our local restaurants and shop in our local stores.”
Henderson said the team’s community connections will also be missed.
“From reading at the library to having lunch with residents in the nursing homes to visiting children in the schools, the players, coaches and staff have always been very active in the community,” Henderson said. “Our youth baseball clinic has been a staple for many year-round families, as well as families who plan their summer vacations based around the six weeks that the clinic runs. Lifelong friendships have come from kids meeting at clinic and continuing their relationships each summer.”
Henderson wasn’t certain what would happen regarding the current roster.
“That's hard to answer at this point,” Henderson said. “There are some changes being made within the NCAA regarding eligibility for college baseball players, so you may see some of the same names that were on our roster this year, but different circumstances may lead to new players coming for 2021.”
Henderson said the absence of one of the Cape’s longstanding traditions will be felt across the region, with much that will be missed.
“I will miss so much that it's hard to focus on one area,” Henderson said. “I will miss the interaction with our great group of host families, who are all part of our extended family. I will miss seeing the same faces that I have seen come to Whitehouse Field year after year. I will miss spending time with our great group of volunteers, I will miss seeing our former players return to Whitehouse Field with their own families, or the former players who have become MLB scouts and are coming back to see all of these players. I will miss the interaction with the players, who all know what an honor it is to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League. I will miss the kids chasing foul balls. I will miss the way our town comes together to support our hometown team. I will miss honoring our first responders on the field this year. I will miss hearing the sound of the wooden bats. I will miss the hustle and bustle of being in the concession stand during our games. I will miss working with the interns who come here so eager to learn what it's like to work in baseball.”
Steve West, president of the Chatham Athletic Association, said the emotional letdown is immense.
“Chatham hasn’t had a summer without Cape League baseball since World War II, so the 2020 summer will have an empty feeling for many of our volunteers and fans,” he said. “Watching Angler baseball at Veterans Field is a Chatham summer tradition, and we are all disappointed it will be absent this summer.”
Like Henderson, West said there was much that will be missed.
“I’ll miss the American flag flying on the quint at the fire station during the national anthem at Friday night military support games,” West said. “I’ll miss watching the kids scramble for foul balls like they were gold nuggets. I’ll miss the popcorn and burger smell emanating from the concession stand. I’ll miss watching the number of fans on the outfield hill grow as June turns into July and August. I’ll miss watching the ospreys, and the players’ reaction when they first see them. I’ll miss seeing the kids interacting with our players at our summer baseball clinic. I’ll miss the spectacular sunsets that seem to always occur toward the end of the summer when a big crowd is present. And, of course, I’ll miss watching the players arrive from all across the country, grow together as a team, and individually improve under our coaching tutelage.”
“We’re hoping that this will make the League stronger for next year,” Sturtevant said. “We’re looking forward to the support from our host families, volunteers, and our fans to be ready for next year.”