CHATHAM – There was frustration in the dugout of the Lower Cape Senior Babe Ruth team on Monday night. Given their 10-4 loss to D-Y, that frustration was understandable. But there was also a prevailing sense of something else: gratitude at getting back on the ball field.
The July 13 game at Veterans Field didn’t go as Lower Cape hoped, getting started with a tough opening inning in which enough damage was done by the visiting D-Y team that overcoming it was a struggle. D-Y pounced on starting pitcher RJ Mahoney early and capitalized on defensive issues and dropped balls, taking a fairly commanding 3-0 lead after the first.
The home team had enough hits in their half of the inning to allow Cole Torino to reach third, but D-Y’s defense made sure he was left stranded before the inning ended. Josh Poitras was the first of the Lower Capers to make it home, putting LC on the scoreboard in the second, but still well behind their counterparts.
Two innings later things looked to be turning around for the Lower Cape. Torino swung into a big single for the home team, parlaying his run into a double, and was followed on base by Jose Guerrero-Baez and John-Michael Canto before Wes Ulrich sent up a long single to bring in Torino and Baez for a pair of Lower Cape runs.
Guerrero-Baez brought in the Lower Cape’s last run a few at-bats later in the sixth on a hit from Mahoney, but the win belonged to D-Y.
“If we don’t get off to such a bad start, we’re good,” said assistant coach Ken Stanley. “The second half of the game, the last four innings, we outscored them. We found out Cole Torino can pitch. We know RJ can pitch. It was just an off night. But it’s early. This is just our third game.”
In spite of the loss, spirits seemed high in the Lower Cape dugout, with players, and a smattering of fans that came to catch the game, just happy to be back on the base paths. In classic Chatham fashion, a heavy blanket of fog that had been hovering over the area all afternoon threatened to overtake the field, but never made it much past the trees behind the scoreboard in left field.
That said, it’s a surreal time in youth baseball, with players required to stand at least three feet apart in the dugouts, to wear masks if playing infield and an opposing player is on base, and with limited officiating. At the July 13 game there was only one umpire, positioned behind the pitcher, which raised questions about effectively seeing the strike zone.
At the end of the seven-inning outing, rather than a traditional handshake lineup, players from each team took their respective baselines (third and first) and gave a wave before post-game coach chats. Noticeably absent were PA announcers, concessions, and the happy laughter of children playing on the playground equipment nearby.
But the players are willing to do what’s necessary in order to get in a game, however surreal. As Torino explained during a between-innings chat, he, like so many others on the team, had missed out on a spring season, in his case his senior season. For a number of players, that meant not playing in an actual game for at least a year, so shaking off some serious rust comes with the territory. What mattered to Torino and his teammates wasn’t the score but the chance to play.
Monomoy’s Josh Poitras, a recent graduate, said the opportunity is priceless.
“I’m really glad we could still have an opportunity to play ball,” he said. “Over the years, especially in school sports, you learn and acquire new skills to eventually enter the next year with a bang.”
Poitras said he was looking forward to utilizing skills gleaned during his junior season and the following summer in his final season with the Sharks, a season that came to a sad end when the MIAA, in keeping with state protocol and school closures, canceled the 2020 season in May. But when Poitras got the news that Senior Babe Ruth would be playing, albeit with COVID-19 modifications, he was all in.
“It’s nice to know that the hard work and years of experience will still get a chance to shine in the form of Senior Babe Ruth, and not go to waste,” he said.
Lower Cape and Monomoy head coach Steve Porter said being back on the ball field feels right.
“The most noticeable aspect is seeing the kids smile and genuinely having a great time,” he said. “Winning is still great and is the ultimate goal each game, but right now, with where we are as a country, I’m trying to make sure the kids are having fun and getting the chance to just be kids, all while making sure their safety is the main priority.”
Porter explained that his is a young SBR team, which makes summer ball important for their continued development of skills as they aim to continue playing for their respective high schools, in the case of LCSBR a mix of Monomoy, Barnstable, Nauset, and, in Torino’s case, Taft School in Connecticut. Porter said he likes to see each player in action before cementing spots and added that the team is still in the evaluation stage.
“Going a full year without any baseball would be a huge setback to anyone’s development,” said Porter.
But in spite of his team’s youth, Porter has been impressed with their abilities, as evidenced by their 17-1 season opener against Sandwich on July 7 in which Guerrero-Baez had four hits with three runs scored and Ulrich a bases-clearing triple in the fourth.
“I have been pleasantly surprised by the lack of rust,” said Porter. “Pitchers are throwing strikes and hitters are making good contact. With the talent we have, we will be able to hold our own throughout the season.”
Next up for the Lower Cape, which was set to host Gateway at press time, is a home game at Veterans against Team Cape Cod tonight (July 16) with a 6 p.m. start. The team returns to Veterans on July 20 for another home game against Sandwich, also at 6 p.m.