Cape Cod League
Monday, July 15, 2013 – Whitehouse Field, Harwich
Mariners 6, Kettleers 0
As the Red Sox continued a west coast road trip, I spent a week on Cape Cod to celebrate my birthday. The timing was perfect because with the Sox on the road I didn’t have any games at Fenway, and the All-Star break was that week, so that meant four of the days had no games at all. But I wasn’t going to let the whole week pass without baseball (is that even possible?) so I wanted to get to a Cape Cod League game while I was there. We decided to take in a contest between the Harwich Mariners and the Cotuit Kettleers. And who knows, maybe if some of the players we saw get drafted in a couple of years, we can sound like Peter Gammons: “I saw him play on the Cape in ‘13.”
The Cape Cod Baseball League is one of – if not the – top summer collegiate leagues. It attracts the best college players in the country, and for many of them it’s their last stop before the pros. It’s also the first time many of them play with wooden bats, as colleges use aluminum bats, and it’s a great showcase for major league scouts. As many as 15% of major leaguers played on the Cape, including 2013 Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury, Andrew Miller, David Ross, Alex Wilson, Brandon Workman, Steven Wright, Jackie Bradley Jr., Daniel Bard, and even John Farrell. While playing for one of the ten Cape League teams, players live with host families and work part-time jobs in town.
Games are free for fans, and the atmosphere felt like the perfect blend of small-town charm and big-time production. The Mariners play at Whitehouse Field, behind Harwich High School. There are metal bleacher stands, and the overflow crowd sets up folding chairs or blankets down the first and third base lines. Some people brought their dogs. Kids chased foul balls into the woods. Players who had come out of the game walked through the stands selling raffle tickets and programs. Any kids in attendance who wanted to join the players on the field for the National Anthem were invited to do so. There were concessions, a P.A. system, and stadium lights; there was also a scoreboard, but it had so many missing bulbs that it was hard to tell the count. Two men sat at a folding table with laptops and headsets to do the radio broadcast of the game.
We sat in the stands on the first base side, right next to the visitors’ dugout. From there we could hear the Cotuit manager muttering about some of the umpires’ calls: “That was a strike? How are we supposed to hit that?” (In looking up his name for this post, I discovered that Mike Roberts, who manages the Kettleers, is the father of Brian Roberts of the Baltimore Orioles.) It ended up being a cheering section of sorts for the Cotuit fans, and even though my natural inclination would be to root for the home team, the people sitting next to us were probably the relatives, friends, or host families of the visitors, so I ended up clapping for good plays by both teams.
The home team Mariners* got off to a good start. Aaron Barbosa walked, stole second, stole third, and then scored on a groundout. As each player batted they announced his name and school. I heard that Barbosa was from Northeastern, and I wondered if I had seen him at any of the spring training games where the Red Sox had played NU. Sure enough, when I got home and checked my prior years’ scorecards, I had seen him face the Red Sox in Ft. Myers in both 2011 and ‘12. Harwich added two more runs in the second, on Mitch Morales’s bases-loaded single.
* Interesting note: In researching the game, I was surprised to see that the Chatham A’s were now called the Anglers instead of the Athletics. I found out that five years ago, MLB started to enforce trademarks of its teams’ names. Teams that wanted to keep the names would have to purchase uniforms and merchandise from officially-licensed vendors. The Chatham team changed its name from Athletics to Anglers. The Orleans Cardinals became the Firebirds, and the Hyannis Mets became the Harbor Hawks. The Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and Bourne Braves chose to use licensed vendors and keep their names. But the Harwich Mariners were exempt from the ruling because they had been in existence prior to the Seattle Mariners’ entrance into MLB in 1977.
In the fourth inning, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I was on the end of the row, and I looked down to see the team’s official photographer, who had been shooting from a stepladder behind the dugout. He said he was taking a break and I could use the ladder if I wanted. Of course I did! It was a great vantage point, and fun to get to take some pictures from such a prime spot. As the sun went down an inning later, I wanted to walk around to the outfield to get some pictures of the sunset over the field, and then returned to my seat in the stands.
Mariners pitcher Dillon Peters pitched a good game. He went seven innings with one walk and two hits. After both hits, the baserunners were immediately erased on double plays. He also had five strikeouts and three ground ball comebackers to the mound. Harwich tacked on another run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly. They plated two more in the seventh on a hit batter, a double, a sac fly, and a wild pitch, and then held on for the 6-0 win.