If you know of a way to control the weather, first-year Cape Cod Baseball League commissioner Eric Zmuda would like to hear from you.
“At this point, I’m open to any ideas,” Zmuda told the Enterprise this week. “The Farmer’s Almanac has been off a couple of times.”
As of Thursday, June 27, the best amateur summer league in the country has been held hostage by Mother Nature with 29 postponements due to rain. That number already has exceeded the annual season average of 25, a number Zmuda was handed—along with the torch—by former league commissioner Paul Galop following the long-time commish’s retirement last season.
At the current rate, the CCBL is on pace to eclipse 2009’s record-setting season of rainouts, when 66 games were washed away due to the rain. There’s little time to waste as it is, where the league crams in 44 games in span of 51-days—not including the potential of 39 playoff games, assuming that every series goes the maximum of three games.
“The timing [of the weather] has been unique this year,” Zmuda said.
So are there contingency plans set in place for the possibility of a rain-filled summer on the Cape? Plan A assumes the region will dry up, allowing the teams to complete the season with a chock-full schedule of games and few off days. Mondays have typically served as the schedule off-day across the league, but a quick look at the Cape League’s current schedule shows 18 games slated on four Mondays in the month of July. Of those 18 Monday games, 13 are make-ups with Thursday, July 25 featuring two more make-up games.
The only scheduled league-wide off day is Thursday, August 1—the day before the playoffs begin.
Plan B is a bit more extreme. Should the rain continue on its torrid stretch, league officials will have to consider pushing the playoffs back to allow for the 44-game regular season to be completed. That can be complicated, as many southern schools begin the fall semester early and players, particularly pitchers, have inning caps set by their college teams in an effort to keep the players healthy for their respective collegiate seasons.
“Knock on wood that we can finish the regular season in time,” Zmuda said.
The Bourne Braves, which play their home games at Upper Cape Tech’s Doran Park, were particularly hit hard by the erratic rain storms last week. From June 16 to June 22 all four games were rained out, but the rain wasn’t always at game time. Often the rain came overnight or in the early mornings. The typical start time at Doran Park, a field with lights, is 6 PM.
The infield surface, a red clay mixture according to UCT athletic director Ben Rabinovitch, can be some of the best to play when the weather is right. When it rains, however, it needs a warm, dry climate for it to properly dry out.
That simply was not the case last week.
“When the field gets wet, it needs the heat to dry it out and make it firm,” Braves general manager Darin Weeks said. “We haven’t had that yet.”
The result is a squishy, murky surface that puts the health of the players at risk. The franchise can use a quick-drying applicant called Turface, but that is used in spots and not on the entirety of the infield.
“Player safety is our top priority,” Weeks said. “And when we don’t have the opportunity to get the field firmed up for the level of player safety we require, it causes games to be postponed even if it’s not raining at game time.”
The Braves, much like every other franchise on the Cape, have tarps that cover the pitching mound and the home plate, but not entire infield tarps—something Weeks would love to have. But there are logistical, and not mention financial, issues with that.
“We’d love to have one, but there are issues with storing it and having hands on deck to pull it out,” he said.