Two paragraphs posted online by the Cape Cod Baseball League on Friday, April 24, delivered the news that no one wanted, but everyone expected:
“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.
We would like to thank all our dedicated volunteers and sponsors for their support and look forward to playing again in 2021. Thank you for your continued support and stay safe and healthy.”
Players, coaches, volunteers and fans will not be getting off the bench this summer, as the coronavirus pandemic took away yet one more thing. With towns banning large-scale events across the board, the league would not have been able to play locally had the executive committee delayed its decision.
For the first time since the second world war a summer will pass on Cape Cod with no CCBL played. It appears that the summer sports scene on Cape Cod will be nothing more than backyard ball games and, hopefully, golf and fishing. Currently it appears that there will not be any sporting events held in town until the start of the fall sports season at the local high schools, should those be allowed to be held. That would extend the absence of organized games on the peninsula to six months.
Cape League Commissioner Eric Zmuda, a Falmouth resident and former general manager for the Commodores, said he feels the decision was the correct one in terms of public safety and league operations going forward, but that does not make it any easier.
“The safety of our volunteers, host families, GMs, coaches, and players was the most important thing,” Mr. Zmuda said. “The situation was on our radar in March and the more time went by, you could tell it was going to be a real problem. The writing wasn’t just on the wall, it was everywhere that you looked.”
Mr. Zmuda said the league bandied about multiple options in hopes of salvaging the season but was met by road blocks at every step. He said the unknown was perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome.
“We have players coming in from all over the place, and let’s say, for example, a kid comes up here from the South and is asymptomatic, but has it, and he goes into a host family and it just gets spread around. You just don’t know, and that’s the worst part,” Mr. Zmuda said. “We looked at multiple options to try to (keep the season in play), but ultimately we decided that the best course of action was to move forward and focus on the 2021 season.”
Bourne Braves general manager Darin Weeks of Sandwich has been involved in the Cape League for more than two decades. He said that as the pandemic gained momentum across the country, it became more and more clear that 2020 would be a year with no baseball.
“I think that there was faint hope that we’d see how it goes and maybe we’d be able to play, but as the days passed the reality was that it wasn’t going to be safe to play,” he said. “The optimism was based on ‘let’s see what happens,’ but it wasn’t going to make sense no matter how much we wanted to have a season.”
Mr. Weeks said the decision by the league was not made lightly, and he agreed with calling off the season now rather than pushing back the start date and hoping that the situation would change over time.
“Pushing the date back would have just been kicking the can down the road,” he said.
Falmouth Commodores general manager Chris Fitzgerald of Falmouth echoed Mr. Zmuda and Mr. Weeks.
“No one wanted to do it. It was a two-month process coming to this decision,” he explained. “The logistics of trying to put together a season at the last minute were just too crazy. It takes a lot of work by a lot of people to pull off a normal season...it would have been nice to have some normalcy back, but we had to look at the bigger picture.”
Mr. Fitzgerald said he is sad in knowing that he will not be heading to the ballpark every night starting in June, and that his heart not only goes out to the Cape community, but to the players who give everyone something to cheer about.
“I feel for those players more than anyone. They already had their spring season ripped from them, and now they had their summer season taken away. It’s tough, and if you’re a senior you have to decide whether or not to go back to school and play one more year, or to get on with life. It’s tough,” he said.
Just like the fans that won’t have games to go to, the league officials now find themselves with a lot of extra time on their hands for June, July and August.
“It does open up some time to see family and do other activities that I wouldn’t usually get to do this summer,” Mr. Zmuda said.
Mr. Weeks, who joked that at least his beloved Braves will be undefeated in 2020, said he’s at a loss for how he will be spending his time.
“It’s going to be weird not having baseball. It’s just weird,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself. I guess I’m going to find out what summer is like on Cape Cod.”
Well, he will almost find out what summer on Cape Cod is like. It’s not a real Cape summer without the Cape League.