Davis: The boys of summer

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Summer means baseball. At least that's the way it seems for those of us who grew up playing baseball as much as we could. Once you get it in your blood, it never leaves, not like an infection, but more like a red blood cell booster.

The past few years I have been watching the games of the Cape Cod baseball league. The league has been around since 1885 and it bills itself as the country's premier baseball league. The process for earning a spot on one of the ten teams is extremely competitive. If a player makes it to the Cape Cod league for the summer it means he is among the elite of the college baseball world.

According to the league's website, "The Cape League's well-managed 10 franchises have complete autonomy over the recruiting of their players as well as hiring their own coaching staffs. General managers and head coaches work tirelessly researching, investigating and ultimately recruiting prime candidates to become part of their organization for the summer."

They go on to explain that, "In late May or early June, the Cape League holds an invitation-only tryout held at Clem Spillane Field in Wareham. A few lucky players are chosen from the tryouts each year, most commonly as temporary players to fill rosters spots while teams await the arrival of their previously signed players."

Teams carry 27 players on their rosters and most of the players either have major league contracts or are on their way to a professional baseball career. Of the 27 players on this year's Hyannis Harbor Hawks, 26 have already been drafted by major league teams. Of course, some of them will not make it all the way but they have a shot and it shows in their attitude on the field.

The players are friendly to the fans but they are beginning to learn to act like professionals athletes and that is part of what a baseball player has to learn. On the field they make a lot more mistakes than their major league counterparts and the fans understand that this is not just a stop on the way to the big time but also a school of hard knocks.

Since players come from a lot of different colleges they may not have know each other before their summer on the cape. As I watched pitchers warm up in right field bullpen it was clear there is a hierarchy among players, especially pitchers, and that the players judge on-field performance harshly.

One pitcher we watched warm up looked like he had the right stuff but when he got onto the mound he got hammered. He left the game in shame, head down walking back to the far reaches of the bullpen. None of his teammates spoke to him and he was left to wallow in his failure.

Another reliever went in, did a decent job and walked proudly back to the team dugout after his job was done and he got the obligatory baseball butt-slap from the coach and acknowledgment from his teammates of a job well done. All part of the school of baseball.

Yet, not satisfied with enjoying the game and all of the back stories I could not help but notice that there were few minority players. This looked like a white boys' league. I have not seen all of the teams and their players so I should not come to hasty conclusions, but the fact that recruitment is done through colleges eliminates a lot of channels for baseball players to hone their skills.

College has become the refuge of the elite and it should be no surprise that baseball has also become an elite sport controlled by wealthy people who pay their players obscene sums of money to play a game in front of millions of people who pay hundreds of dollars for tickets.

Money has tainted the game of baseball but I still consider it a sport worthy of devotion. Some people think baseball is boring and too slow. That is a discussion for another time but I have to say to those people that baseball is only boring to those who lack imagination and the ability to cultivate curiosity about how the world works.

Although Cape Cod baseball is tainted in much the same way as the major leagues, it provides a very cheap way to enjoy a great sport.

Richard Davis is a registered nurse. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at rbdav@comcast.net. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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