CCBL, Part III

7.29.2011 CCBL All Star 1

Continuing with our baseball-laden few weeks, we spent the night at Fenway watching the CCBL All-Star Game…or most of it, at least. The tickets were $10 and it was general admission, so we worked our way down pretty close to the West dugout, about 6-7 rows back, and settled in, despite a little bit of rain just before the Home Run Derby. Unfortunately, we were surrounded on one side by all the Bourne regulars – including host families and actual families of the players – and on the other side by the most obnoxious family on earth, who happen to be the family of a player that grew up just north of Boston. Note to self: in the future, try to sit with fans, not the player’s families. Some of them didn’t watch a single play of the game – they were turned sideways or with their back to the field chatting with friends. Some of them only paid any attention when their family member was on the field. Some of them cared more about getting on the jumbotron in between innings than cheering on their sibling. Awesome! If we were smart, we would have moved. I would have LOVED to sit directly behind home with the scouts, because I bet you learn a lot and hear some interesting tid bits over there, but it was the only place in the park that was reserved.

7.29.2011 CCBL All Star 3
I would also have loved to sit directly behind home so I could have heard the chatter from my fav CCBL player, Catcher Pat Cantwell, who was catching for the West team. This kid is a leader and a smart player, which is probably why he was drafted last month by the Baltimore Orioles. I loved watching him at the Bourne game last weekend, and listening to his constant chatter to teammates:

Even if he isn’t the starting catcher that day, Cantwell can be counted on as the most vocal member of the Braves. Although the ambitious biology major is admittedly [quiet] off the field, he sees it as both his duty and part of his “keep it fun” mantra to keep chatter constant.

“He uplifts the team,” Braves pitcher Josh Conway says. “You can hear him from anywhere, he’s always positive, always yelling, always cheering. He brings a great energy to the ballpark.”

I was bummed that we couldn’t hear his chatter at Fenway, and I assume it was because we were too far away from the plate to hear him over the crowd noise and not because he wasn’t out there leading his teammates through the game. I like watching this kind of player – someone who you know is having fun and playing for the team and not just themselves. I’m sure there are plenty of pro players out there that are the same way, but it’s so much harder to see that and know that when you’re only exposure to them is  in an environment where you can’t hear the chatter and see the leadership first hand.

I think, in the end, it’s exactly that experience that makes me love the CCBL – you get to know these players, even if you only watch them play once, because you are that close to them.

CCBL, Part II

7.24.2011 Cape Game 3

When we planned this weekend on the Cape, the only three things set in stone were when I had to pick up and return the rental car, where we were sleeping, and that we needed to be at the Y-D/Chatham game at 5pm on Saturday. I looked up a few places to eat, asked friends for suggestions, and found a kayak rental place so we at least had ideas of how to fill the rest of our weekend…but by the time we had visited the (not-worth-five-dollars) CCBL Hall of Fame, watched the Y-D/Chatham game, and worked the enthusiasm out of Pete’s system at the batting cages, we had looked up schedules and ball field locations and figured out how we could catch another game on Sunday on the way home.

7.24.2011 Cape Game 1And that brings us to Bourne, where the Braves were playing the Falmouth Commodores at 5pm. The weather turned out perfect despite a very overcast morning, and we got to the field early enough to snag a perfect spot to sit while we watched some of the players do their grounds crew duties. All of the players in the CCBL are required to work part time while they’re playing, and they usually have a few choices. One of them is to work as grounds crew (another is to work at CVS). It’s funny to watch them in their uniform, riding the tractor around the infield or lugging a hose around the pitchers mound.

The people watching, of course, was also awesome. One much older gentleman sitting along the brick wall behind home plate yelled out coaching tips for just about every other play – “Call it!” for almost every infield pop-up. Behind us was a man who was, apparently, a UNC alum and so hollered at Colin Moran every time he was on deck – “Hey Colin! If God isn’t a Tar Heels fan, why is the sky Carolina blue?!” As you can imagine, that one got old after the second or third time. Colin seemed about as amused as I was.

7.24.2011 Cape Game 2Sitting on one side of me was the woman who writes all the player bios and maintains the website for the Bourne Braves, so I heard a lot about the folks involved in the organization. Sitting beside Pete were two host moms, cheering on the players that are staying with them this summer. And as expected, there was a gaggle of scouts behind home plate, some with their kids tagging along, and all of the chatting with each other in between pulling out their radar guns and scribbling notes.

Maybe my favorite part of the CCBL is the accessibility of the players. It may be the oldest and most prestigious amateur baseball league in the country, but the players are getting their own burgers and hot dogs at the concession stand before games, walking around with a bucket selling 50/50 raffle tickets in between innings, and happily signing balls for the kiddos hanging out behind the dugout before the game. And hey, if those kids get the right autograph it could be worth money when that player goes on to catch a World Series winning game in three years time – see Buster Posey, then (2008), and now (2010). Well not quite now, because his leg was busted in a nasty collision earlier this year…but you get my point.

Number 10: Ride Carousels, Part I

7.23.2011 Cape Carousel

You know what isn’t flattering? Photos taken of me riding a carousel.

Also, I need to give Pete a crash course on the point and shoot.

But who cares! I love carousels! Let the riding begin.

CCBL, Part I

7.23.2011 Game 1

Sometime in the spring, I was out running errands and stopped at Borders to browse. I brought home The Last Best League for Pete. The book follows a season with the Chatham A’s (that “A” is for Anglers, not Athletics), a team who I had watched play on the Cape in middle school when I would visit a friend who spent her summers in Chatham. It’s possible that at the time I was much more interested in making friends with cute boys my own age than watching some of the country’s most talented college players play baseball, but I still have fond memories of the Chatham A’s.

7.23.2011 Game 4Speaking of the Chatham A’s, who doesn’t love the movie Summer Catch, starring the adorable Freddie Prinze, Jr.? Oh…well, most of the folks involved with the Cape Cod Baseball League don’t love it, because they think it’s not a flattering portrayal of the actual players in the league. But I love it!

Pete loved the book (like the CCBL folks, he also didn’t love Summer Catch). When he first started reading it and telling me about how awesome it was, I started planning to surprise him with a weekend on the Cape to see a game for his birthday gift…right up until we were eating dinner one night and he said “I kind of want to go to the Cape to watch a game!” while he was telling me about the book. I have no poker face, so his birthday surprise ended up being a birthday non-surprise, and we started looking at dates and searching for a place to sleep while we were there.

7.23.2011 Game 3We ended up staying in Hyannis, and driving the 20ish minutes to Dennis to see the Chatham A’s play the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox at the local high school field. And I ended up becoming fascinated with the CCBL and how it functions.

I may or may not have spent half of the game day dreaming about buying a place on the Cape where I could live for the summer, host a player or intern, and get myself involved in the CCBL in any way possible.The other half of the game was spent listening to all the locals chat about their beloved team, watching the gangs of kids race each other to shag foul balls and home runs, and observing the scouts with their radar guns, stop watches, and notebooks crammed with scribbles.

You hear the phrase “pure baseball” a lot in reference to the CCBL, and it’s true – a game that’s being played by kids that love it (and are crazy talented – one in six of the players we saw will play in the Majors – I’m sure even more will be drafted) and watched, organized, and made possible by a community that lives and breathes CCBL. It’s a pretty awesome thing to see.