BOSTON (CBS) — The Cape Cod Baseball League is not playing this summer, and Major League Baseball’s return remains uncertain. But baseball will soon be played throughout New England, including in four Massachusetts locales.
The Futures Collegiate Baseball League announced that the 2020 season will begin on Thursday, July 2. The season will run through August 19.
The 7-team league features four based in Massachusetts: The Worcester Bravehearts, Brockton Rox, North Shore (Lynn) Navigators, and Westfield Starfires. The league also has teams based in New Britain, Conn., and Nashua, N.H.
“I think it’s pretty crazy. If I’m going to be honest, I never thought we were actually going to play this summer,” reigning league MVP Sean Lawlor of the Navigators told WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche. “What’s so great about that is that we’re going to be the only thing that’s going on in the Northeast area, and that will bring more attention when it comes to fans and scouts, because we’re the only thing that’s going on. So that will bring more attention from people, which is awesome.”
League commissioner Joe Paolucci said the league always kept hope alive for a 2020 season, throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“This started back in March for us,” Paolucci told Roche. “We started meeting on a weekly basis with the owners. We decided really back then to just take a wait-and-see approach with this. Instead of just coming out and saying, ‘Let’s just cancel the season, it’s a lost cause,’ our plan all along was to prepare to play until somebody told us that we couldn’t play. So we kept saying that we don’t know what it’s going to look like in late June and early July, and so we just kind of kept planning and planning. Ultimately what it came down to for us was each owner had to get approval from their local government and their local board of health. … City by city, we’ve been able to do that. So here we are with about 10 days until we’re ready to start, and we’re feeling pretty good about it.”
Paolucci told Roche that the league will have to follow different protocols, but that completing the full season seems doable.
“This is unprecedented, right? This has never been done before. So we don’t really have a book that we can go by. But again I feel confident in each of our organizations, that they’re going to be able to pull off each one of these protocols that we have to follow,” Paolucci said. “As a human being and with everything that’s going on in the world, for sure I’m a little worried. I don’t think that this is going to go without any bumps in the road at all, but we’re prepared for that. And if something happens and we get the mandate and have to shut things down, then so be it. This is bigger than baseball for sure, but we want to give it our best shot. Because I think that bringing baseball back is going to be a positive thing for all of our communities — especially our players.”
Worcester Bravehearts GM Dave Peterson explained some of what the day-to-day COVID-19 protocols will entail.
“I think when you’re looking at the players, you’re talking about all the surfaces that could be touched by multiple people and you’re so you’re talking about baseball helmets. You never ever think about the fact that baseball teams, they share five or six baseball helmets. And so every time a player comes off the field, we’re going to have to have somebody in the dugout that is there specifically to disinfect helmets, to disinfect baseball bats, and to a certain extent, baseballs,” Peterson told Roche. “But there’s no way that you’re going to disinfect baseballs after every single pitch. So, you’ve got to be able to find this happy medium here where you’re looking at a sport that is socially distant, for the most part. There are obviously going to be plays at different bases where players will come in close contact with one another, but I think it comes down to the close monitoring of symptoms as well. And that’s the number one piece of advice I got from healthcare professionals, where we are constantly monitoring, do you have a new fever? Do you have new onset cough? These are the types of questions we’re going to be asking our players every single day, as well as our staff every single day before they show up to work.”
With most leagues not in operation, the demand from top talent to get into the Futures League has been consistent. Peterson said the league’s greatest accomplishment this year will simply be giving baseball players a season.
Lawlor, for one, is savoring that opportunity.
“Once July 2nd hits and I finally get to go up to the plate for that first time and just smell that fresh grass and get to play again, it’s just going to be the greatest feeling in the world,” he said.