By ROB DUCA
It has been called “America’s League” in the halls of Congress. It’s baseball by the sea, with wooden bats, featuring the stars of the future, in idyllic ballparks that bring memories of the past flooding back.
And it’s free!
For diehard baseball fans - and even for casual followers in search of pure entertainment - the Cape Cod Baseball League provides the opportunity to enjoy some of the finest collegiate talent in the country. From Wareham to Chatham, from Cotuit to Brewster, games are played daily beginning in June and ending with the playoffs in mid-August.
Many of the players on display will soon be starring in the Major Leagues. Tim Lincecum, Evan Longoria, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Pena, Buster Posey and Mark Teixeira all got their start in the Cape League. So did Billy Wagner, Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis. At last count, nearly 300 Cape League alums were currently playing in Major League Baseball. More than 800 all-time have gone on to The Show.
Because none of the 10 ballparks is more than an hour drive from one another, you can spend the morning at the beach, have lunch at a nearby clam shack, catch a game in the afternoon and early evening, and still have time for dinner or a movie.
Brewster, Cotuit and Yarmouth-Dennis do not have lights and play only afternoon games, while Bourne, Chatham, Falmouth, Harwich, Hyannis, Orleans and Wareham generally begin at 7 p.m.
There are many ways to soak in the ambiance of amateur baseball, the beach and all the various activities Cape Cod has to offer. One might begin the day at a National Seashore beach in Wellfleet or Eastham, followed by a short drive along Rt. 6 into Orleans to catch the Firebirds, into Brewster or Harwich to watch the Whitecaps and Mariners or down Rt. 28 to take in the Anglers in Chatham. For dinner or drinks afterward, there isn’t a more scenic spot than the elegant,, ocean-side Chatham Bars Inn.
If you prefer to remain near the mid-Cape and perhaps enjoy dinner in a casual setting, the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox are centrally located, while the Ninety-Nine Restaurant is just a short drive away.
Hyannis is the busiest of the Cape towns, and the Harbor Hawks’ field is just off Main Street, not far from the Cape League Hall of Fame and Museum, which is located within the JFK Hyannis Museum. Sun-worshippers can spend the day at Craigville Beach and enjoy an ice cream cone at historical Four Seas before heading to the ballpark.
Cotuit’s Lowell Park, nestled in the woods just steps from the beach, is a day-time affair only. Nearby are a variety of shopping and dining options at Mashpee Commons, from the outstanding French restaurant, Bleu, to the laid-back, but reliable Bobby Byrnes Restaurant & Pub.
One could easily catch the Kettleers in Cotuit and then drive down Rt. 28 into Falmouth to watch the Commodores play later in the evening. A trip into picturesque Woods Hole after the game should be on anyone’s agenda, where water-side dining at the Fishmonger’s Café or The Captain Kidd along quaint Water Street is the ideal way to cap the day.
Watching baseball on Cape Cod in an atmosphere that brings you back to a time gone by. What could be better. All baseball fans owe it to themselves to make the pilgrimage.
Rob Duca, editor of publications for the Cape Cod Baseball League, was a sports columnist for the Cape Cod Times for 25 years.