26 August, 2004

Cape League Confident it will Survive Squeeze Play

     Baseball fans couldn't ask for much more. 

     A nice summer evening. 

     A two-run ninth-inning rally to send a championship game to extra innings. 

     A diving catch in the bottom of the 10th to give the visiting team another chance to win. 

     OK, there was some questionable (at best) umpiring, some sloppy play in the field and an embarrassing wild pitch to allow the go-ahead run in the 11th inning. 

     Otherwise it was a scintillating finish to another successful Cape Cod Baseball League season. 

     But the question facing the league over the next couple of years is: How does it cope with the squeeze play the National Collegiate Athletic Association is on the verge of laying down? 

     One of the major problems the CCBL and the eight other NCAA-sanctioned summer leagues are facing is getting the top college players on-site for the entire season. 

2004 Summer Leagues 

Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League:
( teams in NY, NJ, CT, PA) 

Cape Cod Baseball League 

Central Illinois Collegiate League 

Coastal Plain League:
( teams in NC, SC) 

Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League:
( teams in OH, IN, PA) 

New England Collegiate Baseball League:
( teams in ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT) 

New York Collegiate Baseball League 

Southern Collegiate Baseball League:
 ( teams in VA, TN, NC, SC) 

Valley Baseball League:
( teams in VA)

     This year, the Cape League started its season June 17. The College World Series finished June 27, as did the selection process for Team USA, which invites 36 players to go through a week-long tryout before picking the top 20 to represent the United States in national and international competitions. These two events tie up many of the premiere college players who have been recruited, and in many cases, signed by the summer leagues. 

     That's been going on for years. What's new is that an NCAA ad hoc subcommittee will be making a recommendation next month that will include pushing the College World Series finish date into the first week of July. 

     According to Damani Leech, NCAA associate director for baseball and football, the subcommittee has been addressing the impact weather has on college baseball for a year and after its initial report, will present recommendations to the full NCAA in April 2005. 

     The proposal will include a Feb. 1 start date for baseball practice; a March 1 start date for competition, and the CWS starting - and thus ending - a week later. This year, the CWS ended June 27; if enacted, starting in 2007, it would end July 2 and in the future as late as July 5 or 6. 

     Cape League president Judy Scarafile, while riding a high on the season, is looking for Major League Baseball, which provides key funding to the collegiate baseball summer leagues, to step up to the plate. 

     "Our strongest support will be from the major leagues, who are opposed to the change," says Scarafile. "It would affect the draft. It will impact others, like Team USA. It gives us two years to stop that movement [toward a later CWS start], but why do they want to have players on college campuses so long after classes end? And can you imagine playing [the College World Series] in Omaha July Fourth!" 

     The Cape League moved back its start date to June 17, picked up the school crowd from the get-go and enjoyed big crowds all season. "Hyannis' attendance was staggering," says Scarafile. "It reflects [that] the money and time invested to improve the field paid off. And Y-D continues to amaze. People were at the park at 1:30 to get good seats for 3 o'clock playoff games." 

     The safe transportation project, which involved transporting players to away games in buses rather than having them drive their cars, was a success. "Parents were pleased their sons weren't driving all over the Cape trying to find fields," says Scarafile, "and we'll do it again next year." 

     The league's executive committee will decide at a Sept. 1 meeting whether it liked the start date. How would the Cape League deal with the CWS morphing into July? 

     "We have to look at the ramifications of the College World Series so it has as little impact as possible," says Scarafile. "We don't want to play fewer than 44 games, but we might look at some weekend doubleheaders; the fans love it." 

     Because teams were battling for the final playoff berths the last weekend of the regular season, many had to play doubleheaders and the fans came in droves. 

     "The Cape League isn't going to go anywhere. We'll be OK," Scarafile says confidentl

By Don Sherlock