Written by Kathleen Szmit
While the championship trophy doesn’t rest with a Barnstable team, I must say it is in the hands of a well-deserving one. Maybe next year, Hyannis and Cotuit.
In the meantime, let’s not forget what a terrific year this was.
The 2008 season began with an influx of many new, and some returning, ballplayers, all with the same dream: to play baseball on the Cape with the possibility of getting scouted to the majors.
As they took to their playing fields, coating their bats with pine tar and their uniforms with red-brown dirt, they did their best to impress fans, families, coaches and scouts.
I wonder if these lads, these “boys of summer,” know the significance of each game played and their importance to fans?
In recent years, or maybe not-so-recent-years, it seems that Major League Baseball has become more about money than about the game. Players with overblown egos drive oversized and overpriced cars to fields where they “fulfill” the requirements of ridiculously over-the-top contracts, throwing childish temper tantrums when their “needs” aren’t met.
Cape Cod baseball is a refreshing respite from all that.
Here baseball is still about “The Game.” It’s about sitting in the bleachers or in folding chairs along a baseline watching the “stars of tomorrow shine today (the league’s motto)” with summer breezes carrying the heady scents of steamed hotdogs, chowder and popcorn.
While the players are serious about playing, they certainly don’t take themselves too seriously, as evidenced this season by cups on ears in the Hyannis dugout, and energetic player-coach pre-game handshakes at Cotuit.
When they step onto the fields, however, it’s all about The Game. It is a game for which they still have tremendous respect, evidenced by the somber looks on faces as players take their field positions or step up to bat.
These young men also bring to the field a much-needed sense of wonder. When they hit that first – or even second – home run, it matters not how old or how manly they might be. As that ball clears the fence, the batter is eight years old again, his gleeful grin not even remotely obscured by his baseball cap brim.
One of my favorite moments this season was the astonished looks on the faces of two All-Star players who weren’t aware that they’d be standing along the first-base line at Fenway following the receipt of their commemorative plaques.
“We get to go out on the field?” Asked one.
“No way! You’re kidding! Really?” Said the other.
There was a high-five and I swear they giggled like schoolboys at an unexpected recess.
Their departure at summer’s end leaves us – host families, friends, fans – a little lost. Faced with free evenings following a summer of games, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, wondering what to do.
No more hotdogs? No more Chicken Dance? No more cries of “Have a hit?”
In earnest we flicking on the television, flipping the channel to our favorite team’s latest game, hoping it might fill the void. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s not the same.
While we all have Major League Baseball players we adore, there is a different feel, a different attitude, between the two. It is much like looking at two sunrises: one real, one a facsimile. The facsimile is shiny, enticing and bright, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what’s real.
Watching the players walk off the fields, I offer up a silent hope that those who get drafted will hold their innocence for at least a little while.
Like Johnny says to Ponyboy in The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, “Stay gold…”
Stay gold, you guys. Stay gold.