Written by Kathleen Szmit
For far too many folks, work is drudgery. Not enough people really like what they do for a living. I’m not one of them. How can someone who gets to watch Cape League games for a living complain?
This summer marks my third covering Barnstable’s two teams, Hyannis and Cotuit. My time spent hovering near the dugouts, camera in hand, at both Lowell Park and McKeon Field has given me a unique perspective on local summer baseball and the special aspects of each field.
This year Hyannis is celebrating the successful installation of its long-awaited lights. I have to admit that the rows of glowing orbs have changed the feel of the game at McKeon.
While some liked it better without lights, I’ve come to appreciate them. For me it’s not so much about the whole “increased attendance” aspect as it is about the way the lights look against the sky as it ebbs from blue to rose to almost black.
Plus there’s that “big league” baseball feeling. At one of the first games I overheard a gentleman tell his wife, “It’s a real baseball feeling.”
I knew what he meant. Those lights make it feel a bit like Fenway (or would that be Shea?).
Now, Cotuit may not have lights, but in my opinion it still has its own kind of real baseball feel. I think it’s the closest Cape Cod comes to a professional ballpark, and the new bleachers and field improvements only add to that.
Of course, there’s another reason I really, really like games at Lowell Park: the food. It is a difficult day when I come with an empty wallet and am forced to sit through nine innings while the heady scent of Joe Cotellessa’s prizewinning chowder wafts through the air.
They also make the best hotdogs in town, hands down. For today’s youth they’d be known as “old school.” These dogs are perfectly grilled and served on buttered, toasted buns. Heaven.
Since I’ve become somewhat seasoned in the nuances of each park, I’d like to offer some helpful tips:
• Always wear sensible shoes to McKeon. By this I mean something sturdy and made for walking on Hyannis’ uneven surfaces. High heels (yes, I’ve seen them) just don’t work on crushed shells and rock.
• At Cotuit, at least for the next few weeks, watch out for large flying objects. I don’t mean baseballs, I mean cicadas. They’re big, they’re ugly and they’re plentiful in Cotuit. Yuck.
• Bug spray is a smart item to carry to either field as woods surround both, though it won’t help you fend off the cicadas. A tennis racquet perhaps, but not bug spray.
• Kids love to chase foul balls and home runs. Be wary of letting them delve too deeply into the trees. There’s poison ivy in them thar woods! Take it from someone who spent a few summer weeks wearing socks on her hands to keep from scratching – it’s not fun.
• Speaking of foul balls…keeping your head up at both fields is smart since those hits have a mind of their own, especially when gravity gets involved. Be especially careful at Cotuit. Cars parked closest to the pro-shop/gatehouse seem to be foul-ball magnets. But you didn’t really need that front windshield anyway, right?
• Finally, bring a good permanent marker. If your kiddo is lucky enough to come away with a ball, he or she is going to want it signed by the stars of tomorrow. Ballpoint pens fade. Permanent markers, like memories, last forever.