8 August 2004

Cape League Intern Brian MacPherson

Super Saturday in the East Division: An Intern's Perspective

     With a victory in a 14-inning thriller on Friday night at Wareham, Orleans had drawn even with Brewster for the second and final East Division berth in the playoffs. But the Whitecaps held a game at hand, and that meant Saturday’s marathon of a day in the East Division – games beginning at noon and likely not ending until after 9 pm – had the potential to make or break the two teams’ seasons.

11:13 am
     I haven’t even left for the first game – Brewster at Bourne – when I run into trouble. And it’s not that I have a problem with trash collection. In fact, I love trash collection, but when I’m already late for the first game of the day, it’s tough to watch a white collection truck completely block the driveway while he slowly empties two barrels’ worth of trash into his truck, backs up, and pulls away.
     But he finally allows me to leave, and the first thing I notice as I maneuver my way down Route 6 was the huge numbers of bikes mounted on cars. Was there some kind of race I didn’t know about? I’ve never seen so many bikes on bike racks on one stretch of road, and the bikes aren’t just on the bike racks. One Honda CR-V – and keep in mind how much trunk space is involved when you’re talking about a CR-V – somehow had wedged an entire mountain bike into the trunk, along with several suitcases and other vacation necessities. When I hit a traffic jam after Exit 2, I have a chance to drive past this CR-V several times, and I never do figure out how they’d managed that.

12:00 pm
     I finally pull into the Bourne parking lot exactly at noon, the coaches and umpires already meeting at home plate. I pull into a spot along the right-field line, facing the field, until I realize how close I am to the field and how many foul balls litter that section of concrete every game. I decide to turn around and back in.
    When Steven Tolleson hits the game’s first foul ball in the top of the first inning, a predictable announcement comes through the Coady Field public-address system – with a twist. “Please return all foul balls to the 50-50 table, and you can get entered into a raffle to win something great.” Minutes later, another foul ball prompts the revelation that the raffle would net the winner “something neat.” The suspense builds to a climax through the next inning until the announcer reveals the winner of the raffle would take home an autographed broken bat. Secretly, I’d been hoping “something great” meant “a spot in tomorrow’s starting lineup.”
     Behind me, a young boy and his father examine the wares at the souvenir stand, prompting the following exchange:
     Boy: “Can I get the mini bat?”
     Father: “No – you always hit people with them.”

1:18 pm
     Bourne’s Brennan Boesch bloops a single to center field to drive in the Braves’ fourth run of the game, and he scores just moments later on a throwing error. After Brewster pitcher Phil Davidson helps himself with a nice defensive play to get an out at third base, another misplay in the infield leads allows Bourne to extend its lead to 5-2.
     Despite my initial reluctance to spend money at my first game, I give up and head for the concession stand for a drink. The girl behind the counter pulls a water out of the cooler, but it slips from her hands and hits the concrete before she can hand it to me. With a sheepish smile, she picks out another water for me. “That one wasn’t good,” the cashier, a 13-year-old boy, informs me.
     Three military helicopters fly over the field in the fifth inning, loud enough to distract the players momentarily from the action on the field. Only one helicopter returns the next inning, leading me to believe that the other two were shot down by guerrilla forces occupying Wareham.
     Another foul ball leaves the premises, this one headed in the direction of my car. Thankfully, it falls short and hits a white compact on one hop as the announcement returns: “Please return all foul balls to the 50-50 table.” Don’t tell anyone, but if I had found a foul ball in the back seat of my car amidst the shattered glass of my rear windshield, I would have kept it.

2:44 pm
     With the Braves leading, 6-3, in the top of the ninth, Will Rhymes receives as piece of advice from a fan in the front row while he searches for his bat.
     “Tag one, will you?”
     Rhymes grins and promises he’ll do his best – after all, he’s been the only Brewster player tagging them all day. With two outs, James Boone reaches on an error and giving Rhymes a chance at the plate. But the second baseman doesn’t get a chance to tag one – he gets tagged himself, taking a pitch off the right shoulder and bringing the tying run to the plate.
     But with the runners moving on a 3-2 count, Bourne’s Dan Donaldson induces a sinking line drive that Austin Easley dives to stab for the final out of the game. With Brewster’s game at hand now a loss, the Whitecaps are officially tied with Orleans for the second playoff spot in the East Division.
     Now it’s off to Yarmouth-Dennis to see if the Cardinals can take advantage.

3:04 pm
     As I exit the Bourne rotary on my way back to Route 6, I find myself behind a GMC Yukon with – you guessed it – three bikes on the bike rack. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why I’ve seen so many bikes today.
     And just a few minutes later, I pass a white limousine cruising along Route 6. It’s right about that time that I start wondering if I should ask league officials about new transportation arrangements for its interns.

3:45 pm
     It’s hard to miss the freshly painted Red Sox logo on the grass at Red Wilson Field as I climb into the silver bleachers behind home plate. The Cardinals are stretching along the first-base line, and they don’t look any worse for wear after last night’s 14-inning thriller at Wareham – except Drew Butera, who’s being wrapped with ice by a team trainer. Indications are that Butera, who has caught the Cardinals’ last four games, won’t be in today’s starting lineup. Orleans has won eight games in a row, erasing a huge gap in the standings in a hurry, but they’ll have to keep up that momentum if they’re going to defend their Cape Cod Baseball League title.
     After the Orleans infielders clear the field, it’s hurry-up-and-wait time. A handful of Red Sox players paint the lines and rake the dirt, and fans are left with nothing to look at but the complimentary stat sheet. As I peruse my copy, I wonder if the Cardinals have caught a break with Y-D’s decision to go with Justin Meier, making his first start of the season with an 0-2 record with a 6.30 ERA, instead of Justin Blaine, who I expected to see. They did just clinch the division title, I rationalize, so they might be saving Blaine for the playoffs.
     Just another break for the blackjack Cards.

4:33 pm
     A Dennis-Yarmouth High School student, a regular at Red Sox games, sings the national anthem. That gets me wondering – I’ve averaged between seven and 10 Cape League games a week over the course of the summer, and that means I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard the three traditional staples of American patriotism.
     Those staples, of course, are “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
     A Hood blimp begins to circle the field, often settling into a position above right-center field as if to watch the game. It’s not as exciting as the helicopters at Bourne, but a murmur ripples through the crowd just the same.
     Today’s crowd is perhaps the biggest for Yarmouth-Dennis this season. The bleachers are full, blankets and lawn chairs pack the first- and third-base lines, and fans even are scattered beyond the outfield fence to watch their beloved Red Sox.

5:16 pm
     Both pitchers dominate early. Chris Nicoll, on the mound for Orleans, has displayed tremendous speed as well as a wicked breaking ball. He did appear to be overthrowing to Joe Anthonsen, as two straight hard fastballs sailed well high of the strike zone. But his 3-2 pitch stayed low, and Anthonsen couldn’t catch up with it.
     In the top of the fourth inning, the Cardinals draw first blood. Jordan Brown lines a single to right field, and Colin Curtis takes a low changeup and absolutely crushes it over the right-field fence to give Orleans a 2-0 lead.
     In the Y-D bullpen, Justin Blaine begins to throw.

6:29 pm
     Blaine has entered the game and slowed the Orleans attack considerably, allowing the Red Sox to narrow the gap to 3-2. Chris Nicoll is still throwing gas in the seventh inning, however. Outfielder Nick Moresi looks completely overwhelmed as he swings and misses at a fastball on the outside part of the plate and then fouls the next two pitches straight back. 
     But Nicoll doesn’t stick with his strength – he loops in a knee-high breaking ball, and Moresi drives it over the center-field fence to tie the game at 3.

6:50 pm
     For the first time in more than a week, a go-either-way break goes against Orleans. After Will Harris singles, Frank Curreri bloops a hit that lands directly on the left-field line to allow him to reach.
     Romas Hicks comes in to put out the fire, but a wild pitch allows the runners to advance to second and third. He then induces a weak fly ball, but pinch-runner Josh Glasgow tags and scores when Colin Curtis makes the catch in foul territory.
     The Cardinals’ season is flashing before their eyes.

7:01 pm
     After several players came up with important at-bats in last night’s thriller, jubilant Orleans coach Carmen Carcone described the importance of “a new hero every night.” Every player had to step up so every other player didn’t feel pressure to do more than was physically possible. Steven Blackwood, Brian Barton, Jordan Brown, Colin Curtis – they’d all had big hits in the last week to keep the streak alive.
     This time, it’s Sean Richardson. He steps to the plate in the top of the ninth, his team three outs away from a potentially devastating loss. He works the count to 2-2, and when pitcher P.J. Finegan leaves a fastball over the plate, Richardson destroys it. The ball lands in the branches of a tree in left-center field, and suddenly the game again is tied.
     His teammates – including an ice-wrapped Chris Nicoll – all flock to home plate to congratulate him, and Drew Butera gives his platoon partner a hug next to the dugout. Richardson hasn’t seen action behind the plate since August 1, but he comes up with what could be, to this point, the most important hit of the Cardinals’ season. All they have to do is string together a few more hits and push together that go-ahead run.
     But the Red Sox will have none of it. After Matt Cooksey draws a walk, he’s gunned down at second by catcher Ben Crabtree, and Finegan allows no further damage in the inning. 
     Heading into the bottom of the ninth, it’s a playoff atmosphere already. “We Will Rock You” on the stereo, fans clapping and stamping their feet, clutch hits there for the taking. And with two outs in the inning, Adam Davis – who has looked overmatched at the plate to this point – takes a fastball and drives it into right field for a hit.
     When his lead from first gets too big, though, Hicks catches him leaning. He throws to Jordan Brown at first, who chases Davis two-thirds of the way to second base before he flips the ball to Tyler Greene. But in the process of changing direction, Davis collides with Brown and eventually is tagged out near second base. The center fielder can’t believe it when the umpires don’t award him the base for interference, and the protests of Y-D coach Scott Pickler go unanswered.

7:27 pm
     Colin Curtis, who bunted into a double play in the top of the tenth inning, atones with a nice running catch in foul territory in the bottom half as he nimbly avoids the mound of the Red Sox bullpen.
     And after Romas Hicks strikes out Glasgow to end the inning, right fielder Brian Barton steps to the plate looking to start an Orleans rally. The Red Sox take the field, Joshua Faiola is ready for his warm-up tosses, and everyone’s ready to play the next inning.
     But the age-old problem with afternoon baseball rears its head – afternoon baseball often turns into evening baseball, and evening baseball turns into night baseball, and at some point, it’s too dangerous to play when the batter can’t see the ball. A year ago in nearly this same situation, umpires created controversy when they halted a Cotuit rally in the top of an inning because it would be too dark to play when Hyannis came to the plate in the bottom half. Cotuit needed a win to reach the playoffs, but the game ended in a tie and Hyannis advanced to the next round.
     It’s not quite that drastic this time – there’s still a day of games remaining – but the sudden decision to call the game with the score tied at 4 leaves everyone shell-shocked. The Cardinals are – for the moment – a point ahead of Brewster for second place in the East Division, but the chance to move ahead two points and take full control of their fate was taken away by the rotation of the earth.
     I can’t hang around to ponder what might have been, though. The second half of Brewster’s doubleheader, this time at Chatham’s Veterans Field, began half an hour ago. I’ve got some driving to do.

8:07 pm
     It might be the darkness, and it might be my rush to get to Chatham before I miss too much more of the game, but I don’t see any more cars with bike racks as I head east on Route 28. Disappointing, really.
     When I get to Chatham, though, I realize I have an important decision to make. Parking at Veterans Field after the first pitch often becomes a nightmare, and it’s a nightmare I don’t have time for at this point. I finally opt to leave the car at Chatham Village Store, down the hill and a few hundred yards away from the field, and walk the rest of the way so as not to spend half my evening circling a full parking lot.
     I walk through the parking lot along the left-field line and enter the field near the Chatham bullpen. When I get my first glimpse of the scoreboard, I realize the game’s already pretty much over. Brewster put up a five-spot in the fourth inning, and it looks like Matt Goyen has been mowing down every batter he’s faced.
     The fans have come in droves. The bleachers behind home plate are full, as is the standing-room area on the hill behind the seats and the hill in right-center field. Several enterprising fans are seated atop a generator on the third-base side, though I have to wonder how smart it really is to sit atop of a box with the words “High Voltage” in large print. 
     Below them, several 10-year-old boys entertain themselves by beating each other with royal blue Chatham A’s thunder sticks. One approaches his older brother to apologize – he’s broken the plastic exterior. “I think it hit a nail when I whacked it against the telephone pole,” he explains. There are some things we all have to learn for ourselves, and not to hit telephone poles with thunder sticks is just one of those things.
     The brother rolls his eyes.

8:48 pm
     A sharp ground ball to first base bounces off the glove of Andy Hunter, but it richochets straight to an alert Will Rhymes, who fires to the covering Matt Goyen for the second out of the seventh inning.
     Baseball’s a game of breaks, and slowly but surely, it seems the breaks are shifting from the Orleans corner to the Brewster corner.
     As soon as that thought crosses my mind, though, shortstop Matt Camp doubles to left field. And one pitch after he’s nearly picked off, Camp steals third and then scores when the throw bounces into short left field.
     So much for the breaks – but Brewster still has a 6-1 lead.

9:03 pm
     A new pitcher comes in for the Whitecaps, and a cry goes up from the press box above my head. I’ve stationed myself between the base of the press box and the hedges behind the bleachers, since it’s one of the few places I can stand and watch without blocking someone behind me or having my own view blocked.
     “It’s 36, but they don’t have a 36 on their roster,” says the frustrated voice.
     Eventually, though, they get it figured out. Jordan Crews actually is wearing his traditional 37, and he retires Chatham in order in the bottom of the eighth.
     In the bottom of the ninth, the A’s can’t do more than temporarily stave off the inevitable. Nick Derba strokes a ground ball between first and second, and Rhymes is charged with a tough error – he makes a great play just to get to the ball, but his throw pulls Hunter off the bag. A fielder’s choice results in the second out, but a runner remains on base for Chatham.
     That, though, just makes the final out easier when Camp hits a ground ball to Marco Albano at short to end the game.

9:16 pm
     The Veterans Field crowd stands and applauds through as the teams shake hands following the final out. It’s the last home game of the season, and the players in turn tip their caps to salute their loyal fans. Coach John Schiffner stands on the infield, inside the third-base line, and claps his hands in the direction of the cheering throng.
     But tonight, for the time being, belongs to the Whitecaps. The game’s result puts Brewster back in the driver’s seat of the East Division race. A win or an Orleans loss tomorrow, and the Whitecaps will play at Red Wilson Field on Tuesday afternoon. A loss and an Orleans win, though, and the Whitecaps are left to ponder what might have been.
     But for now, all I can do is pick up my bag and begin the long walk back to my car, still parked at Chatham Village Market down the hill.
     Right now, I wish I had a bike.
By Brian MacPherson, CCBL Intern, bmacpherson@capecodbaseball.org

John Garner, Jr.
CCBL Director of
Public Relations & Broadcasting
(508) 790-0394 johnwgarner@earthlink.net 
Bruce hack, League Historian