“This is my 34th year as president and this was the hardest call I’ve ever had to make.”
Chuck Sturtevant, President of the Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL), looks back on April 24 as one of the toughest days on the job, the day he officially cancelled the 2020 season. It marked the first time in 74 years that Summer baseball won’t be taking place in the Cape.
Stories like Sturtevant’s are being seen across the sports world as COVID-19 continues to spread.
While many sports leagues have suspended their seasons indefinitely, many smaller leagues have been left with no choice but to cancel play. The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball have already discussed the idea of playing in empty arenas, but for the CCBL, that scenario is not an option.
“We don’t charge people to come to games, we ask for donations” Sturtevant said. “The donations, 50/50 raffles, concessions and all that is where the franchises get a lot of their money from, so without the fans there it would be very difficult for them to operate.”
Brian Guiney is the General Manager of the CCBL’s Hyannis Hawks and also a detective for the Barnesville Police Department in Massachusetts. His family houses a number of his players throughout the summer, something him and his 12-year-old son will miss the most from this year’s cancellation.
“You don’t even know what to do with your time,” Guiney said. “There’s not going to be a summer. You can go out on the boat, go to the beach or whatever, but the part of our life that’s been there the past seven or so years is not going to be there this year. It’s a big void you can’t fill.
Another problem smaller leagues face is lack of funding. For the CCBL, a majority of its $2 million+ budget comes from local businesses around Cape Cod that sponsor teams. While sports leagues are struggling, so are restaurants and small businesses, and if they shut down or choose to not sponsor teams next year, “it’ll make things very difficult,” Sturevant said.
Guiney echoes the same concern for the partnership between businesses and his team.
“We’re so embedded in the local community, the restaurants feed our players after games,” Guiney said. “Our big sponsor owns three restaurants and all three are closed down. All these places are hurting, and it hurts everyone in our community, too. I know we’ll pick up new restaurants and sponsors, but with Cape Cod being such a vacation destination and people not wanting to go on vacation right now, this is going to be tough.”
Guiney’s son, who was supposed to be playing for the Little League team his dad coaches this summer, looks forward to meeting the players that stay at his house every season. He calls them his “forever best friends” and was even a junior groomsman in one of the player’s weddings last summer. Guiney says his former and current players facetime his son once a week to keep his spirits up.
“My son has made friends with all these players from all over the country, we’re losing a year of our lives, that’s the way we look at it,” Guiney said.
While managers and owners grieve the loss of their season, the players are left in a strange state of not knowing what they’re preparing for.
Reggie Crawford is a freshman infielder from the University of Connecticut that should have spent this Summer playing for the Bourne Braves, another CCBL franchise. It would have been his first season playing in the league, something he’s looked forward to for years.
“When you’re in high school, you’re just looking forward to the next level, and I was there living it for a few weeks. All of the sudden, it was taken away,” Crawford said. “After all the long practices leading up to the season and all the work I put in outside of practice, it didn’t feel like it was for nothing, but it’s something I have to wait a whole other year for now. It was really disappointing.”
Crawford, originally from Pennsylvania, is staying at his girlfriend’s home in Texas because he doesn’t have access to a gym back home. In his spare time, he’s been meeting up with players around the area (including former first overall pick Royce Lewis) to take swings at local high school fields.
“At first I was just hitting paper balls that I made and eventually I was like ‘alright, I’ve had enough of this,’ so I started going on instagram and looking for minor leaguers from around the area and now I’ve got a really good circle of guys that are all focused on the same goal: getting as much baseball in as we can,” Crawford said.
Like so many other players and others in baseball, Crawford will never take a game for granted again.
“This is the shortest season I’ve played in years. Sometimes you have a doubleheader and you finish that first game and you really don’t want to play in that second one, now I’m like ‘give me three games, anything.’ I’m baseball deprived right now for sure,” Crawford said.
The Cape Cod League is often seen as a launching pad for players to get to the next level: the Major Leagues. With no season on sight, there has been some frustration from players looking to get some recognition this year.
Dawson Barr, a pitcher for the Chatham Angels, said players around the league will be missing that exposure.
“It was one of those things that you have to understand what’s best for the country first, but it’s definitely frustrating. We were all looking forward to that exposure this summer. The cape has such a good reputation for that and the quality of baseball played up there, that was the most frustrating part. The loss of that is tough, but you have to put it into perspective.”