After the pandemic forced Cape Codders to endure a summer without their favorite baseball games last year, the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox are ready to play ball in 2021.
Earlier this month, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that the state is lifting all remaining COVID-19 restrictions as of May 29. Also, the state of emergency in Massachusetts will end on June 15, Baker said – five days before the start of the 2021 Cape Cod Baseball League season.
COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations are all tracking downward, and Massachusetts is on schedule to meet its goal of 4 million people fully vaccinated by June 1, Baker said. So, with businesses preparing to open at full capacity across Cape Cod, many are eager to get outside and have some old-fashioned fun. It’s also clear that absence has made the baseball heart grow fonder.
There’s a great deal of enthusiasm about the return of Cape Cod League Baseball this year, said Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox President James P. DeMaria. “The pent-up excitement is absolutely palpable. It’s fantastic.”
The league begins its 40-game schedule at 5 p.m. on Father’s Day, June 20. That’s when the Brewster Whitecaps visit Red Wilson Field in South Yarmouth to take on the Y-D Red Sox. (Find a complete Cape League schedule online.)
If the crack of the bat and smell of new-mown grass – along with the occasional waft of grilling hot dogs – doesn’t get you primed, the price of admission should do the trick. All Cape Cod Baseball League games are free. Parking is free. Concessions are affordable. And the spectator experience is incomparable, DeMaria said.
“When people come to visit the Cape, and they’re looking for things to do, and they’re looking for things that are family friendly, and they’re looking for things that are within their budget, and they’re looking for things that their kids will enjoy, and they’re looking for things that are outdoors – we’re all of those things.”
People can bring their families, he said. They can enjoy a wonderful evening outdoors and see future major league stars playing a fantastic brand of baseball in an environment that is “a slice of Americana,” DeMaria said. “It’s a great experience, and it’s quintessential Cape Cod.”
FUTURE MAJOR LEAGUE ALL-STARS
Most fans know that watching any Cape League game offers the chance to see future major-leaguers, including all stars and World Series champions. The Y-D Red Sox are no exception, DeMaria said. He noted that many Y-D players have gone from rounding the bases at Red Wilson Field to thrilling the fans at Fenway Park and other big-league venues. You want names?
For starters, there’s Chris Sale. The Red Sox ace played in Yarmouth during the summer of 2009 then helped the Red Sox win the 2018 World Series – even striking out Dodgers’ slugger Manny Machado for the final out. All told, there were 14 former Cape Cod League players in the World Series that year.
Last year’s Major League Championship series featured more Y-D alums.
“We had four players in the World Series last year – three Dodgers and one for the Tampa Bay Rays,” DeMaria said. The Cape Cod League alumni wearing Dodger Blue in 2020 were Justin Turner, Walker Buehler and Chris Taylor. Tampa Bay catcher Mike Zunino is also a former Y-D Red Sox player.
There’s more: Cleveland Indians pitcher Shane Bieber, winner of last year’s American League Cy Young Award, played with the Y-D Red Sox in 2015. When you count the players on all 10 Cape Cod League Baseball teams, there are annually 300 active alumni playing in the major leagues and more than 1,250 players all time, according to CCBL statistics. One in every six Major League Baseball players has spent time in the Cape League.
SUPPORTING THE TEAM
While all Cape Cod Baseball League games are free, donations are appreciated. Supporting the concession stands and souvenir shops is helpful, too. DeMaria said the hope is that people come to the games and spend a few hours, grab something to eat, buy a T-shirt or hat, and enjoy themselves.
With most games starting at 5 or 6 p.m., dinner at the ballpark is a convenient and inexpensive option. A hot dog is $3; a cheeseburger is $4; and it’s $7 for a sausage, pepper and onion roll. You can also try Capt. Parker’s award-winning chowder for $6 ($8 if it’s served in a bread bowl). And a Moose Tracks ice cream cone is just $3.
All home games are played at Merrill “Red” Wilson Field behind D-Y Regional High School, 210 Station Ave., South Yarmouth. There’s free parking at the high school, and the field has a capacity of 5,500. Bleachers along the first-base and third-base lines, allow a great view of the game, and there’s plenty of open space for those who want to bring lawn chairs to sit on the grass. But keep your eyes fixed on the action and watch out for foul balls – these are future big-league batters with a lot of power in their swings.
The D-Y High School field and all the fan accommodations are in excellent condition, DeMaria said. He says the team will follow any safety precautions recommended by local public health officials.
While the state is lifting its remaining COVID-19 restrictions on May 29, protective face masks will still be required on public transportation, inside health facilities, in public schools, and in buildings where vulnerable populations live. Also, those who have not been vaccinated are advised to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
LESSONS FROM FUTURE STARS
Beyond the games, there’s coaching. Youngsters who want to sharpen their skills at hitting, fielding and throwing can take a clinic under the direction of Y-D Red Sox manager Scott Pickler, with help from staff and players. Clinics are available for boys and girls 5 years and older, with a focus on individual skills, along with sportsmanship, citizenship and character. The clinics run Monday through Friday mornings and cost $90 a week – which includes a T-shirt.
OPEN YOUR HOME TO A CCBL PLAYER
Yarmouth residents who want to get more involved with the team can host a player for the summer. Like other Cape Cod Baseball League teams, the Y-D Red Sox rely on local families to provide room and board for players who stay with one family for the entire season. Ballplayers are expected to toe the line to family rules and provide their own transportation. “We’re always looking for host families,” DeMaria said, noting that those sign up for the program this year, might become host families during the summer of 2022. Find out more at the Y-D Red Sox website.
The Y-D Red Sox also use volunteers to help with fundraising and community activities, help at home games and provide other team services. If you’re interested in learning more, email DeMaria at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.