Archive for the 'Baseball' Category

Aug 12 2014

The Kettleers of 2014

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

Cotuit's baseball season came to an end last night as Falmouth took the second of the three-game Western Division championship with a blow-out 17 hit, 10 to 2 victory at Lowell Park.

I missed the game but as I drove into the village around 7:45 pm I passed the remnants of it and saw  a Kettleer walking down Lowell Avenue onto Main Street in his untucked uniform, his host family surrounding him, escorting him home f or the evening after a season of highs and lows, two bats sticking up in the air from his backpack on his shoulders, the wooden bats the Cape league is known for.

I didn't catch a lot of games this year due to a variety of excuses, but I did catch a wonderful come-from-behind performance against Bourne over the weekend. Cotuit was down 5-0 and the air was out of the home fans' tires, when the Kettleers rallied in magnificent fashion to tie the 3 game series at one apiece. It was the perfect game, vintage Mike Roberts baseball, all the more memorable because my friend Jim D. turned to me at one point when Cotuit had runners at first and third and said to me: "Watch the runner at first get into a run-down so the runner at third can steal home."

Five seconds later exactly that occurred, chaos ensued, and the fact that Cape Cod baseball is far more entertaining than pro ball was underscored.

Congratulations and thanks to the Kettleers for another great season.

Just a few more months to find the cash to save the woods behind the ball field. At the Bourne  game the Barnstable Land Trust ran some yellow tape across the area of the outfield that would be lost if the land isn't preserved. Essentially the park would become unplayable as a big slice of outfield from the flagpole to the visiting bull pen would be lost.

Here's Barnstable Land Trust's Casey Dannhauser throwing the first pitch at the last Bourne game of the season.

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Jul 18 2014

Keep Lowell Park Green

Published by under Baseball,Cotuit,General

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Nice job by Maryjo Wheatley on this video for the Barnstable Land Trust's efforts to save the land around Lowell Park, home field of the Cotuit Kettleers. I was happy to sit and talk with her but didn't expect, well, you'll see... Maryjo is an amazing videographer, she worked for WGBH, the legendary PBS operation in Boston, and was in communications at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute back in my Forbes days. She helped me get a story about the very earliest GPS digital charting technologies back in 1993. Her husband, Capt. Bob Boden is a distant cousin and long-time friend. The three of us sometimes catch the Kettleers together -- but this has not been the most baseball-ish summer for me. Too much client work is keeping me locked to my desk, then add in house guests, bad weather....there's still time.

Anyway. back to the cause at the center of the video. The Barnstable Land Trust has until the end of the year to come up with the money to complete the purchase of the 19-acres of woodlands that surround Lowell Park to the north and the east. At risk is a key part of Cotuit's open space. For the team, what's at risk is a really nice "batter's eye" in terms of an uninterrupted backdrop behind the pitcher so the batters can pick up the ball hurling towards them at 90+ mph.

The BLT is conducting their annual fundraising, auction, to-do on Ropes Field this Sunday afternoon from 3:30 to 7 pm

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Jun 12 2014

If the Kettleers had a mascot….

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

Opening day in Cotuit today but I went to Hyannis last night for the season opener against the Hyannis Harborhawks and witnessed the unveiling of their new mascot, a person in a bird suit.  The mascot's name is "Ossie"  as in Osprey. Hyannis has an identity crisis. They used to be the "Mets" but then the Cape Cod Baseball League's teams who were borrowing the names of major league teams had to stop because of trademark and licensing stuff. So the Mets became the Harborhawks, a nod to the ospreys that next on top of the light poles around the field. They kept the uniform colors of the Amazing New York Mets but the name was changed.

The real birds were there last night, making their screechy osprey peep sounds from their nest on top of the light pole behind the visitor's bleachers. Ossie was introduced to the crowd. This made me ask the guy next to me on the bleachers why they weren't called the "Hyannis Ospreys" in the first place.

The Hyannis Harborhawks are guilty of the same name confusion as Cape Cod Academy which has adopted the "Sea Hawk" as its mascot. There are no such things as Harbor Hawks and Sea Hawks.  Yes, "sea hawk" is blessed as a possible synonym for osprey by Wikipedia, but the Britannica Killer also says it can refer to the skua. Then there is the Sea Eagle -- a synonym for that classic crossword puzzle three-letter word: "Ern" -- but no Harbor Hawk exists except in Hyannis.

Personally, I'd embrace the Osprey and be done with it. Ospreys are cool. Ospreys are survivors.  And the frigging new mascot is running around calling itself "Ossie". Besides they named a really expensive controversial but bad ass helicopter-plane after the species:

I think Hyannis is at the vanguard of a dangerous trend in Cape Cod Baseball:  more mascots. I won't speculate what Wareham would come up with, since they are the Gatemen (maybe a security guard would work).  Chatham (the original "quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem") has the Mariners -- so some guy stuffed into some waders with an 11-foot long surfcasting rod could be easily pressed into service and cast t-shirts into the bleachers in between innings. Brewster has the Whitecaps. Tough one there.I guess a custom costume that looked like a Big Wave, give the thing a Supersoaker, have it blast kids. Blow off a tsunami warning horn after every home run?

But Cotuit.... We have a kettle to thank for our name. The kettle that Myles Standish used to "pay" the Wampanoags for the land that became Cotuit, which with a garden hoe thrown in to sweeten the deal, gives us the name of the local tavern, The Kettle-Ho (which lost in the early rounds of the recent Real Cape dive bar contest).

The Kettle-Ho's mascot is a mermaid (arguably a "ho" herself as the bar's motto is "Not the 'Ho You Used to Know") ,  holding a hoe and cuddling a black kettle with her tail.  The sign hangs just a few doors down from the offices of my insurance broker, Mycock Insurance (the Cape Cod Baseball League's championship trophy is named after longtime Cotuit Kettleer manager, Arnold Mycock).

Other than the baseball team and the bar, the kettle thing doesn't have a lot of legs in the village. But, if Cotuit were to get a mascot, what would we get? They pass plastic kettles around the stands to raise some cash every game. And I've seen a fan show up with a brass kettle and bang on it like a Swiss ski fan ringing more cowbell on the slopes of the Matterhorn, I guess it would have to be somebody running around in a kettle specific version of the Kool-Aid Man.

My neighbor at last night's game agreed with the Kool-Aid guy idea, but suggested there would also need to be a "hoe" which of course led to inappropriate speculation about how a "hoe" would be represented in a costume.

Any way, Cotuit lost last night, 3-2 and stranded something like a dozen baserunners, keeping us on our toes with the bases loaded in the ninth. But alas. It was not to be for the 2013 Cape Cod champions. Today at 5 they open at home against Hyannis, game two of the Patriot Cup. Without a mascot but with nice new home stands.

 

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May 28 2014

Cotuit Fire District Annual Meeting tonight: Vote Yes on Article 19

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

Update: The article passed 75-3.

Tonight the village holds is annual meeting at Freedom Hall (7:30 pm) to work through the budgets of the fire and water departments and the prudential committee (which takes care of Freedom Hall.) The warrant is pretty much the same from one year to the next -- some years the fire department needs a new ambulance (they need one this year) or the water department wants to build a new water tower (which they did a few years ago in Santuit) -- but most of the items are standard items such as salaries, a small stipend to the library, money for the village street lights and some modifications to the bylaws to bring them into the Internet age so meeting notices can be posted on the district's web site.

This year a special article is on the warrant -- placed there by citizen petition -- to ask the village tax payers to purchase a conservation easement for the 19-acres of woodlands behind Lowell Park -- home field of the Cotuit Kettleers. The price tag is $235,000, about $67 in additional taxes for the typical homeowner.

The highlighted fore4st shows the 19-acres to be preserved. (photo from the blt.org by Rick Heath)

Ordinarily I would say it isn't the village's "municipal duty" to preserve open space -- that's a charitable effort usually promoted through the good efforts of the Barnstable Land Trust and private donors -- but this is a crucial investment towards preserving the character of the village and keeping intact an extraordinary greenway that runs from Little River Road past the Bell Farm conservation lands, past Mosswood Cemetery all the way up to the wonderful curve at the Ropes Field. It saves the pristine, uninterrupted outfield of the best ballpark in the Cape Cod Baseball League and it will present a good buffer for the well field. This is the sort of thing my grandparents and great grandparents would have done and I say it is our duty to dig into our pockets and do the same for future generations. Cotuit has a proud history of doing the right thing and this is the right thing to do.

The Barnstable Land Trust is pushing for a Yes vote on Article 19 and with good justification. First of all, this keeps nine homes and their septic systems away from one of the most important sources of our drinking water. Last summer Cotuit had its first "boil order" after the drinking water failed a test. Across the street from Lowell Park, is a dilapidated home that has been a battleground between a local developer and residents -- he wanted to subdivide the property into condos, but eventually gave up after letting the place deteriorate into an eyesore. It also abuts a well field and the village has purchased the conservation restriction to insure no septic systems get built too close to the water supply.

I'd argue that this is the sort of thing that improves property values in the village and is a great investment in our future. The article is going to come to a vote later in the meeting (it is 19 out of 24) and it's the duty of any concerned property owner with an interest in the village to get off their butts and show up. Cotuit's Fire District is essential to keep the village's individual identity intact and to give its residents a truly local voice in the management of the place. While the calls for consolidation into a single Town of Barnstable system continue to be heard in the name of efficiency and economy, we Cotusions need to keep in mind that our Fire District -- granted to us by the legislature in the 1920s -- gives us a degree of sovereign autonomy and control over our affairs that once given up, can't be regained.

 

 

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May 21 2014

2014 Cotuit Kettlers – Google Calendar Schedule

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

Here is this year's Cotuit Kettleer's schedule for adding to Google Calendar. This is unofficial, handtyped by me, complete with any inadvertent errors. Home games are designated in blue, away games in red. You can get to it with this link

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Apr 24 2014

Baseball needs human error

Published by under Baseball

The invasion of the instant replay into professional sports threatens to remove one of the essential components of the sporting experience: the capricious effects of human error on the part of referees and umpires. This spring's baseball season has seen the introduction of a silly system where a team's manager can challenge an official call made on the field and the play is then remotely reviewed at Major League Baseball's New York City headquarters by some faceless judges who look at the television feeds.

Because the technology exists to determine the truth doesn't mean it has a place in a sport that celebrates the feckless and accidental. From robotic line judges in professional tennis to strike zone graphics, yes, we can make sports more precise and ostensibly more "fair" by taking the foibles of a judge or referee or umpire out of the equation. No more cries of a "We wuz robbed!" No more fist shaking at the Gods for punishing the home team so unfairly. The obvious blunders that rob pitchers of perfect games, the miscalls that cause spectators to have conniptions of disbelief as they watch the slow-mo replay and see what the officials couldn't see from the field ....are nothing compared to the bullshit politics of the so-called "judged" sports like figure skating and gymnastics where performance is subjective and evaluated by judges with nationalistic prejudices and even the potential to be bribed (sorry, but any "sport" with judges and costumes isn't a sport in my book).

A huge part of the emotional attachment between fans and sports is the human factor, that indescribable sense of magic when the players transcend the boundaries of human potential and go beyond themselves in a clutch situation and become legends or scapegoats. Sport, like war, isn't about precision and standards. It's about luck and happenstance and umpires who should go get their eyes checked. Baseball is the only sport with the concept of an "error" -- a subjective judgement by the scorer. I think it needs to embrace the misfortunes of fate that happens when an umpire misses a tag, or calls a ball fair that went foul by inches.  Technology has no place in a ball park.

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Apr 02 2014

The unclimbed

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

I was way too wimpy to ever climb a Cotuit water tower as a kid. I know those who did. One went on to feel perfectly at ease jumping out of airplanes. I am so freaked out by heights that I get weird thinking about heights.  (A Cub Scout expedition to the top of a fire tower in Georgetown, Massachusetts in 1966 ended with me clutching the bannister of the open metal-grate stairs and having to have my fingers pried off by my mother the Den Mother). Anyway, I went for my daily constitutional behind the ball park where the land is at risk of being developed unless the Barnstable Land Trust can raise enough $$$ to buy it and save the Kettleer's home field, Lowell Park, from having some starter castles in the outfield.  Give today.  The pink surveyor ribbons are in the woods!

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Apr 01 2014

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote…

Published by under Baseball

A. Bartlett Giamatti was the president of Yale when I was a student there in the late 1970s. I had lunch with him once and the conversation was unfortunately about comparative literature and the poetry of Spenser, one of his many academic specialties. I was bitching about my experience in English 101, a prerequisite for English majors at Yale which ran both the fall and spring terms of my freshman year and was without a doubt the most frustrating class I've ever taken -- sort of an evil bootcamp designed to weed out the wimps from what was arguably the best English literature department in the US. I made a wisecrack about a student who wrote a dreary paper about reptile symbols in The Faerie Queen and he shook his hand in the universal gesture of beating off (or so I interpreted it) and went back to asking the rest of the table about how they felt about college life in general. I wanted to tell him I found it highly strange that I had to spend time in the Yale language lab with a set of headphone on my stoned head, listening to someone read Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in a sing-song voice like a parody of a Scandanavian when I was in school to read the King's English goddammit, and not pick through some mongrel predecessor that opened my education with these familiar words:

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

We didn't talk about baseball. I had no idea he was into baseball. I didn't watch the game in college. I never once went out to the ancient Yale ballfield where George Bush and Ron Darling had pitched (Ron was a contemporary and also a renowned Cotuit Kettleers). I barely passed English 101 and quickly shifted to American History after a disastrous freshman year.

Giamatti, a Bostonian, was a life-long Red Sox fan. He  declared once that his life's ambition was to become president of the American League. In 1986 his wish was almost granted and he became president of the National League, graduating to the top job of Commissioner of Major League Baseball in 1989-- a job he held less than six months -- long enough for him to banish Pete Rose -- before dying at 51 of a heart attack on Martha's Vineyard (he smoked).

Of course his son, the actor Paul Giamatti, was a Yalie.

So back to yesterday, March 31, Opening Day. The reigning World Champion Red Sox opened the season down in Baltimore's Camden Yards  and lost to the Birds 2 to 1 in a nice game under sunny skies while up here Massachusetts endured another day of "wintry mix" and "thunder snow." Watching the last two innings, I thought about Giamatti's finest contribution to baseball, his written love letter to it: The Green Fields of the Mindthe oft-quoted poetic elegy to the national pastime.

"The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."

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Mar 21 2014

A made man

Published by under Baseball

2014-03-21 13.24.00

 

2014-03-21 13.38.19

 

So I cleared the US Customs "Global Entry Program" which means no more lines when I go hither and fro from the UK to the States. One of the customs officers asked if I was a Red Sox fan, a safe question to answer in a National League city, and he waxed poetic about his ambition to see the inside of Olde Fenway. I told him I was a season ticket holder, which is like wearing a pinkie ring and driving a Caddy for the Gambino Family when it comes to being a made man in Boston. I passed the background check which means I get to be that douchebag you hate. That guy who can breeze through the TSA with his belt and shoes on, laptop and liquids safe in his bag. Tis the season of being licensed and ticketed. I feel highly important as a result.

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Mar 11 2014

Spring Fever Baseball

Published by under Baseball,Cotuit

The Red Sox better mail me my season tickets soon or I'll begin to panic and start stalking them. I even checked my online bank register the other day to make sure the check I mailed in cleared last December. Season tickets are now my second worst non-renewal nightmare, up there with the falling-off-the-cliff and underwear-in-the-highschool-hallway dreams.. The first nightmare of non-renewal will always be my mooring permits from the Town of Barnstable.

My first game will be April 8 vs. the Rangers. Something tells me after this winter that I will not be wearing my "Thaw Ted" t-shirt and shorts that Tuesday evening but will probably have more layers of wool going on than a Yukon prospector.

So, randomly, here's the first bright sign of spring: one of my favorite Cotuit Kettleers blew everyone away during a recent Red Sox spring season game down in Jupiter, Florida.   I'm talking Deven Marrero, the Arizona State phenomenon my Cotuit baseball buddies and I adopted as most-likely-to-succeed in the 2010  championship season when he hit .306 as a freshman, returning the next year to play 12 games in the 2011 season and hit .346.  The guy is an incredible fielder.

Gordon Edes wrote last week that Marrero is the Red Sox rookie to watch this year and a strong candidate for the Sox's future shortstop:

"The beauty of spring training is that you never know when or where the next coming-out party will be, and who will emerge from the shadows to declare themselves a major leaguer-in-waiting.

Last spring it was outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., grabbing us with the virtuosity of his all-around play in Fort Myers. In 2005, it was a cocky Class A reliever named Jonathan Papelbon, who responded to a teammate being hit by a pitch in Fort Lauderdale by buzzing slugger Sammy Sosa with a high, hard one.

And Thursday afternoon here in Roger Dean Stadium, with the Red Sox leaving nearly all of their regulars back in Fort Myers, 23-year-old shortstop Deven Marrero, who went to high school about 70 minutes away from here (American Heritage School in Plantation), became the latest Red Sox rookie to seize his moment.

[+] EnlargeMarrero

AP Photo/Mike JanesShortstop Devin Marrero (above, coaching first base in a spring training game last year) flashed impressive defensive ability against the Marlins.

Marrero did so with a fielding exhibition worthy of Cirque du Soleil, one in which he displayed spectacular range diving for a ball up the middle, showed off his aerodynamic capacity while completing a double play and handled everything else hit his way with soft hands and a strong arm.

"My gosh, he put on a display defensively," manager John Farrell said after a scoreless game between the Sox and Miami Marlins that was shortened to 7 2/3 innings by a late-afternoon deluge.

Which brings me to this year's Kettleer's roster which is live on the team site.  I'll get off my butt and do the usual OCD Google-Baseball America scouting report but past experience tells me that a good number of these names won't make it to Cotuit due to the usual Team USA/College World Series conflicts. It is always nice to see returning players and this year's squad had four alumni from last summer's championship team.

PHOTOS # NAME POS B/T HT WT YEAR SCHOOL
Barrera, Tres C R/R 6'2 195 2017 Texas
Bozoian, Vahn OF R/R 6'5 210 2016 USC
Carmichael, Jay RHP R/R 6'2 175 2016 Florida
Copping, Calvin RHP R/R 6'3 180 2016 Cal St Northridge
Duke, Travis LHP L/L 6'2 220 2016 Texas
Eicholtz, Nick RHP R/R 6'4 180 2017 Alabama
Fisher, Jameson C/INF L/R 6'2 180 2016 SE Louisiana
Fulmer, Carson RHP R/R 5'11 190 2016 Vanderbilt
Haynie, Will C/INF R/R 6'5 225 2017 Alabama
Henderson, Spencer LHP/1B L/L 6'3 215 2016 UC Davis
Holder, Kyle INF L/R 6'1 185 2016 U. San Diego
Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4 10 Jackson, Drew INF R/R 6'2 195 2016 Stanford
James, Logan LHP L/L 5'11 185 2016 Stanford
Leftwich, Luke RHP R/R 6'3 200 2016 Wofford
McClelland, Jackson RHP R/R 6'5 220 2016 Pepperdine
Melton, Hunter INF R/R 6'2 225 2016 Texas A&M
Minter, A.J. LHP L/L 6'0 200 2016 Texas A&M
Parks, Adam RHP R/R 6'2 220 2016 Liberty
Photos: 2, 3, 4 2 Schrock, Max INF L/R 5'9 180 2016 South Carolina
Photos: 2 14 Stubbs, Garrett C L/R 5'10 160 2015 USC
Taylor, Jeremy OF L/L 6'2 178 2016 East Tennessee St.
Taylor, Logan INF R/R 6'1 200 2016 Texas A&M
Tewes, Sam RHP R/R 6'5 205 2017 Wichita St.
Vogel, Matthew RHP R/R 6'2 185 2017 South Carolina
Wingenter, Trey RHP R/R 6'7 195 2016 Auburn
Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4 8 Wiseman, Rhett OF L/R 5'11 190 2016 Vanderbilt

And being all springlike (since the clock did its thing and make it at least sunny at 6 pm albeit a balmy 20 degrees), I'll drag the boat to the boat guy next week for a pre-season tuneup and start stalking those wily clams awaiting me. I was in London the past two weeks and they have full daffodils and crocuses (Crocii?) which was nice to see. Otherwise, mud season approacheth and I need a baseball game to get me out of this spleenish winter funk.

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Dec 14 2013

Keep Lowell Park Green

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

An important part of any decent baseball park isthe "batter's eye" -- a blank segment of the outfield, unpopulated by bleacher seats or billboards -- a dark backdrop behind the pitcher hat lets the batter see the ball against a solid backdrop. Baseball is full of legends, and one has it that the fans of one home team, before the advent of the batter's eye, would conspire to wear white t-shirts to make it difficult for the visiting team's batters to see the ball come off of the pitcher's hand, and then change to black shirts when the home team came up to bat. Given that sportswriters have declared in a poll that the hardest thing to do in all of sports is to hit a major league fastball, the batters need all the help they can get.

Cotuit's Elizabeth Lowell Memorial Park is unique among all of the Cape Cod Baseball League's ten ballparks in that its batter's eye is an uninterrupted wall of green pine and scrub oaks, a stretch of green that embraces the park on all sides. No houses are visible. No signs. Nothing. Just a big piece of green that is part of one of Cotuit's best green spaces. The scoreboard, the flag pole, a few fans in lawn chairs, kids optimistically waiting around to shag home runs, and occasional dog walker are all there is out there to break out the perfect green expanse. Spend some time following the Kettleers to other ball fields and you'll quickly learn how blessed we are in Cotuit to have the best park on the Cape. According to the Kettleers coach Mike Roberts: "The still, green backdrop makes Lowell Park the best field for hitters in the Cape League. What a shame it would be to lose that."

outfield

Lowell Park is undeniably one of the most unique ball fields in America, and readers of a certain vintage will remember when Sports Illustrated made the park famous with an aerial view that put the little green gem in context with the blue waters of Cotuit Bay and the golden strand of Sampson's Island in the background. I've got a framed copy of an aerial shot by my neighbor Paul Rifkin on the wall of my office.

I was at a dinner in San Diego last week with some colleagues and discussion eventually turned to sports. Of course everyone wanted to ask me, the Boston guy about the Red Sox but I told them the story of Cotuit baseball instead: of watching games for free in barefeet as the best college ball players in the country showed off their skills  to pro scouts in the most competitive and prestigious summer wooden-bat league in the nation. I used my phone to bring up from Flickr one of those of iconic aerial photos of the perfect park buried in a sea of green trees with the harbor and Nantucket Sound in the background and then passed it around. That picture said it all.

Thanks to the generosity of the Lowell family, one of Cotuit's stalwart summer families, the forest behind the baseball park has been offered to the Barnstable Land Trust for the very reasonable price of $1.8 million. The BLT has a year to raise the money and I write today to urge my fellow Cotusions to dig deep and do their financial best to help preserve not only the Kettleer's batter's eye, but to keep one of the village's best green spaces green. This land is near the village well fields, backs up to the western half of Mosswood Cemetary (where a recent proposal to build a solar array was thankfully thwarted), and is part of the great stretch of green that welcomes a person arriving in Cotuit on Putnam Avenue, a nearly uninterrupted piece of forest filled with deer, turtles and foxes that includes Eagle Pond, the Bell Farm, the cemetery and the wonderful field at the curve of Putnam and Maple where the yacht club stows its Cotuit Skiffs during hurricanes.

The Lowell family could doubtlessly make some developer happy at two or three times the price and nine starter castles and McMansions could get shoved into the 19 acress of woods. But not if we dig deep and give ourselves and Cotuit baseball a gift of green. A couple things about the fundraiser. While the ballpark is owned by the town, some of it intrudes onto private property (the visitor's bullpen allegedly). This not only makes for great baseball and will help keep the Kettleers the best team in the league, but is a huge step to preserve Cotuit's green space and keep another subdivision from further eroding the charm of the village.

Here's a link to the donation page for the Lowell Park fund on the Barnstable Land Trust's website.

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Oct 31 2013

The greatest year of baseball ever … like ever

Published by under Baseball,General,Red Sox

It will take a better statistician than me to make the case that the 2013 Boston Red Sox are the best, or second best, or whatever best team in the history of the club. I can't speak to anything first-hand experience back to 1967, when I was nine years old and playing bad first-base in the Georgetown, Massachusetts rec department's Farm League (pre-Little League) using an antique pancake mitt handed down from my grandfather, a relic I hated at the time but really wish I had today.  That Impossible Dream team will always be the most vivid. 1975 was frankly a blur. The 1986 Buckner team was the most evil in its wicked mental torments. The Curse-bursting 2004 team the most blessed. The 2007 the most capable. But this one....I don't know, they just played wicked good and seemed to have fun and a showed lot of respect for the laundry.

Basking in the morning-after-glow of a great World Series game, everyone wants to roll over in bed,hug the lovable, bearded rascals and say, "I love you. Let's do it again." Sometime in the next few days the team will pile into the duck boats and parade around a happy city and Boston will have its moment finally after a baseball season that started fresh and raw and unknown in April and ended six months later the way the movies would have wanted it to.

Painting the house in April, on the ladder, WEEI kept me company on those chilly weekend afternoons with Joe Castiglione and Dave O'Brien calling the games in between Verizon Wireless and Shaw's Supermarket Little Debbie Snack Cake ads. As I scraped and prepped I kept an ear tuned for that tell-tale rise in excitement in their voices and listened as a lot of new names made their debut .Would I have called it then? Would I have made the prediction they'd go all the way "from worst to first?" Of course not, I was thinking maybe they'd get the wildcard but not make it past Toronto or Detroit. I trusted the new manager, John Farrell, solely on the basis of his killer jaw-line and that calm Gary Cooper demeanor so calm and firmly assuring after the Howdy Doody persona of his ill-fated predecessor Bobby "Did You Know He Invented the Wrap?" Valentine.

Then the Brothers Tsarnaev did their heinous deeds.

Suddenly the Red Sox were carrying a lot more psychic weight than just trying to redeem themselves from the days of Chicken-and-Beer and their last place finish the year before. They came home from the road trip and one could feel the city latch onto them, beseeching them to make it okay, to bring back the calm rhythms of a sunny afternoon game in Fenway, to sing the songs and chant the chants they cheered and sang the year before and the year before that. The Red Sox couldn't to carry the weight of the Marathon. They were happy to accept it and gracious in allowing Fenway to become the city's church and place of mourning; but as John Lester said, the team didn't have much to offer other than provide a diversion to get people's minds off the mess.

Boston is a city of ghosts where nothing really changes, a place with a ring of road salt rime around the cuffs of its pants; a pissed-off, wind chapped, itchy skin, sleet smeared windshield, can-you-fucking-believe-they-closed-the-Hilltop? town that isn't nearly as liberal as the rest of the country thinks it is, a college town that doesn't love the students who infest it, a kind of ugly place that retreats into its clannish neighborhoods, scores an eight-ball of whizzer and looks down at the bandwagon yuppies in their pink hats who sing "Sweet Caroline" in the eighth inning.

That horrible song with no connection what-so-ever to Boston or baseball is never going away. When The Neil Himself showed up and sang the damn thing at the Post-Marathon mourning session I gave up my campaign to ban it and just thank edthe Baseball Gods that we don't need to wave Surrender Towels like every other team's fans seem to need to do along with ring cowbells and follow big LED jumbotron exhortations to Make. Some. Noise.  It is said that Red Sox fans are the tenth player on the roster. This sentimental, formerly cursed nation that cheers from Woonsocket to Millinocket (and who, after breaking the Curse in 2004 lugged team gear and flowers to the graves of their dearly departed so they could join in the celebration too) these fans like the loud, crazed drunk I once watched in a black and orange knit wool Bruins cap sitting behind the visitors bullpen who taunted J.D. Drew non-stop for collecting too much salary, and then who scornfully caught, barehanded, a Yankee homer whacked at him by the despised A-Rod and then hucked it back onto the field without a second thought or spilling a single drop of his $8.50 cup of 'Gansett.

I'm just glad to have the chance watch it all with my sons and my mother and my sister and my brother-in-law and nephews.  Crowded around a television. Screaming and high-fiving. Drinking too much on a school night while layered in a #38 Schilling t-shirt with a Mike Lowell 2007 World Series MVP team jersey on over that, and a nasty smelly blue Red Sox hat speckled with bottom paint.

I doubt this fan will ever see a year of baseball like he saw in 2013 -- a double-headed championship crown that started with the Cotuit Kettleers and ends with the Olde Towne Team triumphant.

And David Ortiz is getting a statue in front of Fenway. Just saying.

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Oct 14 2013

It’s a David Ortiz World and We Just Live In It

Published by under Baseball,General

This is why I watch baseball.

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Sep 09 2013

With the Red Sox, nothing is a sure thing

Published by under Baseball

The Red Sox bandwagon is officially rolling. The checkout lady at the grocery store told me "Go Sox" yesterday and the simple fact that I am screaming at the television set late in the games is a leading indicator that post-season fever is building.

It was with some superstition that I saw this post-season probabilities chart on MLB.com that give the Sox a 100% chance of making the post-season. Sorry, but the magic number is down to 12 to keep Tampa out and dependent on the wild card. Nothing is 100%, especially since the Sox set the record for the worst September meltdown in the history of the game back in 2011, the season of beer and chicken.

Yet here is proof some statistical, Monte Carlo simulating fool thinks the Red Sox are a sure thing. Bring on the Rays and I have tickets for Friday's game against the Yankees at home:

sox

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Aug 23 2013

Baseball Scorekeeper

Published by under Baseball,Books

I switched scorebooks this summer in the interest of checking out some alternatives. I started scoring with the free cards the Cotuit Kettleers used to hand out as recently as 2009, but have since migrated to spiral-bound books of scoring blanks.

The standby for me for the past three seasons  has been C.S. Peterson's Scoremaster. I would order one or two every spring from Amazon for $7 (though the vendor claims a massive discount from a list price of $30 which is absurd because I don't remember paying close to that).

Here's a scoresheet from Peterson:

petersons

 

Apologies in advance as the scan doesn't do much justice to the detail on the form, but there it is. Pretty dense, kind of cramped, but it did the job for the most part and didn't have any obvious irritations.

Peterson's is a good book. I'm familiar with it, it has a pitch count tracker which one can see on the far right. It is soft covered so it isn't very rigid in the lap and it has no pockets to stash ticket stubs, 50-50 raffle tickers, or other detritrus picked up at the ball park.

This summer I tried something new, a very trendy super scorebook complete with an introduction, a set of how-to-score instructions, a fold-out cheat sheet with common symbols and abbreviations, and yes, a memento pocket inside of the back cover.  This version is called the Baseball Scorekeeper and is priced at $13.56 onb Amazon, twice the Peterson price. It even has co-authors, Stuart Miller and Zack Hemple.

I liked it. It was a little basic but it also got the job done, it just didn't get to the level of obsessive detail that Peterson's does. The lack of a pitch count tracker was an issue, and the player hit column just noted hits, not doubles, triples, etc.

scorekeeper

 

I'd recommend the Scorekeeper to a beginner, wish Peterson's came in a hardcover version and while I'm giving advice, would tell the Scorekeeper guys to consider an elastic band of some sort -- like Moleskin notebooks have -- to help hold the thing together when it is folded open and both sides are in use.

Next season I'll try something else.

And to hell with scorekeeping apps. Yes yes yes I've heard of Gamechanger, and have tried the iScore app. Only douchebags take tablets to ballgames unless they're getting paid to bring one there. Give me paper and pencil and a bag of peanuts in the shell.

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Aug 16 2013

Saw the Game. Bought the Shirt

Published by under Baseball,Cotuit

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Aug 16 2013

That Championship Series

Published by under Baseball

The Cotuit Kettleers won the 2013 Cape Cod Baseball League championship last night in Orleans over the eastern division champions, the Orleans Firebirds, in a two game sweep that ended with a 6-1 score. The win earned Cotuit its 16th league championship, it's second in the last four years.

For the last two months – beginning on June 12 at home against Chatham – the Kettleers put a great team of talented college ball players on the field of "beautiful, pristine, picturesque Lowell Park." Although a mere four players were on the roster for the entire season and a total of 50 or more players cycled in and out of the dugout due to the professional draft, Team USA, and the early opening of the school year, the team, like every team before them, came together with their own unique personality and presence, growing from strangers to adopted sons in a mere eight weeks of intense, daily play.

I'm happy to have seen more than a dozen of those games, most of them at home here in Cotuit where I can walk to the park in less than ten minutes, in bare feet, toting my little Kettleers bag (sons call it my "man purse") carrying my scorebook, water bottle, wallet, phone and bag of peanuts left over from the last game. I divided my time between the home stands along the third-base line and the more capacious and new visitors' bleachers along the first (where I can get a better view of the batters and also slightly annoy the visitors by cheering for the home team in their midst). Any baseball game that I can walk to in bare feet and watch for free (other than a grateful donation tossed into the plastic kettles carried around by Alan Blanchette's squad of little kids) is great baseball, win or lose.

My personal highlight of the season was the July 13 game at home against Hyannis, when Mike Ford, back for his second stint in Cotuit, went four-for-four, hitting a first inning home run, two singles, and another homer in the eighth to drive in a total of five runs. That was probably the best single performance I've ever seen in Cotuit; it was with mixed regret and pride that I cheered the news that Ford had been drafted by the Yankees and went off immediately in late July to play for the Staten Island Yankees for the remainder of the summer season before finishing his education this fall at Princeton. He entered that game leading the league with a .370 average and departed it with an astonishing .420 – a spectacular number if one considers that the Cape Cod Baseball League is one of the few wooden-bat summer leagues, often the players' first introduction to ash or hickory, a difficult transition for some, and the reason so many pro scouts flock to the fields in July to see how well the sluggers can adapt. Ford adapted and left Cotuit a guy to watch in the future.

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The names on the roster in early June seem so familiar now as I read back through the scorebook: Zimmer, Diggar, Rosen, Kiene, Mazieka, Castellano, Cole, Cribbs, Bradley, Walsh … but flip ahead through the stained and tattered pages to last night's game and only one, Zimmer (the MVP of the championship series who left the team to play in Japan and for Team USA before returning) is a repeat. Many of the post-season stars were very recent arrivals, joining in the last two weeks to patch the holes on the dugout and bullpen benches. They will also be remembered for a long time to come.

I've read in the Cape Cod Times that the Kettleer's coach Mike Roberts estimates that 50 players cycled through the roster this year, a level of churn that must be grueling to manage as players come and go due to injuries, the pro draft, and other caprices of the summertime.

Mike Roberts is a constant. This was his tenth season with Cotuit and he's become a beloved figure in the village, peddling his bike up and down Main Street, rolling into the driveway to say hello, raising funds to improve the ballpark and settling into the community as one of its most colorful characters. His style of play – "Roberts SmallBall" the fans call it – is an education in the game itself; a constant strategic game of inches, of bunts and double steals, hit-and-runs, suicide squeezes … there isn't an opportunity that goes unexploited and I imagine for any player fortunate enough to get invited to Cotuit they come away with an intense education in base running and strategy unavailable anywhere else (Mike's son Brian Robert, second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, was the stolen-base king a few years back and played for his father when Mike was coaching the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

The real hero of Cotuit isn't a player, the coach, or any individual. It's got to be the Cotuit Athletic Association, a largely anonymous, unsung collection of volunteers who raise the money, pass the kettles, mow the lawn, sell the 50-50 raffle tickets, staff the t-shirt store, house and feed the players, manage the website and drive the players to-and-from the airport. This isn't a group of folks who want to bask in the reflected glory of the players (Ron Darling, Chase Utley, Joe Girardi are some former Kettleers), these are genuinely devoted fans who work very hard delivering the best, free, family-friendly baseball experience available anywhere. They manage the interns, pick up the trash, sweep out the stands and recruit next year's roster all while working with their backs to the field and the game they love so fans like me can sit in the top row keeping score, talking trash, and applauding.

There's good reason for the myth of Cape Cod baseball in a game drenched in myth, it's a myth earned and deserved and goes far deeper than the usual glib shorthand description of "the best college ballplayers facing wooden bats and a daily game schedule for the first time in their careers under the scrutiny of pro scouts in quaint seaside ball parks." Movies, books, and countless blog posts and tweets have been expended on this league and its alumni, (and here comes one more). But the common theme that has emerged for me over the years is that the volunteers are the constant (see my ode to Ivan Partridge below), the players are ephemeral, few staying more than one season, and the fans are mixture of close family, friends, regulars and hardcore eccentric fans (some of whom have earned nicknames from me and my crew as "The Clapper", "The Fountain of Misinformation," "Bookworm" etc.); and of course the random parade visitors and tourists stopping by for a game to check out the myth and legend of Cape Cod baseball.

With no parade or celebration to mark their victory, this year's Kettleers are doubtlessly packing up their duffel bags this morning and getting ready for a ride to the airport, on their way back to Vanderbilt, Stanford, Concordia, NC State. Lowell Park will go quiet, the snack bar will cook no more, the volunteers will keep mowing the grass and eventually the tarps will cover the pitcher's mound and the place will return to the dog walkers while the weeds keep growing through the cracks in the parking lot. The coach might relax for a few days, but doubtlessly he's already recruiting the 2014 squad, and in a few weeks, at Bruce Hall in the Cotuit Federated Church, the Cotuit Athletic Association will gather to start planning for opening day next June.

For the first time in a few years I'm not in my usual post-season depression. Yes, I'll turn my attention to the Red Sox for the next two months, keep reading a steady stream of baseball books (my guilty pleasure) and continue my Walter Mitty fantasy of one day be sitting in the stands, scorebook in my lap, debating with myself over whether to mark that play a hit or an error, when a call goes out over the PA: "Is there a scorer in the house?"

I'll be ready.

 

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Aug 12 2013

Have a Hit

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod

I thought I heard Ivan Partridge yelling tonight at the baseball game. He used to stand by the gate in the chain link backstop next to the Kettleer's dugout, fingers laced in the green wire, bellowing his exhortation to men at least 70 years his junior to "Have a Hit." I haven't seen him this summer. I hope he's doing well.

There are t-shirts sold that bear that slogan.

Once, in Zebulon, North Carolina, at a Carolina Mud Cats game, I saw an ex-Kettleer come to the plate. He'd spent the summer rooming at my sister's place, an adopted member of the family who loomed over backyard cookouts and exuded the kind of vitality that only a 19 year old in the prime of life has.

As he stepped to the plate, I put down my scorecard and yelled in my best Ivan imitation, "Have a Hit!"

The batter turned, a long way from Lowell Park, and for a moment he searched the grandstands for the tall old man who had urged him on a few summers before.

I thought for a second that I heard Ivan tonight. The Cotuit home stands were chanting "HAVE A HIT" and for a second I could swear I could hear Ivan's tremulous voice above the mob's. It was a good game, a great game, the Kettleers won the western division of the Cape Cod Baseball League and will advance to the finals tomorrow.

But Ivan wasn't there.

I didn't see Ivan at any home games this summer.  He made a few some last year, standing (never sitting) behind the Cotuit bat boys at his place on the fence right by the steps up into the stands. He usually came late in the game, a tall man in a cranberry red Kettleer's windbreaker even on the hottest of days, his eyes wrapped with big sunglasses. When he was really worked up he'd face the home stands and exhort everyone to make some noise and let the boys know how much we appreciate them.

Ivan Partridge is director emeritus of the Cotuit Athletic Association, the volunteer organization that pulls together the entire magnificent season throughout the year. He was a fixture at Lowell Park, past president of the CAA, the man who led the little kids with the plastic kettles through the stands during the fifth inning to solicit donations from the fans who had paid no admission to see the best amateur baseball in the world. My favorite CCBL blog, CodBall, called him a "superfan." They interviewed him a few  years ago here. The Barnstable Patriot wrote a wonderful profile here.

He was a former Episcopalian minister and volunteer fireman.

I miss hearing him call out his friendly offering to every Kettleer as they step into the batter's box, and his hope the other team will "Have an Out." I hope to see him soon.

 

 

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Jun 12 2013

Opening Day

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

The real opening day is today, Wednesday June 12 in Cotuit. I'm clearing the calendar and hitting the road from NYC a lot earlier than usual so I can cover the 250 miles in time.  I found this little gem of a promo on the Kettleer's website.

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Jun 05 2013

2013 Cotuit Kettleers Unofficial Schedule

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

Not finding a digital version of the 2013 Kettleers' schedule on the team's website, I manually made a simple one in Google Calendar.

The XML version is here: https://www.google.com/calendar/feeds/iokp41b1c1s8djcsd999ic1t40%40group.calendar.google.com/public/basic

The iCal version: https://www.google.com/calendar/ical/iokp41b1c1s8djcsd999ic1t40%40group.calendar.google.com/public/basic.ics

and the HTML version for access through any browser: https://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=iokp41b1c1s8djcsd999ic1t40%40group.calendar.google.com&ctz=America/New_York

The official version can be found on kettleers.org here.

Opening Day is Wednesday June 12 at Lowell Park.

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