Every summer since 1885, the Cape Cod Baseball League has been the place to be for the top college ball players in the country. But this year, there’s another “CCBL” in New England.
“When the Cape Cod League closed, the dominos started to fall and they have all fallen in our direction,” said Tim Vincent, the commissioner and coach in the Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League, the other CCBL.
For 13 seasons, Vincent's CCBL has been quiet, a place for local Division II and III players to keep up with their training when coming home for the summer. This year, it’s getting loud.
“Probably in my 13 years, this is my most talented group of rosters that I've got,” Vincent said. This year, leagues like the Cape League and New England Collegiate Baseball League are canceled amid coronavirus concerns making logistics difficult. But the Connecticut League doesn’t use host families, which became a key part of the equation.
So, among the DII and DIII players are Division I athletes with Connecticut ties. They may not be from the Nutmeg state, but if they have a place to stay, they’re one step closer to a place to play.
"This has turned into the Cape, for this year,” said University of Hartford pitcher Pete Myers, who was planning to play in the NECBL this summer. “I think that we're going to see guys throwing near a 100 mph and we're going to see guys that are going to play professional baseball next year.”
In fact, they've had so much interest, they're expanding from six teams to 10.
“I think it's going to be an amazing experience for both us to see how they perceive it and for them to kind of see what we're all about and just kind of join together,” said Justin Olson, a rising senior pitcher at Trinity College. He was planning to play summer ball in Connecticut all along and now is excited to test his skills against some even better talent.
The league has rolled out safety measures to comply with state guidelines.
- Players must wear masks in the dugout
- Maintain 6-feet distance, limiting number of players in dugout
- Coaches to wear masks at all times
- No sharing equipment
- Only 18 players per team, per game. Rotating 25-man roster
- Umpires calling balls and strikes from behind pitching mound
“None of this is traditional” said Vincent. “Including they're not allowed to chew gum, spit seeds or any other debris.”
But that’s a small price to pay.
”What better way to socially distance than on a baseball field,” said Olson. “It's built into the game.”
The teams, which span the Greater Hartford area, are set to start practicing on June 17. The first game is scheduled for June 22. While fans can come to games, the number and regulation is limited to state guidelines.