Baseball in Massachusetts? Some Leagues Say Yes; Others Not So Sure

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Around this time of year, normally there would be a lot of baseball being played in Massachusetts, but that is not the case in 2020.

Now, the question is:  will there be any baseball played in Massachusetts this year?

Possibly. Some leagues are optimistic.

For sure, though, by the end of the year, there will have been a lot less baseball played in Massachusetts than in previous years.

Notably, the Cape Cod Baseball League, considered by many to be the top collegiate baseball league in the country, canceled its season. The spring 2020 college baseball regular season for National Collegiate Athletic Association, National Junior College Athletic Association, and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics got canceled in March. And there are no spring high school sports for Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association or New England Preparatory Schools Athletic Council teams this school year, which means no baseball there, either.

It’s unclear if there will be a Major League Baseball or Minor League Baseball season in 2020, and if there is, if Massachusetts’s two professional teams — the Boston Red Sox and their short-season Class A affiliate the Lowell Spinners — would play their games in Massachusetts. A USA Today report says that an MLB season could take place in spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona without spectators. Currently, the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan and the Korean Baseball Organization are the only professional baseball leagues playing in the world.

As for the Spinners, general manager Shawn Smith sent New Boston Post an email message earlier this month and attached a statement released by Minor League Baseball this week denying rumors that the season has already been junked. 

It states:  “The report circulating tonight that the 2020 Minor League Baseball season has been canceled is false. Minor League Baseball has confirmed with Major League Baseball that no such statement was made. No decision has been made as to when it will be safe to begin the 2020 season.”

At the summer collegiate level, the Futures Collegiate Baseball League and the New England Collegiate Baseball League, two leagues primarily composed of NCAA Division 1 players, both have Massachusetts teams. The Futures Collegiate Baseball League features the Brockton Rox, North Shore Navigators, Worcester Bravehearts, and Pittsfield Suns. The New England Collegiate Baseball League features the North Adams SteepleCats, Valley Blue Sox (Holyoke), New Bedford Bay Sox, and the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks. 

According to a statement from Futures League commissioner Joe Paolucci, the league has delayed the start of its season. It was originally supposed to start on May 28, but the league is “optimistic about taking the field at some point this season,” he said.

“As soon as we have clarity on guidelines and procedures for playing baseball, we will look to adapt and begin,” Paolucci said in the statement. “While all scenarios and contingencies are under consideration, we remain hopeful.”

A statement on the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s web site says the league’s season is cancelled.

“This decision was reached after a careful and thoughtful review of the guidance from federal, state and local officials, the leadership of our host communities, and recommendations from the CDC and medical community,” it states. “The conclusion was that canceling the 2020 season was necessary for the health, safety and well-being of our players, coaches, umpires, volunteers, fans and host families.”

At least one men’s amateur baseball league has a tentative date set on when it plans to start this season:  the Cranberry League. The league features a mix of former college baseball players, active local college baseball players, top high school baseball players, and occasionally retired Minor League and independent league players.

The Cranberry League — which has teams in Acushnet, Bourne, Braintree, Canton, Plymouth, Rockland, and Weymouth — plans to start its season on June 21.

“It would be great to have a 2020 season,” Cranberry League President Nate Charette told New Boston Post in a telephone interview earlier this month. “The players want to play. The college players never had a spring season, so they need to play this summer so they’re ready for their own college programs in the fall.” 

Charette said he thinks the league could end up with more talent in it than usual, given the circumstances.

“We’ve talked about this in the league during meetings,” he said. “With the Cape Cod League calling off their season — and waiting to see what happens with the NECBL and the Futures League — we could have a domino effect. We’re anticipating bigger numbers.”

When it comes to children playing baseball, the eastern and western Massachusetts Cal Ripken Baseball (the age four to 12 division of Babe Ruth League) commissioners are expecting seasons this year.

James Edelman, the western Massachusetts commissioner, told New Boston Post in an email message on Friday that the focus will be on local play rather than regional and national tournaments.

“We will be absolutely as flexible as possible when it comes to finding ways to allow any child who wants to play baseball gets that opportunity,” he wrote. “This doesn’t mean there will be no tournament play this year. Decisions regarding tournament play will be made at a later date. Baseball, especially youth baseball, is important in helping us all return to a more normal way of life in America.”

Edelman also said the leagues will abide by federal, state, and local health guidelines and would play in the late summer and fall if that is what it takes for a season to occur.

Mike Janicki, the eastern Massachusetts commissioner, said the final say will come down to town and city government officials, and their opinions may vary from community to community.

“We may not have 100 percent participation, but once the O.K. is given by state and local authorities health-wise, hopefully, the towns will reciprocate and hand out the permits so we can play baseball,” he told New Boston Post in a telephone interview. 

Janicki said there may be some towns that do not open their fields, and they would consider finding opportunities for them to play in neighboring communities.

“We’re gonna do whatever we can to provide these kids with baseball this year,” he said. “It may not be the spring season they’re accustomed to, but if these kids want to play in July, August, or whenever, that’s good with us.”