Cape Cod Baseball Is the Greatest Form of America's Pastime

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Cape Cod Baseball Is the Greatest Form of America's Pastime

I just came back from a week in Cape Cod; a week away from the Internet; a week away from watching my beloved Mets; a week away from reading about the latest business endeavors, including Time Warner's acquisition of Bleacher Report.

Let's just say that it was all worth it. 

It was a relaxing week. I spent two days tanning, not that I need it, added clam-digging to my repertoire of acquired skills, biked from Orleans to Harwich, MA and back (and felt the burn too), and devoured enough clam chowda to serve a soup kitchen for a day.

But all of that couldn't compare to my first ever Cape Cod Baseball League game.

It was a battle between rivals on the penultimate day of the season: the Orleans Firebirds (formerly the Orleans Cardinals) vs. the Chatham Anglers (formerly the Chatham A's).

There was nothing to battle for except playoff position. The winner of the home split would face the second-seeded Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, while the loser would face the top-seeded Harwich Mariners. 

In a game that was rife with good catches, occasional misplays and solid pitching, the Anglers won the game 4-0, allowing the Firebirds only one hit.

You heard me right, one hit. My first ever Cape Cod League game was a one-hitter.

I watched the game from right field at Eldredge Park, a dual-purpose baseball and soccer stadium adjacent to the local middle school. The park is unique in that there is no wall separating the fans from the outfield, so players who try to catch a foul ball encounter a wall of people in lawn chairs.

Dylan Covey of the Firebirds prior to a game against Harwich

In addition, the clubhouse is in center field, behind a symphony shell and next to the bullpen. Fans are allowed to stand behind the fence, and in between innings younger fans venture out onto the field to play catch.  

The Firebirds, the home team and the team that I supported, being that our generous hosts have a cottage there, are rife with talent. This year's edition boasts two former first-round picks from the 2010 draft, Karsten Whitson of Florida and Dylan Covey of San Diego.

The two pitchers were taken out of high school by the Padres and Brewers, respectively, but ended up not signing and enrolling in college. While I did not get the chance to see either Covey or Whitson, it was interesting to know that two potential top 10 picks in next year's draft are on that roster. 

I have kept up with the Firebirds since leaving Orleans, and they have been doing well. Having swept the top-seeded Harwich Mariners, the team now faces Yarmouth-Dennis for the Eastern Division title. They'll either face the Bourne Braves or the Wareham Gatemen in the finals. 

Compared to its more established big league counterpart, Cape Cod baseball is an experience. The teams are funded through merchandise and local sponsors, and every evening people pledge money in order to keep operations running.

Sure, the players are practically assured spots in the majors by next season, but to see these collegians play for the fun of it is quite enjoyable.

I have a friend who plays in the Cape Cod League right now for Hyannis, and to see guys like him play in community parks in front of summer crowds is a welcome reprieve from shelling out $50 for tickets to a major league game.

As the Firebirds move to the next round of the playoffs, I wish them luck and hope they win their first championship since 2005. 

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