Cape League midsummer classic delivers ‘back to basics’ baseball

By Matthew Bernat | Jul 22, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat All-Star players line up for the singing of the National Anthem on Saturday.

Former Red Sox pitcher and counterculture icon Bill “Spaceman” Lee told stories. Miss Massachusetts sang the National Anthem. A 14-year-old fan stood on the diamond awestruck by future major leaguers.

And then there was a baseball game.

On Saturday, the Cape Cod Baseball League’s best gathered at Spillane Field for the Friendly’s All-Star Game and Home Run Hitting Contest. Every summer, top college prospects from across the country come to the Cape to hone their skills. But Saturday was for the fans.

Among them was 14-year-old Matthew Schachter of Hamden, Connecticut. Matthew and his father Mark didn’t know the game existed until they met Tom Crane of the Wareham Gatemen at a baseball convention two weekends ago.

There, Crane suggested they make the two-and-a-half-hour trip to Wareham, deep into the Red Sox Nation.

“We’re Yankees’ fans,” said Schachter. “But my son is a bigger fan of Major League Baseball.”

With Crane’s help, Matthew watched the derby while on the field. The young fan was “astounded,” according to his father.

“It was really cool because I got to see what the players saw,” said Matthew, who plays first base. “You were literally standing next to All-Stars and future big league players. I felt like a part of the game with thousands of people watching.”

Stephen Scott of the Orleans Firebirds won the contest with six home runs, including one 400-foot-plus monster to center field.

“I was nervous going into it this year,” Scott told FOX Sports after the win. “I just had to wait for pitches I knew I could get a hold of.”

Saturday marked the third time in 10 years the Gatemen have hosted the All-Star Game, a huge undertaking according to Crane, which attracts between 5,000 and 6,000 people.

Securing permits, police details and EMTs are just a few of the considerations. Planning for the game started in October.

Crane, who is unofficially known as “The Chairman of the Game,” credited the 140 volunteers who helped with everything from selling food to providing security.

“All of the volunteers, we all love doing this,” said Crane.

One volunteer, Derek Drinkwater, has been with the Gatemen for the past 10 years.

“It’s great to see such a large turnout for such a great event,” said Drinkwater, who provided security during the game. However, he did take a moment to get his picture taken with former Red Sox pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee.

Lee was on the mound for the game’s ceremonial first pitch. Afterwards, the 1970s baseball icon signed autographs and told stories.

One fan asked about Dock Ellis, who famously said he pitched a no-hitter on June 12, 1970 while under the influence of LSD.

“When Dock Ellis’ lips were moving, he was lying,” said Lee. “He never did acid.”

Lee was also there to promote his own line of baseball bats, which are made from Vermont timber, in his signature style.

“I’m a tree hugger until they get to be about 17 inches long,” said Lee.

The game itself ended in a 5-3 win for the league’s Eastern Division All-Stars.

The Gatemen last hosted the All-Star Game in 2015. Tom Gay, Wareham Gatemen president, said his organization stepped forward to host again because of the group’s past success.

“Everything went perfectly, even the weather,” said Gay.

While autograph sessions, kids’ games and plenty of other activities held fans’ interest until first pitch, Gay said the day’s highlight was the game itself.

“When it comes to baseball, this is as back to basics as it gets,” said Gay.

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