‘It’s just great baseball:’ Gatemen open 96th season
“I want an autograph!” Twelve-year-old Jason Bastoni cried, clutching his baseball while watching the Wareham Gatemen’s home opening game against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks at Spillane Field on Sunday, June 11.
“I’ll autograph it,” replied his friend Aaron Davis, also 12.
After all, Aaron’s autograph will be worth a lot of money when he becomes a Gateman.
Both Aaron and Jason have been going to Gatemen games for four years — a third of their lives — and dream of being on the team when they grow up.
“You look up to them,” Jason said.
Sunday was the first home game of the Gatemen’s 96th season. This summer marks the 100th anniversary of the Cape Cod Baseball League, which brings together the best collegiate players from across the country for a summer of games that are always free to the public.
“This is awesome,” said Tom Crane, who is on the Gatemen Board of Directors and Executive Committee, about the historic anniversary. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”
“About a hundred years,” said Gatemen General Manager Bob Prince.
“I was here for the first one,” Crane joked. “A lot of history. A lot of great players. We’ve got a lot of events planned.”
Gatemen President Glen Hannington, who replaced Andrew Lang when he became president of the Cape Cod Baseball League in January, said fans can expect “a terrific culture of community, contribution, putting a good team on the field and having a lot of fun” this season.
Despite the Gatemen losing to the Harbor Hawks 11-5 on Sunday, fans were eager to root for the home team, a tradition that has spanned generations — and continues to do so.
Gatemen Coach Gene Bowles’s wife Sarah bought infant-sized Gatemen shirts for her friend Katelyn Smith’s daughters, 4-year-old Eliana and 1-year-old Rilyn.
Sarah wants to expose the girls to “the excitement of being in this atmosphere and enjoying this great game of baseball.”
Gatemen volunteer Shawn Lamminen has been going to games for 20 years.
“It’s just great baseball,” he said.
With local baseball comes friendly rivalries. Crane couldn’t resist teasing the grandmother of Hyannis centerfielder Trey Lipsey, who came up from south Florida with her dog Loui to watch her grandson play.
“Come on, Trey!” She shouted. “Throw one for nana!”
“Would you get really upset if I shook this fence really hard?” Crane joked to her.
Players from Massachusetts, Florida, Texas and California are on the Gatemen roster this year.
“We feel strongly about what we have,” Prince said. “We have a good mix of hitters, defense.”
The Massachusetts accent has taken a while for the out-of-state players to get used to.
“I’m teaching them, don’t worry,” Crane said. “They all love it [here] so far. They all want to fish, too.”
The Gatemen will play the Harwich Mariners, Orleans Firebirds, Bourne Braves and Hyannis Harbor Hawks at Spillane Field at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 13, Wednesday, June 14, Sunday, June 18 and Tuesday, June 20, respectively.