Time to root for the home team: Gatemen return for 2021 season
It’s official: The Wareham Gatemen will be returning to Spillane Field this summer.
The Cape Cod Baseball League has delayed its 2021 season so that the first games will be held on June 20, but Wareham Gatemen President Tom Gay confirmed that the season will go forward with a number of coronavirus safety precautions.
The Wareham Gatemen’s home game on June 21 will mark the team’s long-awaited return to Spillane Field for the first time since the 2019 season. The Cape Cod Baseball League canceled its 2020 season due to the pandemic — a step the league hadn’t taken since World War II.
The Gatemen are one of ten teams in the league, which consists of high-level collegiate players from around the country, allowing Major League scouts to check out prospects. Over the years, many Gatemen have gone on to play in Major League Baseball. Former Gatemen include Matt Barnes, a current relief pitcher for the Red Sox; George Springer, who was the World Series MVP for the Houston Astros in 2017; and Casey Mize, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers.
Gay said the season was pushed back because of covid. In past years with an earlier start to the season, some college students were still busy playing for their schools in the college season so the league had to find temporary players. This year, Gay said the college season is expected to be even longer, and by delaying until late June, the league hopes to reduce the number of temporary players needed.
Gay also said that vaccinations will be mandatory for players, coaches, interns, umpires and “anyone who is going to be in contact with players.”
While there will be exceptions for religious and health reasons, Gay said “anyone else needs to be fully vaccinated before they come to the Cape, as far as the Cape League is concerned.”
The hope is that those measures — along with other precautions — will make it safer for the team and for anyone who comes in contact with team members, including host families, Gay explained.
The league is adopting a detailed document full of covid-19 plans and procedures that will be submitted to every town and board of health in the region. “Every town that has a team will get a copy of this for their records, so they’ll know exactly what we’re doing, when we’re doing it,” Gay said.
Currently, the plan is for coaches, players and interns to be tested for covid-19 once a week throughout the summer — “even if there isn’t any outbreak. Just to be on the safe side,” Gay said.
Each field will set its own capacity limit. In Wareham, Spillane Field will be capped at 25 percent of its maximum capacity — meaning no more than 1,200 fans can attend a game.
Gay said this would be the plan “at least at the beginning” of the season, but it could change as the situation with the virus and vaccination rate changes.
When games finish, players and spectators will likely be asked to leave immediately and avoid crowding, Gay said, citing the rules and regulations being created by the league’s medical committee.
The Gatemen baseball clinics for younger kids have been canceled, Gay said, noting that children won’t be vaccinated and that executives wanted to “err on the side of safety.”
The Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star Game — which was supposed to be played in Wareham this year — was also canceled, according to Gay.
He added that the teams will play a full 40-game schedule, but noted that all games will only be nine innings. There will be no extra innings if the game is tied at the end of nine, Gay said.
Housing for Gatemen players is “still up in the air,” Gay said. Usually, Gatemen players stay with host families, but the pandemic complicates that. Alternative dormitory housing might be a possibility this year. A decision should be made in the coming days, Gay said.
“It’s going to be different, obviously, than what we like it to be and than what it’s been for a hundred and some odd years,” Gay said of the upcoming season. “But hopefully it’s just for this summer.”
This story has been updated to include additional information about the All-Star Game and the season schedule.