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Heart-wrenching But Right: Cape Baseball League President on Canceling the Season

A long-running summer tradition on the Cape is baseball. This year, as with so many other events, the pandemic has forced the Cape Cod Baseball League to cancel its season.

WCAI's Kathryn Eident talked with League President Chuck Sturtevant about what it means for the league, which has 10 teams and features 300 players from around the country—some of whom go on to the majors.

Eident This must have been a tough decision for you and for the league to cancel the season.

Sturtevant No question. I mean, the officers and I have been meeting probably twice a week for the last month and a half or more. And every meeting we tried to see how we could do this and so on. And then we got our letter from our medical team. And it just really told us we need to really reconsider. And then last Friday, we met with Major League Baseball and our alliance and informed them of our decision. And the MLB said to us, you know, the risk is greater than the reward, you know, and that's so true. This my 34th year here with the league and never thought I'd ever see it and I hope I never see it again.

Eident Has this season ever been canceled before?

Sturtevant Just during World War II. I believe it was 1945.

Eident I imagine you've thought a lot over recent days how this is going to impact players. I mean, so many players launch careers from this and just have such a memorable summer. Do you think that this decision will set back some players who were hoping to advance their careers and possibly go pro?

Sturtevant Well, it's hard to say, because it it appears as though right now all college baseball is shut down 'til fall ball. And even then, we don't know yet. Every state is going to be different. We just don't know the impact. But I've always felt that this league cannot survive without host families. And our concern was, number one, the host families, [and the] volunteers who do all the work. And most of us are getting older and probably in the demographic of, you know, being at high risk. And then the players and coaches... and we just didn't feel it was going to be a safe environment for anyone this summer.

Eident Yeah. That was something I was going to ask you about, is the fact that, of course, this is about baseball, but this really is a community thing here on the Cape. Have you heard from any of the families since this decision?

Sturtevant I have not, personally. But yet I look at-- because most of the franchises posted it on their Facebook page and out of the hundreds and hundreds of positive feedback, I think there's been like four or five negatives. And, I don't think those people would have understood the real situation that we were in and not risk.

The big thing I said was, say we have a shortened season start July 1. What happens? We bring a player in right at the moment he tests fine. But, two days later, after he's played a few games, he comes out with the virus. Now he's quarantined, his host family's quarantined, and his team is quarantined. So, how can we keep playing? Because they've played other teams and so on. It just snowballs right down to where the risk was too great.

Eident I did think it was interesting to to see on social media, as you said, just an outpouring not just from the Cape, but, of course, across the country, of folks who loved the Cape Cod Baseball League. And, it's summer for them.

Sturtevant Oh, no question.

Eident Does this decision pose financial burdens for the league?

Sturtevant Yeah. I mean, our operating budget, if you take all 10 teams in the league, is almost $2.5 million a year. And no fundraising has been able to be accomplished at all this year under those circumstances. So, we don't know what the overall financial impact will be yet, only because the franchise has signed contracts and leases for coaches, housing and that sort of thing. We don't know if the landlords are going to be forgiving them enough to maybe not hold them to the contract. We just don't know all that yet.

Eident And so, a heart-wrenching decision, some certainty there, but bringing on a host of other decisions and a great time of uncertainty for you and for the league, especially.

Sturtevant No question we are saddened that it had to happen, but we think it's the right decision and we're looking forward to being that much stronger in the 2021 season.

With the change in the Major League Baseball draft, it may mean greater players going on to college, and because that's all we use is college ball players, we may have a greater influx of talent join us in the next few years.

Eident A little bit of hope there.

Sturtevant Yep.

Eident Well, thank you so much for taking a few minutes to talk with us and good luck.

Sturtevant All right, Kathryn, thank you very much.

This transcript was lightly edited for grammar and clarity.

Kathryn Eident was the Morning Edition Host and Senior Producer of News until November 2022.