The cancellation of the 2020 Cape Cod Baseball League season left a hole in many baseball fans’ hearts around New England, including that of Cape League Commissioner Eric Zmuda.
Good news for those fans: The Cape League will return in 2021. Zmuda confirmed as much on the New England Baseball Journal Podcast, when he joined host Dan Guttenplan for a discussion of what the 2021 season will look like.
“We’re going to try to make it as normal as possible, and we’re very excited to have a full season,” Zmuda said on the pod. “We’re continuing to look for updates from state and local health officials. We’re excited about some good news that we’ve gotten from the federal level in terms of getting people vaccinated by May. That will help us draft our policies and procedures. We’re hoping to ease some of the restrictions we have in place now. We want everybody to be as safe as possible while also getting back to a sense of normalcy.”
For baseball fans in New England, the Cape Cod League is a part of the normalcy of summer. Fans often bring blankets and sit around the high school fields as some of the top collegiate baseball players square off in a competitive environment that also serves as top opportunities for scouts to evaluate prospects.
“It has a Norman Rockwellian feel,” Zmuda said. “We share fields with high schools and local communities. We try to get all 10 fields in pristine condition for players and fans. They deserve that. They line up their chairs or sit on picnic blankets and enjoy the Americana that is the Cape League. We probably won’t have 100 percent capacity like we wished for, but whatever we’re allowed to have with social distancing and mask wearing will help us get back to a place where we’re watching the game and enjoying time with family.”
The Cape League figures to have more competition for top-tier collegiate players in 2021, as the Appalachian League will start its inaugural season this summer. Major League Baseball, Prep Baseball Report (PBR), and five founding members also recently announced the formation of the MLB Draft League, which will become the first league in the country focused on top prospects who are eligible to be drafted by MLB clubs that summer.
“We have been waiting for two years to have these players back on the Cape,” Zmuda said. “Because we couldn’t play in 2020, I was happy to see some teams in different areas could have games. Players that didn’t get the experience to play college baseball in 2020 needed that. We have a long list of players who have been waiting for a couple of years to get back to the Cape. It will be very competitive this year. I don’t think the geography of where our players come from will change dramatically this year. In 2022 or 2023, we may see a difference variation. I see the Appalachian League being a league for incoming freshmen, the Cape League fitting the mold of sophomores and rising juniors, and the MLB Draft League being for draft-eligible players looking to boost their draft stock.”
Zmuda, who started his affiliation with the Cape League as a host family and has also served as the Falmouth Commodores GM, said the cancellation of the 2020 season left a void in his life.
“I’ve been disconnected with the Cape League and with baseball because of our cancellation last year,” Zmuda said. “I’ve become more insular. But I’ve been encouraged recently by the updates and the meetings we have. We want to get back to the field and get back to baseball. Baseball is one of the safest sports to play in this environment. Being at the field and hearing the crack of the bat or the pop of the glove when a kid is hitting 98 or 99 mph, I’m feeling optimistic about that.”
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