Just picture a clear and sunny July afternoon at the ballpark on the Vineyard.
The home team is down in the bottom of the ninth when a lanky outfielder projected by many scouts to be a future major leaguer strides to the plate with a chance to win the game for the hometown nine.
Perhaps the home team is named the Cottagers — or even better, the Sharks. As the pitcher goes into the stretch and the hitter levels the bat, perhaps the booming notes of the theme song from Jaws plays over the public address system, as the frenzied home team jumps and cries out for a rally.
And maybe this lanky outfielder — who later may play in the shadow of the Green Monster in Fenway Park — golfs a low and away pitch over the left field fence (which is decorated with advertisements of local businesses) and sends the home team home contented and thrilled.
Similar scenarios play out across Cape Cod every summer, as teams from the celebrated Cape Cod Baseball League, one of the top amateur leagues in the country, battle it out from mid-June to early August. It is estimated that one out of every six major league players at one point played in the Cape League, including popular Red Sox players like Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Lowell and Mo Vaughn.
The league is advertised as the place “where the stars of tomorrow shine tonight,” but unfortunately the league has never had a chance to shine on the Vineyard, despite the fact that is an especially baseball-friendly Island.
That, however, will change next week when the nonprofit Vineyard Baseball will host the first-ever Cape Cod Baseball League game at the new baseball field at the regional high school.
The first Cape League game on the Vineyard between the Falmouth Commodores and the Wareham Gatemen will be played at 1 p.m. next Tuesday. And although the game is the first, it likely will not be the last: officials from Vineyard Baseball are negotiating with Cape League officials about hosting a game here every year.
Further, although the plans are very preliminary, there have also been discussions about a Cape League team moving to the Vineyard permanently. And although a lot of work needs to be done before fans can buy seats to a Vineyard Sharks game (the name Sharks being merely a suggestion, but a good one), there are many who are optimistic the Island may one day have its own Cape Cod League baseball team.
“There haven’t been any negotiations or anything like that, but I think a lot of people in the [Cape League] look at the Vineyard as a viable place to put a team,” said Gary Simmons, coach of the high school varsity baseball team and president of Vineyard Baseball. “This game [next week] may be the first of many Cape League games on the Vineyard.”
Mr. Simmons said he has spoken with officials at the Cape League who are eager to see how the first Cape League game works on the Island. If the game goes well and is well attended, it could bode well for a team moving to the Vineyard full-time sometime in the future.
“I think they are viewing this as a test, to see if the Vineyard can support a team. If you ask me this is a perfect place for a [Cape League] team . . . we have the ballpark and we have the fans. Now we just need the team,” he said.
Mr. Simmons said there are several things that makes the Vineyard an attractive venue for a Cape League team. The new ballpark at the regional high school has major league dimensions, and when completed will also have bleachers, a concession stand, a press box and lighting for night games.
But there is still much work that needs to be done and money to be raised.
On Thursday, Vineyard Baseball will host the Second Annual Baseball Fest at the high school ballpark to raise funds needed to complete work to the park. The event will feature hot air balloon rides, burgers and dogs, games, batting cages, followed by a screening of the classic baseball movie Field of Dreams at dark.
Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and the movie starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and children under the age of 12 are free. During the first Baseball Fest last year, Vineyard Baseball raised around $2,000 for work on the ball field, and officials are hoping to reach or exceed that figure this year. People are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs to sit on during the screening of the movie.
People who attend the Baseball Fest will notice extensive improvements to the field that have taken place over the past year. Four sets of bleachers have been installed, the dugouts are almost completed and an electric scoreboard has been installed.
Mr. Simmons said the goal is to create a ballpark that can support both high school and Cape League games.
“We want to bring in a higher league of baseball . . . even if we don’t ever get a Cape [League] team, we want this facility to be a special place for the kids for many years to come,” he said, adding:
“But it would be great if we got our own Cape League team.”