The Kettleers of 2014

Cotuit’s baseball season came to an end last night as Falmouth took the second of the three-game Western Division championship with a blow-out 17 hit, 10 to 2 victory at Lowell Park.

I missed the game but as I drove into the village around 7:45 pm I passed the remnants of it and saw  a Kettleer walking down Lowell Avenue onto Main Street in his untucked uniform, his host family surrounding him, escorting him home f or the evening after a season of highs and lows, two bats sticking up in the air from his backpack on his shoulders, the wooden bats the Cape league is known for.

I didn’t catch a lot of games this year due to a variety of excuses, but I did catch a wonderful come-from-behind performance against Bourne over the weekend. Cotuit was down 5-0 and the air was out of the home fans’ tires, when the Kettleers rallied in magnificent fashion to tie the 3 game series at one apiece. It was the perfect game, vintage Mike Roberts baseball, all the more memorable because my friend Jim D. turned to me at one point when Cotuit had runners at first and third and said to me: “Watch the runner at first get into a run-down so the runner at third can steal home.”

Five seconds later exactly that occurred, chaos ensued, and the fact that Cape Cod baseball is far more entertaining than pro ball was underscored.

Congratulations and thanks to the Kettleers for another great season.

Just a few more months to find the cash to save the woods behind the ball field. At the Bourne  game the Barnstable Land Trust ran some yellow tape across the area of the outfield that would be lost if the land isn’t preserved. Essentially the park would become unplayable as a big slice of outfield from the flagpole to the visiting bull pen would be lost.

Here’s Barnstable Land Trust’s Casey Dannhauser throwing the first pitch at the last Bourne game of the season.

Keep Lowell Park Green

Nice job by Maryjo Wheatley on this video for the Barnstable Land Trust’s efforts to save the land around Lowell Park, home field of the Cotuit Kettleers. I was happy to sit and talk with her but didn’t expect, well, you’ll see… Maryjo is an amazing videographer, she worked for WGBH, the legendary PBS operation in Boston, and was in communications at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute back in my Forbes days. She helped me get a story about the very earliest GPS digital charting technologies back in 1993. Her husband, Capt. Bob Boden is a distant cousin and long-time friend. The three of us sometimes catch the Kettleers together — but this has not been the most baseball-ish summer for me. Too much client work is keeping me locked to my desk, then add in house guests, bad weather….there’s still time.

Anyway. back to the cause at the center of the video. The Barnstable Land Trust has until the end of the year to come up with the money to complete the purchase of the 19-acres of woodlands that surround Lowell Park to the north and the east. At risk is a key part of Cotuit’s open space. For the team, what’s at risk is a really nice “batter’s eye” in terms of an uninterrupted backdrop behind the pitcher so the batters can pick up the ball hurling towards them at 90+ mph.

The BLT is conducting their annual fundraising, auction, to-do on Ropes Field this Sunday afternoon from 3:30 to 7 pm

If the Kettleers had a mascot….

Opening day in Cotuit today but I went to Hyannis last night for the season opener against the Hyannis Harborhawks and witnessed the unveiling of their new mascot, a person in a bird suit.  The mascot’s name is “Ossie”  as in Osprey. Hyannis has an identity crisis. They used to be the “Mets” but then the Cape Cod Baseball League’s teams who were borrowing the names of major league teams had to stop because of trademark and licensing stuff. So the Mets became the Harborhawks, a nod to the ospreys that next on top of the light poles around the field. They kept the uniform colors of the Amazing New York Mets but the name was changed.

The real birds were there last night, making their screechy osprey peep sounds from their nest on top of the light pole behind the visitor’s bleachers. Ossie was introduced to the crowd. This made me ask the guy next to me on the bleachers why they weren’t called the “Hyannis Ospreys” in the first place.

The Hyannis Harborhawks are guilty of the same name confusion as Cape Cod Academy which has adopted the “Sea Hawk” as its mascot. There are no such things as Harbor Hawks and Sea Hawks.  Yes, “sea hawk” is blessed as a possible synonym for osprey by Wikipedia, but the Britannica Killer also says it can refer to the skua. Then there is the Sea Eagle — a synonym for that classic crossword puzzle three-letter word: “Ern” — but no Harbor Hawk exists except in Hyannis.

Personally, I’d embrace the Osprey and be done with it. Ospreys are cool. Ospreys are survivors.  And the frigging new mascot is running around calling itself “Ossie”. Besides they named a really expensive controversial but bad ass helicopter-plane after the species:

I think Hyannis is at the vanguard of a dangerous trend in Cape Cod Baseball:  more mascots. I won’t speculate what Wareham would come up with, since they are the Gatemen (maybe a security guard would work).  Chatham (the original “quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem”) has the Mariners — so some guy stuffed into some waders with an 11-foot long surfcasting rod could be easily pressed into service and cast t-shirts into the bleachers in between innings. Brewster has the Whitecaps. Tough one there.I guess a custom costume that looked like a Big Wave, give the thing a Supersoaker, have it blast kids. Blow off a tsunami warning horn after every home run?

But Cotuit…. We have a kettle to thank for our name. The kettle that Myles Standish used to “pay” the Wampanoags for the land that became Cotuit, which with a garden hoe thrown in to sweeten the deal, gives us the name of the local tavern, The Kettle-Ho (which lost in the early rounds of the recent Real Cape dive bar contest).

The Kettle-Ho’s mascot is a mermaid (arguably a “ho” herself as the bar’s motto is “Not the ‘Ho You Used to Know”) ,  holding a hoe and cuddling a black kettle with her tail.  The sign hangs just a few doors down from the offices of my insurance broker, Mycock Insurance (the Cape Cod Baseball League’s championship trophy is named after longtime Cotuit Kettleer manager, Arnold Mycock).

Other than the baseball team and the bar, the kettle thing doesn’t have a lot of legs in the village. But, if Cotuit were to get a mascot, what would we get? They pass plastic kettles around the stands to raise some cash every game. And I’ve seen a fan show up with a brass kettle and bang on it like a Swiss ski fan ringing more cowbell on the slopes of the Matterhorn, I guess it would have to be somebody running around in a kettle specific version of the Kool-Aid Man.

My neighbor at last night’s game agreed with the Kool-Aid guy idea, but suggested there would also need to be a “hoe” which of course led to inappropriate speculation about how a “hoe” would be represented in a costume.

Any way, Cotuit lost last night, 3-2 and stranded something like a dozen baserunners, keeping us on our toes with the bases loaded in the ninth. But alas. It was not to be for the 2013 Cape Cod champions. Today at 5 they open at home against Hyannis, game two of the Patriot Cup. Without a mascot but with nice new home stands.

 

Cotuit Fire District Annual Meeting tonight: Vote Yes on Article 19

Update: The article passed 75-3.

Tonight the village holds is annual meeting at Freedom Hall (7:30 pm) to work through the budgets of the fire and water departments and the prudential committee (which takes care of Freedom Hall.) The warrant is pretty much the same from one year to the next — some years the fire department needs a new ambulance (they need one this year) or the water department wants to build a new water tower (which they did a few years ago in Santuit) — but most of the items are standard items such as salaries, a small stipend to the library, money for the village street lights and some modifications to the bylaws to bring them into the Internet age so meeting notices can be posted on the district’s web site.

This year a special article is on the warrant — placed there by citizen petition — to ask the village tax payers to purchase a conservation easement for the 19-acres of woodlands behind Lowell Park — home field of the Cotuit Kettleers. The price tag is $235,000, about $67 in additional taxes for the typical homeowner.

The highlighted fore4st shows the 19-acres to be preserved. (photo from the blt.org by Rick Heath)

Ordinarily I would say it isn’t the village’s “municipal duty” to preserve open space — that’s a charitable effort usually promoted through the good efforts of the Barnstable Land Trust and private donors — but this is a crucial investment towards preserving the character of the village and keeping intact an extraordinary greenway that runs from Little River Road past the Bell Farm conservation lands, past Mosswood Cemetery all the way up to the wonderful curve at the Ropes Field. It saves the pristine, uninterrupted outfield of the best ballpark in the Cape Cod Baseball League and it will present a good buffer for the well field. This is the sort of thing my grandparents and great grandparents would have done and I say it is our duty to dig into our pockets and do the same for future generations. Cotuit has a proud history of doing the right thing and this is the right thing to do.

The Barnstable Land Trust is pushing for a Yes vote on Article 19 and with good justification. First of all, this keeps nine homes and their septic systems away from one of the most important sources of our drinking water. Last summer Cotuit had its first “boil order” after the drinking water failed a test. Across the street from Lowell Park, is a dilapidated home that has been a battleground between a local developer and residents — he wanted to subdivide the property into condos, but eventually gave up after letting the place deteriorate into an eyesore. It also abuts a well field and the village has purchased the conservation restriction to insure no septic systems get built too close to the water supply.

I’d argue that this is the sort of thing that improves property values in the village and is a great investment in our future. The article is going to come to a vote later in the meeting (it is 19 out of 24) and it’s the duty of any concerned property owner with an interest in the village to get off their butts and show up. Cotuit’s Fire District is essential to keep the village’s individual identity intact and to give its residents a truly local voice in the management of the place. While the calls for consolidation into a single Town of Barnstable system continue to be heard in the name of efficiency and economy, we Cotusions need to keep in mind that our Fire District — granted to us by the legislature in the 1920s — gives us a degree of sovereign autonomy and control over our affairs that once given up, can’t be regained.

 

 

2014 Cotuit Kettlers – Google Calendar Schedule

Here is this year’s Cotuit Kettleer’s schedule for adding to Google Calendar. This is unofficial, handtyped by me, complete with any inadvertent errors. Home games are designated in blue, away games in red. You can get to it with this link

Baseball needs human error

The invasion of the instant replay into professional sports threatens to remove one of the essential components of the sporting experience: the capricious effects of human error on the part of referees and umpires. This spring’s baseball season has seen the introduction of a silly system where a team’s manager can challenge an official call made on the field and the play is then remotely reviewed at Major League Baseball’s New York City headquarters by some faceless judges who look at the television feeds.

Because the technology exists to determine the truth doesn’t mean it has a place in a sport that celebrates the feckless and accidental. From robotic line judges in professional tennis to strike zone graphics, yes, we can make sports more precise and ostensibly more “fair” by taking the foibles of a judge or referee or umpire out of the equation. No more cries of a “We wuz robbed!” No more fist shaking at the Gods for punishing the home team so unfairly. The obvious blunders that rob pitchers of perfect games, the miscalls that cause spectators to have conniptions of disbelief as they watch the slow-mo replay and see what the officials couldn’t see from the field ….are nothing compared to the bullshit politics of the so-called “judged” sports like figure skating and gymnastics where performance is subjective and evaluated by judges with nationalistic prejudices and even the potential to be bribed (sorry, but any “sport” with judges and costumes isn’t a sport in my book).

A huge part of the emotional attachment between fans and sports is the human factor, that indescribable sense of magic when the players transcend the boundaries of human potential and go beyond themselves in a clutch situation and become legends or scapegoats. Sport, like war, isn’t about precision and standards. It’s about luck and happenstance and umpires who should go get their eyes checked. Baseball is the only sport with the concept of an “error” — a subjective judgement by the scorer. I think it needs to embrace the misfortunes of fate that happens when an umpire misses a tag, or calls a ball fair that went foul by inches.  Technology has no place in a ball park.

The unclimbed

I was way too wimpy to ever climb a Cotuit water tower as a kid. I know those who did. One went on to feel perfectly at ease jumping out of airplanes. I am so freaked out by heights that I get weird thinking about heights.  (A Cub Scout expedition to the top of a fire tower in Georgetown, Massachusetts in 1966 ended with me clutching the bannister of the open metal-grate stairs and having to have my fingers pried off by my mother the Den Mother). Anyway, I went for my daily constitutional behind the ball park where the land is at risk of being developed unless the Barnstable Land Trust can raise enough $$$ to buy it and save the Kettleer’s home field, Lowell Park, from having some starter castles in the outfield.  Give today.  The pink surveyor ribbons are in the woods!

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote…

A. Bartlett Giamatti was the president of Yale when I was a student there in the late 1970s. I had lunch with him once and the conversation was unfortunately about comparative literature and the poetry of Spenser, one of his many academic specialties. I was bitching about my experience in English 101, a prerequisite for English majors at Yale which ran both the fall and spring terms of my freshman year and was without a doubt the most frustrating class I’ve ever taken — sort of an evil bootcamp designed to weed out the wimps from what was arguably the best English literature department in the US. I made a wisecrack about a student who wrote a dreary paper about reptile symbols in The Faerie Queen and he shook his hand in the universal gesture of beating off (or so I interpreted it) and went back to asking the rest of the table about how they felt about college life in general. I wanted to tell him I found it highly strange that I had to spend time in the Yale language lab with a set of headphone on my stoned head, listening to someone read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in a sing-song voice like a parody of a Scandanavian when I was in school to read the King’s English goddammit, and not pick through some mongrel predecessor that opened my education with these familiar words:

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

We didn’t talk about baseball. I had no idea he was into baseball. I didn’t watch the game in college. I never once went out to the ancient Yale ballfield where George Bush and Ron Darling had pitched (Ron was a contemporary and also a renowned Cotuit Kettleers). I barely passed English 101 and quickly shifted to American History after a disastrous freshman year.

Giamatti, a Bostonian, was a life-long Red Sox fan. He  declared once that his life’s ambition was to become president of the American League. In 1986 his wish was almost granted and he became president of the National League, graduating to the top job of Commissioner of Major League Baseball in 1989– a job he held less than six months — long enough for him to banish Pete Rose — before dying at 51 of a heart attack on Martha’s Vineyard (he smoked).

Of course his son, the actor Paul Giamatti, was a Yalie.

So back to yesterday, March 31, Opening Day. The reigning World Champion Red Sox opened the season down in Baltimore’s Camden Yards  and lost to the Birds 2 to 1 in a nice game under sunny skies while up here Massachusetts endured another day of “wintry mix” and “thunder snow.” Watching the last two innings, I thought about Giamatti’s finest contribution to baseball, his written love letter to it: The Green Fields of the Mindthe oft-quoted poetic elegy to the national pastime.

“The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.”

A made man

2014-03-21 13.24.00

 

2014-03-21 13.38.19

 

So I cleared the US Customs “Global Entry Program” which means no more lines when I go hither and fro from the UK to the States. One of the customs officers asked if I was a Red Sox fan, a safe question to answer in a National League city, and he waxed poetic about his ambition to see the inside of Olde Fenway. I told him I was a season ticket holder, which is like wearing a pinkie ring and driving a Caddy for the Gambino Family when it comes to being a made man in Boston. I passed the background check which means I get to be that douchebag you hate. That guy who can breeze through the TSA with his belt and shoes on, laptop and liquids safe in his bag. Tis the season of being licensed and ticketed. I feel highly important as a result.