As workampers, we have always been complimented for our desire and determination to explore the areas in which we find ourselves from season to season. Yes, we enjoy the tourist spots – museums, beaches, bike paths, monuments, hiking trails, restaurants, etc. – but we also attempt to get a taste of the locals – where they go and what they do. Only then can you really get a true taste for where you are.
Last evening we did just that by attending a Cape Cod Baseball League game between the Orleans Firebirds and the Brewster Whitecaps! Who would have known that such a league has been in existence for 133 years and that in the mid-1960’s the League shifted from “town teams” to collegiate competition. All of the players, coaches, trainers, staff, and interns come from all over the country and spend the summer in Cape Cod, experiencing a full schedule of games at 10 different ball parks – all on the Cape.
Where do all these collegiate baseball players reside while playing in Orleans, you may ask? Well, each player is hosted by a local family – how nice is that? Sometimes multiple players will stay in the same home, while other families host just one player. Now, when I say the players hail from throughout the country, I don’t mean just the East Coast. Oh no, men playing on the Orleans Firebirds team, for example, are from Vanderbilt, Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Southern California, University of Mississippi, Kent State, and University of San Diego – just to name a few. And believe it or not, one of the Firebirds coaches is a baseball coach at the American School in Dubai! How great is it when an entire town comes together to host such a diverse team for the entire summer.
Having never been to Eldredge Park Field, we really didn’t know what to expect, but did we have a great time! There is no admission charged for the game; however, there are donation caps and believe me, people donate! Then, everyone brings their own chairs to set up camp on the “Hill” as it is called – a tiered incline on the first base line which has been known to seat 6,000 fans. So, we set up our chairs and thoroughly enjoyed people- and dog-watching before the game started; and when I say people of all ages attended, I mean it! From the extremely elderly to a baby that had to be only a few days old, they were all there!
So the game starts, and the local kids launch into action. Every fly ball that comes back at us is chased after by a multitude of little locals! Oh, and the “Bat Kids”, as they are known, include boys and girls from the nearby elementary schools. Although most of the players were new to Orleans, you never would have guessed it, as fans cheered for each player by name as if they knew them all – what a great gesture! Local establishments were selling food while volunteers roamed through the crowd selling 50-50 tickets. It truly was a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting!
At the home game on July 4th, the crowd and the Orleans Firebirds will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the “New” Eldredge Park, which has been named the “Best Summer Collegiate Baseball Park in the Nation.” I’m not sure if our work schedule will allow us to attend, but if last night was a picturesque and heart-lifting scenario, I can’t even imagine what Eldredge Park and the Orleans Firebirds will be like on Independence Day. We certainly hope to find out!