After going through about four different versions of the 2020 season schedule, the Maryland Collegiate Baseball League began play on July 2 and every team is scheduled to play 21 games this summer.
The regular season ends on Aug. 7, but then the playoffs start Aug. 9. Each of the eight teams gets to participate in the playoffs, which is a single-elimination tournament with a consolation bracket. Every team is guaranteed to play at least three postseason games.
“We were acutely aware that a lot of the spring leagues didn’t play a lot of games and fall leagues and fall practice may be in jeopardy so we really made an effort to try to put on some baseball for the players and give them an opportunity to keep their skills sharp and maybe learn a new pitch or tweak their swing,” deputy commissioner Roy Snyder said. “So the emphasis... this year is on player development.”
Rosters expanded this summer to allow as many players as possible to join a team, especially since other area leagues aren’t playing. That’s not the only change to the league protocols.
Other changes to gameday procedures include: taking everyone’s temperature when they arrive for the game, requiring baserunners to wear masks, and having each team provide their own balls when they’re in the field. Each team has a designated coronavirus protocol monitor, usually a coach, who’s responsible for making sure everyone adheres to the policies.
“Everybody is interviewed when they arrive at the ballpark including the umpires,” Snyder said. “We keep records of that interview. In fact, many of the teams use an online app to store the interviews electronically.”
Fans were initially allowed at games, but after some field owners became concerned that too many people were coming, the league stopped allowing fans in. Fans may come to games, but they have to watch from outside the stadium.
“The attendance was through the roof,” commissioner Richard Pietryka said. “Everybody who had been quarantined for four months wanted to get out.”
In addition to the masked baserunners, fans may notice that the umpires look a bit out of place. That’s because they are. During games, the home plate umpire stands at about a 45-degree angle to home plate, away from the batter and catcher. His job is to call fair and foul balls. The field umpire stands behind the pitcher’s mound and he’s responsible for calling balls and strikes.
With such a condensed season, there aren’t many practices, but players arrive early for games and can take batting or fielding practice then. Most of the players are local, and the farthest distance between stadiums this summer is about a 90-minute drive. Players are responsible for their own transportation.
One team, the Baltimore Chop was ranked no. 5 for their name on Baseball America’s list of the top 25 best college summer baseball team names. “A reference to the term Baltimore chop, which is a high-bouncing ground ball, there are few names more fitting of their location than this one,” Teddy Cahill and Joe Healey wrote on July 20.
The Baltimore Chop are currently in 3rd place with a 7-6 record and the Putty Hill Panthers are leading the league with a 10-2 record. For more information on upcoming games this summer, the league’s schedule is available online.