Baseball U PA usually only offers youth programming, but now they are running a six-team collegiate summer baseball league. The league started this summer as a way to give college baseball players a place to play after other leagues started canceling their summer seasons due to COVID-19.
About 250 players expressed interest, but in the end, BUPA was only able to take about 148 players and selected the teams via a virtual draft on June 7. Every team has about 23-25 players, and one team is made up of the 24 best DIII players in the league. Players represent all levels of collegiate baseball programs from DI to junior college.
“There have always been so many kids from northeastern Pennsylvania that have either played locally or played up and down the East Coast,” BUPA owner Mike Guy said. “So, with all their seasons canceled we wanted to give them an opportunity to play baseball this summer, even if it was a modified schedule.”
Most of the players are local to the Scranton-Wilkes Barre area, but some players come from New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. The local players attend every game, but if an out-of-state player won’t play in the game, they aren’t required to come. There are no host families and players are responsible for their own transportation.
Each team plays one game on Tuesday and two games on Saturday. There aren’t any official practices, but players come for “early work” and optional practices before the games. Local players also have free access to BUPA facilities.
“I’d say about 95% of the league made at least one and probably 70- 80% of the league made all three,” Guy said. Players have been showing up as early as 12:30 or 1 p.m. to practice before a 5:30 p.m. game.
The short season includes 18 games, plus an all-star game and a single-elimination playoff which will be in early August. All games are free and anyone is welcome to come. Every two innings, PA announcers remind fans of social distancing guidelines which include wearing masks and only sitting near members of your household.
During games, players must wear masks while they are in the dugout and they are not allowed to share equipment. A coach takes their temperature when they arrive and it must be below 100.4 in order for them to play that day. Players received a jersey and a hat but must provide their own white pants and black belt and socks. Each team has a patch on their left sleeve to represent a local small business, which Guy placed for free to help them with advertising.
“I just want to say that the local media response and the community response has been fantastic,” Guy said. “It’s really great for the area to promote the game of baseball and promote something that’s positive during these uncertain times.”
The games are usually staffed by volunteers who range from BUPA youth program alumni to injured players who just wanted to be around and are helping with announcing and running the scoreboards. A couple of people are donating their time to be team photographers and they also employ statisticians for every game.
Looking to next year, Guy wants to continue the league, and possibly make it larger. He is considering using host families so that more out-of-state players can come and avoid a long commute to games. And while the sponsor patches were free this time, he hopes to include the local small businesses in the league next year.