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No boys of summer: NECBL off

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks owner Noah Crane talks to the new team at the start of their first practice of the season at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/2/2020 11:38:19 AM
Modified: 5/2/2020 11:38:18 AM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — There will be no boys of summer in the Upper Valley this summer.

The 13 members of the New England Collegiate Baseball League canceled the 2020 schedule during a virtual meeting late Friday night. In a news release, the NECBL noted that a review of guidance from government officials, host towns and the medical community made the decision “necessary for the health, safety and well-being of our players, coaches, umpires, volunteers, fans and host families.”

The league, including the Maxfield Sports Complex-based Upper Valley Nighthawks, was to begin the schedule on June 3.

“It was a split decision; there were a handful of teams that wanted to delay and play some sort of season, ourselves included,” Upper Valley general manager Noah Crane said on Saturday morning. “But the truth is some of our communities have been harder hit economically than others. Some had no ability to get on their fields. Some would have restrictions on their crowd size. We here in the Upper Valley felt we could have played, but you need 13 teams in order to do it.”

Speaking from his North Adams, Mass., home, NECBL commissioner Sean McGrath cited the league’s six-state membership as factoring in the decision.

“Being in all six New England states, we’re unique in that one situation may look very different from another situation,” McGrath said. “The uniqueness of our organization and our communities makes us great. But in this situation, that’s complicated it: It’s 13 different hospitals that need to do testing, 13 communities and fields that need to be open. Coordination from six states and 13 communities is definitely complicated.”

Crane informed his players late Friday night.

“The general emotion is probably pretty down,” said former Hartford High pitcher Jordy Allard, who could have returned for a third summer with the Nighthawks. “It’s a little bit less than when you hear your school season is canceled, but it’s still up there.”

The league’s first crack appeared on Wednesday, when the Montpelier-based Vermont Mountaineers nixed their campaign. In a news release, Vermont GM Brian Gallagher called the decision difficult but appropriate, adding that it didn’t feel good recruiting support from local businesses that themselves were struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.

Crane said he expected to see a reduction in sponsorships as well. Business banners usually stretch from foul pole to foul pole at the Nighthawks’ Maxfield home games.

“I envisioned people not being able to pay for banners, which we completely understand,” he said. “It makes it difficult when you’re losing a significant chunk of your sponsorship revenue.”

The prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League canceled its schedule on April 24, about three weeks after the 11-team, Virginia-based Valley League became the first summer college baseball league to pass on 2020. However, many other leagues — including the New England-based Futures Collegiate Baseball League — remain in wait-and-see mode, hoping for mid-June or early July starts and partial schedules.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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