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Summer College Baseball Is Canceled In Vermont, But Players Will Get A Second Chance

A baseball game.
Courtesy of Vermont Mountaineers
The Vermont Mountaineers won't be taking taking the field in Montpelier this summer. The team's 2020 season has been called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There’s still a chance that Major League Baseball will start up again this summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but one league here in New England will not be taking the field. On Friday, the board of the New England Collegiate Baseball League announced the cancellation of its season. That means the Vermont Mountaineers in Montpelier and the Upper Valley Nighthawks in Hartford won’t draw fans to their fields. The Mountaineers actually called off their season two days before the league followed suit. 

VPR’s Henry Epp spoke with Vermont Mountaineers General Manager Brian Gallagher. Their interview is below and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Henry Epp: So first off, what went into the decision to pull the plug on your 2020 season?

Brian Gallagher: Yeah, we have a great board of directors, 13 folks from the community, and we looked at everything and said, you know, it just doesn't make sense to bring in almost 40 players and coaches —  many of them from the hotspots in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts — to our community, which is doing a really good job of keeping this in control. And if we had a spike in central Vermont because of us before schools were starting in the fall? We didn't want that. And we didn't want to bring any risk to our host families or fans.

And just for context, these are mostly college players coming from different parts of the country to play here for the summer, right?

Yes, they're basically the highest caliber college players in the country. We're the number two league in the country after the Cape Cod league and have been for many years. And these players come here to be noticed by professional scouts and to get drafted the following year.

In terms of those players who won't get the opportunity to play this summer, are there other options for them to stay in shape to stay up to speed with baseball if they want to continue pursuing this?

Yeah, I think many of them are doing that on their own as it is. But again, a lot of them haven't played all spring. So I'm sure they're pretty rusty, although many of them hopefully will get a chance if there are certain leagues that are of the same caliber but maybe in different areas of the country that are opening a little faster. Hopefully, they will get a chance to prove themselves there. The good news is I believe the NCAA is giving them an extra year as well. So if they decided to come back next summer to play next season, that would be an option and an opportunity for them to be noticed.

The plan is to come back in 2021. Is that right?

That's correct. ... This would have been our 18th season and we're certainly you know, looking forward to the next season and we're going to do a little bit of field improvement over the summer with our volunteers and make that as nice as possible, so that when we get ready for next year, we're raring to go.

Will missing a season have a financial impact on the Mountaineers and more broadly on the NECBL in terms of your ability to come back next year?

I think for us, it will be OK. We really work hard to raise funds and we've put a lot of money into the field, but we've been very financially smart about not overspending as far as the field improvements. As a nonprofit 501(c)3, all the money we raise goes back into the field and to the programs. We did have a few fixed costs this year. We had a new mascot suit - they're fairly expensive - that we ordered and bats, balls. We do have to pay those bills off. But, you know, I think we've set ourselves up where we'll be okay going forward as long as the sponsors can bounce back and continue to support us next year.

The fate of the Lake Monsters in Burlington appears a bit uncertain. There's been talk that Major League Baseball could cut back on the number of minor league teams and the Lake Monsters might be one of those teams that gets cut. I'm wondering if you have thoughts on what losing that team would mean for the Mountaineers and for baseball in this state in general?

Well, I certainly hope that doesn't happen. We're, you know, we've always had very good, friendly connections with the Lake Monsters and many times when our players move on to professional baseball, their first step may be the Lake Monsters or minor league baseball at that level. So, we don't want to take opportunities away from players. And the more they shrink teams and lower the number of people they take in the draft, that's only going to hurt baseball in Vermont as well as around the country.

Amy is an award winning journalist who has worked in print and radio in Vermont since 1991. Her first job in professional radio was at WVMX in Stowe, where she worked as News Director and co-host of The Morning Show. She was a VPR contributor from 2006 to 2020.
Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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