Editor's Note: Our report tonight is filed by Jarred Amato, a senior at Vanderbilt University. He is studying English & History and pursuing a career in sports journalism. This summer he'll be all over the Cape doing what he loves best, writing about baseball, primarily as an intern for the Hyannis Mets. Photos from Eric Wirtanen (complete set of photos on Flickr).
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UPDATED! It was an opening night that John Wylde said he will never forget. You can be sure that none of us in attendance will either.
Fans flocked to Spillane Field to recognize Wylde, the Wareham Gatemen President, for 25 years of service. The press box, Wylde's favorite spot, was re-named in his honor, and CCBL commissioner Paul Galop announced Wylde's induction into the CCBL Hall of Fame, since Wylde could not attend the actual ceremony in November. Wylde was also honored by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Major League Baseball, among others.
"On behalf of the entire Cape Cod Baseball League, we want to thank you for everything you've contributed and taught us over the past 25 years," said CCBL President Judy Walden Scarafile.
Throughout the hour-long celebration, Wylde sat graciously in his seat in the press box, waving to the crowd and to the ball players from all ages who gathered on the field.
"Thank you from the old man in the press box," Wylde said. "I'll never forget this night."
The only thing Wylde might want to forget is the score. Falmouth took the season opener from the Gatemen 9-2, although the game was much closer than the score indicated as the Commodores scored five runs in the final two innings to put the game out of reach.
The Gatemen jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first when Connor Rowe (Texas) tripled to straightaway center and scored on a well-hit double by Ryan Pineda (Cal St. Northridge).
Falmouth, the 2007 Western Division champions, responded with two runs in the top of the third, one coming on a RBI single by AJ Pollock (Notre Dame) and the other on a throwing error.
The highlight of the night came in the top of the eighth when Kevin Nolan (Winthrop) turned on a 1-0 fastball and hit it well beyond the fence in left for the first homer of the season. Nolan finished with three hits on the night.
On the mound, left-hander Matt Way (Washington State) pitched well for the Gateman despite taking the loss, while right-hander Chad Bettis (Texas Tech) came on in relief for the Commodores and pitched five impressive innings to earn the victory.
-Arriving in Wareham early, I took the opportunity to walk around Main Street, stopping into a couple of restaurants to ask some questions.
"It's been a long winter," said Bob Prophett, owner of Dawson Seafood. "We're ready for baseball."
Prophett, who lives in Bourne and regularly attends Braves games, said he loves the wooden bat, having played with one during his Little League days, and I couldn't agree more.
"It's pure baseball," said Demetrios Kalkanis of Minerva Town Pizza, which has been open since 1969. "Triple distilled, as they say."
Kalkanis said a bunch of the Gatemen stopped by for lunch before heading over to the field for the opener.
"The town livens up when they come to town," Kalkanis said. "In the Midwest, where I grew up, there was an excitement about football. The buzz here is the Gatemen."
-I loved the fact that the Falmouth players arrived in one of the classic yellow school busses.
-Kudos to the entire Gatemen organization for putting together an unforgettable and flawless opening night.
-As part of the pre-game celebration, players from all ages, from Little League to Babe Ruth to American Legion to the CCBL, gathered on the field. Since there was only one CCBL game, the rest of the league was on hand to honor Wylde.
-Speaking of Wylde, one gentleman called him the "Red Auerbach of the Cape League" and I thought that seemed pretty appropriate.
-A sign players aren't used to hitting with wood? Falmouth broke four bats.
-Sitting in the front row of the bleachers along the first-base line, it was funny to watch little kids fight to the death for foul balls. I also get a kick out of seeing them ask for autographs from players and then running back to their seats as they try to figure out who it was that signed their ball.
-You could tell Commodore fans wanted to leave early, but two things kept them from doing so: 1) the winner of 50-50 raffle wasn't announced until the eighth inning and 2) after watching the Celtics pull off one of the greatest comeback victories the night before, they were inspired to stick it out the end.
-The weather was absolutely perfect, but one thing I do not miss about the Cape is those little mosquitoes. That will be the last time I forget to put on bug spray.
-After listening to the way people spoke about Mr. Wylde, I hope that I can become half the person that he is.