There Will Be Baseball In Massachusetts in July

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Baseball will be returning to Fenway Park in July without any fans. (PHOTO COURTESY: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)

By Matt Noonan 

For those craving some baseball in Massachusetts, you are in luck.

As of next month, fans of America’s pastime will be treated to a slew of local games, including some Boston Red Sox contests, which will begin at the end of July.

As of now, the 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season – a 60 game season, to be exact – will commence for some teams on Thursday, July 23 while others will begin their quest for a World Series crown on Friday, July 24.

In addition to the Red Sox, we learned earlier this week that the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL) will play an abbreviated season, beginning Thursday, July 2. Four of the league’s six teams play home games in Massachusetts. 

The four FCBL teams – Brockton RoxNorth Shore NavigatorsWestfield Starfires, and Worcester Bravehearts – are currently scheduled to host a few games this summer with some fans in the stands. However, those current home dates could be canceled or pushed back due to the state’s ongoing reopening with the coronavirus. Games and scrimmages are not permitted in Massachusetts until the third phase, which is tentatively scheduled to begin Monday, July 6.

In addition to the Red Sox and FCBL, a few adult men’s leagues, including the Boston Men’s Baseball League (BMBL) and Intercity Baseball League (ICL) hope to begin one week after the start of the third phase. The BMBL hopes to start its season on Friday, July 12 while the ICL is planning to allow its nine-team league to begin to play one day later on Saturday, July 13.

Of course, plans for both leagues, along with others could be pushed back pending the state’s plan for allowing games and scrimmages to begin. Currently, the state’s second phase, which is what we are in now, only allows adult, amateur, and youth sports leagues to practice, not play games or scrimmages. And social distancing, along with good hygiene is certainly encouraged for all participants.

Gov. Baker Paves The Way For Pro Sports To Return To Massachusetts

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker provided a glimmer of hope for live sports to return in the coming weeks. (PHOTO COURTESY: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)

By Matt Noonan 

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker clearly misses sports – we all know he is a proud supporter of our state’s hometown teams.

So on Friday, Baker announced that the state’s professional teams would be allowed to begin practicing as soon as Saturday, June 6. That is also the same date Massachusetts residents should learn more about the second phase of the state’s reopening plan, which would begin Monday, June 8.

“I know we still aren’t to the point where we’ll have our pro sports teams back playing anything yet,” Baker said during Friday’s press briefing. “The leagues are obviously working hard to host games again. And I think we all hope that at some point, opening practice facilities will help make that happen a little sooner.”

Professional sports have been idle since mid-March when the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) paused their respective seasons due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Since then, both leagues have been working diligently to find a way to restart their seasons safely in “hub cities.”

Major League Baseball (MLB) delayed the start of its 2020 season but continues to be stuck in neutral due to ongoing contract discussions between the players and owners.

Both Major League Soccer (MLS) and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) have announced plans to return to the pitch in the coming weeks, which should excited local New England Revolution fans.

Baker believes live sports would certainly help all of us during this unprecedented time. Additionally, it would be a great outlet for many, who have been consuming older contests these past few weeks, including a 2007 playoff run by the Boston Red Sox on NESN.

“I think for all of us live sports, and especially pro sports would be a great thing to see again because not only will it be a significant milestone for those of us who are fans but it will also send a big signal that we’ve continued to do all the things that we need to do to contain and control the virus,” said Baker.

Noontime Commentary: It Is Time To Pull The Plug On All Spring Sports

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Is it time to officially pull the plug on all spring sports, including high school games? (PHOTO COURTESY: Visualhunt.com)

By Matt Noonan | @NoontimeNation 

It may be time to pull the plug on spring sports, including all high school games, along with any other leagues or tournaments that were scheduled to start, both this month or over the next few weeks.

Sports will return – I know they will – but playing games to convening along the sidelines to cheer on our hometown student-athletes to storming the gates at Fenway Park just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do during this time of uncertainty. 

We are expecting a “surge” here in Massachusetts, which could have started yesterday or today – who knows? – and it will certainly challenge all of us, as well as our communities, hospitals, health professionals, and everyone else that has bravely stepped up to help combat the spread of COVID-19. And this so-called “surge” – may be the first of many to come? – is certainly a sign that future games and contests will either be canceled or postponed.

Games, which were scheduled for today and yesterday, have already been canceled. Professional leagues like the NBA and NHL are staying optimistic about finishing their respective seasons while the MLB is pondering the thought of playing games in both Arizona and Florida next month.

Meanwhile, there is a slew of college athletes sitting idle – sadly, they will not return to the ice, hardwood, track, baseball or softball diamonds, volleyball courts or lacrosse fields later this spring. Their respective seasons are caputs.

And then there are the high school student-athletes, who are eagerly awaiting an announcement from their state’s Governor to say schools will re-open and spring sports will happen. But sadly, I don’t think high school spring sports will occur, along with any professional or minor league events for quite some time.

The thought of watching our friends and neighbors compete in crowded gymnasiums or local parks just doesn’t seem like a logical plan to me, especially during a time where many, including myself, are seeking some signs of hope, as well as a light at the end of the tunnel. I am an optimist – I always look at the glass half full, not half empty – but from everything I have read, heard or discussed with friends and colleagues within the sports world makes me think (and believe) that games will not be played either next month or in early June. And the thought of games being canceled or postponed weeks from now – i.e. fall sports like football, soccer, field hockey, and others – is also a possibility.

We need to be patient. We need to adhere to the advice of our local (and national) medical workers and scientists. We need to listen to our local Governors, mayors, and town representatives, who are working hard to keep us safe and provide some sense of normalcy to all of us in the coming weeks and months.

Spring sports will return to our lives one day, along with future dinner plans at our favorite neighborhood restaurants to movies, picnics and so much more. But for now, I think it is best to pull the plug and play it safe.

Revisiting Boston’s April 8th Setback To The Detroit Tigers

By Matt Noonan | @NoontimeNation 

Earlier today, we highlighted an epic (and crazy) game that took place on this exact date eight years ago. And that game featured both our hometown Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers.

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Mike Aviles concluded his team’s epic 13-12 setback to the Detroit Tigers with three RBI, three hits, and two runs. (PHOTO COURTESY: NESN.com)

Detroit, which won the game in eleven innings by a score of 13-12, needed not one, but two rallies to beat Boston and clinch their first three-game series of the 2012 season.

Miguel Cabrera highlighted his team’s win with five RBI, three hits and three runs, while Alex Avila capped his team’s comeback effort with a two-run blast in the bottom of the eleventh inning.

“I’m too tired right now,” Avila said via the game’s report on ESPN.com following his two-run home run. “I’m glad we have an off day (Monday). This weekend has been crazy.”

Detroit plated 26 runs against the Red Sox and won two of the three contests during the team’s final at-bat. The Tigers, which would go onto represent the American League in the World Series, edged the Red Sox in their season-opener, 3-2, despite Jose Valverde blowing what would have been his initial save of 2012.

Boston’s offense, which was led by Mike Aviles and Nick Punto, did provide its pitchers (and defense) with an opportunity to win this particular game, not just in the ninth inning, but also in the eleventh. However, Alfredo Aceves and Mark Melancon surrendered the leads by giving up a home run to Cabrera in the ninth inning and Avila in the eleventh.

“This is a work in progress,” first-year Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said following his team’s third setback of the 2012 season. “We’re three days in after losing our closer, and we’re still trying to figure it out.”

Boston would erase memories of the Sunday setback, along with its Opening Day loss on Monday, April 9th when they beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-2.

Unfortunately, 2012 was not Boston’s best season as they finished 69-93 overall, as well as 26 games behind the first-place New York Yankees. Boston never spent a single day during the 2012 season in first-place – in fact, their longest winning streak was just six games (Apr. 23rd to Apr. 28th).

Weeks after squandering their lead to the Tigers, the Red Sox would suffer a disappointing 9-6 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in 17 innings.

Sports History: Ted Williams Manages His First Game with the Washington Senators

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Ted Williams, who played for the Boston Red Sox, began his managerial career with the Washington Senators on April 7th, 1969. (PHOTO COURTESY: Boston.com)

By Matt Noonan 

As noted in today’s ‘On This Date in History’ for Tuesday, April 7th, 2020, former Boston Red Sox great Ted Williams managed his initial game with the Washington Senators, which sadly did not end with a victory, but a disappointing 8-4 setback to the New York Yankees.

New York spoiled Williams’ managerial debut on Monday, April 7th, 1969 by producing eight runs in a span of three innings (second, third, and fourth) to secure a lead they would not relinquish.

Washington would, however, trim the deficit, thanks to Frank Howard, who finished the game with two RBI. Howard also recorded one hit and one run during five plate appearances while Del Unser and Tim Cullen recorded three hits, respectively.

Howard’s lone RBI – a home run – occurred in the ninth inning against Mel Stottlemyre, who would conclude the 1969 season with a career-high 24 complete games.

New York’s Bobby Murcer highlighted his team’s opening day win with three RBI, including a pair of two-out RBI, along with a home run off Washington’s Camilo Pascual in the third inning.

Washington would provide Williams with his initial win two days later (Wednesday, April 9th, 1969) when the Senators beat the Yankees, 6-4.

Williams, who managed the Senators from 1969 to 1971, led the team to its only winning season in franchise history with an 86-76 record. They finished in fourth place in the American League East while the Yankees concluded their 1969 campaign in fifth place.

The Baltimore Orioles, which won the AL East, would advance to the World Series after beating the Minnesota Twins in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) before losing to the New York Mets in five games.