By Roy Reiss
Win or lose, the last game of any season is always the most difficult game for fans to face. It’s time to say goodbye to all the players and interns who provided such great excitement and memories. There are no more “Have a Hit” or “Here Come the Kettles” announcements that ring out at beautiful Lowell Park. But before we officially say goodbye, let’s hear from some of the Kettleers players and their thoughts of playing in Cotuit this past summer.
“I flew out to the village of Cotuit without much information about the town and community as a whole. With that being said, I certainly didn’tknow what to expect when flying across the country. I was delightfully surprised with not only the on-field experiences, but the experiences off the field as well. From the moment I stepped out of the airport to the first time I stepped onto the field, I was treated with kindness, respect and a positive energy from the Cotuit community. It was a joy to play for the Kettleers this summer and compete for another championship. I instantly fell in love with the people of Cotuit and their hospitality. I walked to practice, games and kids camp every morning Monday through Friday for 6 weeks straight. There was not a day that passed where someone didn’t stick their head out of their car window or stop to talk to me on the street and ask about the season. Throughout the season, I made friendships with the coaching staff, volunteers, members of the community and players that will last a lifetime. I am the most thankful for these friendships. Coach Roberts runs a professional program that will prepare me for not only my continued education at UCLA, but also for my future career, whatever that may be. Every players’ goal in the Cape is to earn an opportunity to play professionally, and the Kettleers gave me that opportunity to be seen and prove myself. I could not have asked for more from a summer experience away from home. Cotuit is an amazing place and I will never forget the memories that I made in the 2021 CCBL year.”
“Coming back to Cotuit was a dream come true. The amount that I learned in the short time I was in Cotuit during the playoffs in 2019 made me eager to see how much I would learn under Coach Roberts during a full summer season. It did not disappoint. While we couldn’t repeat with a championship, from the early days of practice to the final day of the season, the community in Cotuit supported and rooted for us every step of the way and it was incredible to see how much a group of guys from all over can make such an impact on the people around them. From coming to Lowell Park every day to many trips to the Coop, each day created a new memory. I made many friends that will last a lifetime from this summer and I am forever grateful to the coaching staff, the players, the interns, staff, and the Cotuit community for making this the best summer of my life. Kettle Ho.”
“Spending the 2021 summer in the cape was a dream come true. Growing up in Connecticut, vacationing on the cape to watch baseball became an annual tradition. After briefly getting a taste of the cape league my freshman year as an end of the year temporary addition I was super excited to return back to the village of Cotuit to get the full experience. I know I can speak for everyone when I say this, but our time in Cotuit this summer was full of change. With the draft pushed back and people coming and going, it felt like we had a few different teams. There were two commonalities with all phases of the summer regardless of the lineup we rolled out there. First and foremost, we truly developed bonds between all the players that came through Cotuit, whether it was for 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months. Showing up to the field, long bus rides, getting lunch at the Coop, and working the instructional camps among other things have a real way of creating fast and lasting bonds with our teammates. Secondly, another thing I am sure everyone can agree with is that we got better. As people and players we truly grew more than we could have ever thought. This is what it’s truly about, summer ball is notorious for dragging on, but in Cotuit we showed up all year long to not only play and enjoy the game but to work and get better. This truly speaks just as much to the coaches than it does us. Schreiner, Hank, KJ and Coach Roberts show up and bring the juice every day and will do anything to help us get better and they did it. Thank you to everyone involved in our Cotuit experience on the Cape!”
“My time in Cotuit was one of the best baseball experiences in my life. You hear all these great things about playing in the Cape and Cotuit but it really doesn’t do it any justice until you play there. I came about halfway through the summer and as soon as I stepped on the field at Lowell Park, I immediately felt like I was part of the community. It was nothing like I have ever seen, everyone in the community was so nice and truly made it my home away from home. The staff- Peter, Jarrett, Hank, Schriener and Coach Roberts, was one of the best coaching staffs I have ever been around. I was always so excited to show up to the park, as were my teammates. I made some lifelong friends and played great baseball while doing it! I will be back next summer and can’t wait!”
“Playing in Cotuit was an experience I will never forget. Being on Cape Cod has always been a dream of mine ever since I found out about it as a kid, and the goal was to always play against the best players in the country and show that I belong. My host family Becky and Paul were amazing and the whole community coming together for a team was an experience I’ll never forget and the most fans I ever played in front of. I became an overall better baseball player and want to thank the whole coaching staff for the behind the scenes that nobody sees.“
“The summer up in Cotuit was a real good experience. My first day there I knew it would be a great summer because my host family was real nice and welcoming. I am thankful I had a cool group of guys I was able to spend my summer with. They made it a lot of fun and we built great relationships. The Coop right down the block from the field was the place to go. I would go there once or even twice a day so the workers and I would joke around here and there which was cool. The camps with the little kids were a lot of fun because they were full of energy and liked to mess around on top of learning more about the game. Plus, I know we can make a positive impact on their lives so going there and spending time with them is something I enjoyed. The summer was full of adversity and success which I am very happy I went through. I learned a lot more about baseball and looking back I can say it was all around a great experience. I always love going to different parts of the country and this was just another one along the journey.”
“One of the most reliable memories for everyone who loves the game is looking back at their childhood and playing Backyard Baseball. Nothing could quite compare to running around a made-up diamond with all of your friends, playing the game you love for hours on hours in the summer heat. This memory is one that shapes the love for baseball into many kids’ hearts and ignites the fire in them that burns for the love of the game. As I was blessed with the opportunity to go play for Cotuit after the 32021 draft, that fire in me was dwindling.
Walking up to historic Lowell Park for the first time gives you a familiar feeling, but you can’t quite wrap your heart around why it somehow feels like home. During your first day you meet all the people who keep the ship running smoothly behind the scenes. The coaches, staff, interns, media team and even the Flaherty brothers all have this energy about them that screams their love for Cotuit. Everyone you meet on your first day makes you really realize how much of a blessing it is to get the opportunity to play for Cotuit, especially Coach Roberts. He has this twinkle in his eyes that you never really seem to forget, and when you talk baseball with him, that twinkle only gets brighter. His love for the game and for helping his players is so genuine that it makes you want to win every game for him and empty the tank on every play while you wear the Cotuit pinstripes.
As you settle into Cotuit and the Cape over the next few days, you get used to your new family for the summer and your new teammates. These are the bittersweet factors about playing summer baseball. You get to make all these new relationships on and off the field, making new lifelong friends through your teammates that you see every day as well as becoming a member of a new family that you stay with. If you get lucky like I did, you get to stay with an awesome family like the Hallett’s. Through them you will be able to experience the Cape on off days and even though they might make you try a few new vegetables, you get to leave the field every day and feel comfortable going home to your family. You start to enjoy your time with your teammates and family so much that you forget you are only going to be in Cotuit for a month or so, which is why saying goodbye is one of the hardest parts about playing for the Kettleers.
The community in Cotuit is amazing. As a player you feel like a celebrity walking around the small town, especially when you go to the Coop for lunch. You get to meet the great community of Cotuit and have conversations with the people who love to support you. Some of my best memories of playing this summer come from being off the field and meeting everyone in the town, especially the kids from camp. Waking up every morning and getting to camp at 8:30 seemed like a daunting task at first, but getting to interact with those kids who are learning to spark their fires for the game of baseball made it worth it, and then some. When you get to meet so many kids that look up to you the way those kids at camp looked at us, it really gives you some perspective on life and who you want to be as a man.
A couple of those kids from camp gave me memories that will last a lifetime. There was a kid named Chase who I am convinced will be in the MLB one day and we enjoyed playing catch before my games. Charlie drew me a picture that says, “You’re my favorite player20!” and it has its own spot on my fridge. Another kid named Nick was a full time camper and he also helped us on the field by being a batboy. He gave me a lifelong memory as I’d only been playing for the Kettleers a little over a week when we had a home game versus Wareham. I was on deck for my third at-bat when Wareham made a pitching change. While I was timing up the new pitcher, I heard a familiar little voice from behind me. I turned and Nick is standing at the fence saying “Noah! You are about to hit your first home run”. I laughed and told him “I just want to win!”. Sure enough on the second pitch I put the ball off a tree in right field and as soon as I hit it, I turned and looked straight at Nick, who was jumping up and down screaming. As I jogged around the bases and gave Coach Roberts a high five, I could hear Nick screaming “Noah, Noah, Noah!” I touched home and gave praise to God then jogged right over to Nick and gave him a high five before I even celebrated with my own teammates and told him, “That one is for you!”.
It’s those memories that made playing in Cotuit so special for me, but it was not always that easy. During my first few games, we went on a pretty tough losing streak. We were getting used to each other and the new environment but we just couldn’t seem to string it together at the right time and get everything to click. That’s when Coach Roberts sent the team my favorite text message, a long, meaningful and encouraging message that challenged us to go back to playing what he called “Backyard Baseball”. As I read those words, it hit me all at once.
That weird feeling of Lowell Park and Cotuit being oddly familiar finally made sense to me. Playing in Cotuit reminded me of playing baseball as a kid growing up, having fun in the backyard with all my friends and just enjoying the game to the fullest. As I said earlier, before coming to Cotuit my fire for baseball was dwindling. Thanks to everything about Cotuit, the fire inside me is burning as strong as it ever has and I could not be more thankful for what the Kettleers and the community did for me.
There are so many great people that make up the Cotuit Kettleers and I wish I could write a page for each person I met, unfortunately that would exceed well over 20 pages. Some of the most wholesome interactions I had were with people who actually never put on a uniform. These conversations were so valuable to me because you could see the dedication and support from those people when you talked with them. Whether the conversation was with the broadcasting voice for every single game, or with those people who made the best ballpark pop-corn, talking to those people always made me realize how fortunate and blessed I was to still be able to play the game I’ve always loved.
If you’re from the South and you’ve grown up playing ball there, you’ll notice something different at Lowell Park. It involves not being able to play baseball at night, since the park has no lights. This factor led to my first official game that ended early for the simplicity of not being able to see. As the team was doing its usual post game activities which involved hanging out with the fans and helping clean up the field, I couldn’t help myself but to hang around while the last glimmers of sunlight were dancing around the field. I found myself standing behind home plate, looking out into the woods when Peter Flaherty came up beside me and asked a simple question, “What are you doing?” I remember looking at him and then looking around, seeing that there were about 6 people still on the field. I said to Peter, “Just trying to take it all in. It’s like the glimpse of heaven.” As I reflect on that memory, I find it’s the same way I feel now about Cotuit. It all happens so fast, but those little moments where you get to sit back and take it all in, last a long time. I wish I could put into words how meaningful it was for me to get to play in Cotuit, but playing there and experiencing all the people has its own unique feeling. All I can say to the community, staff and coaches who took a chance on me is Thank You. I had the most fun times playing for your community and it means the world to me that Cotuit even took the chance on a player like me. I will cherish the memories I made and the people I met, but most of all, thank you Cotuit for helping me rekindle my flame for baseball and for teaching me once again to play Backyard Baseball!”
So the season which brought so many memories has left quite an impression on the youngsters who performed so courageously. It’s now time to adjust to the off season and start counting down the days to when baseball returns to Cotuit in June 2022.
Kettleers Korner will be anything and everything that might interest fans, past and present, about the Kettleers. Roy Reiss, who started his career working for Curt Gowdy Broadcasting, was a former sportscaster on Channel 7 and several radio stations in Boston. His son Mike now covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.