Baseball for college and high school aged players will be back all across Connecticut this summer.
With many of the summer leagues shutting down last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, players were left scrambling to secure spots on the few teams that played and many were left without places to play.
That should not be a problem this year with plenty of options for high school and college athletes.
Last year, both The Cape Cod Baseball League and The New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) shut down, leaving top college players without a place to play.
They are both back up and running with full schedules planned.
Both the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL) and the Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League (CCBL) were able to have seasons last year and are hoping to build on the momentum started last summer.
Further down the line, American Legion and Babe Ruth are also both planning full seasons this summer for college and high school players.
The Cape League and NECBL are comprised of all college players while the FCBL and CCBL are open to recent high school graduates who plan to play in college.
Legion and Babe Ruth are aged-based and open to high school and college players.
The Cape League draws the nation’s top collegiate players from all over the country.
The FCBL is expanding from six to eight teams with the Norwich Sea Unicorns joining the league along with the Vermont Lake Monsters.
The Sea Unicorns will open their 2021 season on May 26 when they travel to take on the New Britain Bees. The Sea Unicorns were formerly affiliated with the Detroit Tigers until Major League Baseball restructured its minor-league systems.
The Sea Unicorns join the Bees as the two in-state teams and give the FCBL another team playing in a minor-league stadium.
“We are fortunate to get those two new teams and excited to expand. That gives us seven of our eight teams now playing in former professional stadiums,” FCBL commissioner Joe Paolucci said. “Having a season last year helped us expand this year. I was amazed with how fast teams filled up. By August-September, the teams were overflowing with players.”
Teams in the FCBL will be able to carry up to 40 players.
While the league has depended on host families in the past, this year teams are trying to fill spots with players who live in the close vicinity of franchises.
Paolucci said many of the New Britain and Norwich players will be from Connecticut. Host families may still be needed by other teams.
Part of the reason the Cape League could not play last year was because with players coming from all over the country, they rely almost entirely on host families. COVID-19 prevented that.
The NECBL is making its return this summer with 13 teams located in the six New England States, with the Bristol Blues, Danbury Westerners and Mystic Schooners here in Connecticut. The 27th season of the NECBL is scheduled to begin on June 3 with teams in the league expected to play a 42-game regular season through August.
The Bristol Blues joined the league prior to the 2020 season but were forced to wait a year to play and will begin their season at Muzzy Field against the Westerners opening night. That will be the first NECBL game in Bristol since 2010 when the Bristol Collegiate Baseball Club played their only season before becoming the Mystic Schooners.
The CCBL will play games starting on June 1 with two new franchise:, the West Haven Sailors and the Springfield Pioneers.
The league still has 10 teams with two teams relocating to form the Sailors and the Pioneers.
Being one of the few places players could go in Connecticut last summer, the league is hoping to keep that momentum going.
“We do have a lot of players back from last year. A lot of good players,” CCBL commissioner Tim Vincent said. “We realize where we are in the pecking order of college leagues. It’s the Cape, NECBL, Futures league and we are fourth. We cater to Connecticut kids. They can play for our teams, stay at home, be with their girlfriends, go to their jobs and play really good baseball.”
CCBL teams will carry 28 players with 22 available for any given game.
Players must play for the team closest to them geographically, though players from Fairfield and New London Counties can be recruited to play for any team.
Vincent is a busy man in the summer as he also is the general manager of the Simsbury Saber Cats in the CCBL and is the Chairman of Zone 1 in American Legion Baseball.
Zone 1 will look a little different this season, adding Oakville and Naugatuck from Zone 5 which split up for this season.
American Legion Baseball will be back with a full schedule this year, culminating in state and regional tournaments and the World Series in Shelby, NC.
Senior Legion (19U) will have five zones (1,2,3,4,6) with every zone broken into northern and southern divisions except for Zone 3 which is one division of 10 teams.
There are 51 teams currently scheduled to play Senior Legion. Legion also runs 17U, 15U and this year is introducing a 13U league.
Babe Ruth will be holding State Tournaments for 13U, 14U, 15U and in the 16-18-year old division.
The 16-18 division state champions will advance to the Regionals in Worcester, Mass. and possibly to the World Series in Mobile, Alabama.