Swamp Bats

Former Swamp Bats right fielder Joe Breaux hits a home run against the Winnipesaukee Muskrats at Keene’s Alumni Field during the 2018 season.

The Keene Swamp Bats are still on track to start their season in the first week of June, according to the team’s President, Kevin Watterson.

“For high school sports, they’re in the moment. The calendar is not their friend so they’re having to make very difficult decisions. For us, that calendar is our friend. We’re full speed ahead and we’re doing everything we would normally do to try and put together a back-to-back championship season and hold our breath in the meantime.”

With a three-month cushion to work with, it has given the team not only the opportunity to open the season on time, but also a different routine before the season begins.

Because of the NCAA cancelling spring sports, the New England Collegiate Baseball League has mandated that players report to their respective teams seven to 10 days early, unprecedented for how the league typically kicks off. In the past they would bring players in two days early, as they had amid playing for nine months so didn’t need a lot of practice to settle in. The change for this season is being made as a caution to avoid injury and to get players in shape.

“In the past, in the first two weeks or so, we might only have half our team because they’re in Super Regional play,” Watterson said. “And then we’d pick up our guys from Vanderbilt, Virginia, Georgia and some of those schools. This year we will have all our players on opening day. It’s a lot different and beneficial to our league.”

The league will be monitoring how other leagues approach their plans with the pandemic coronavirus having a profound impact on the sports world. Major League Baseball is specifically a league that was mentioned, especially how it addresses practice time with players.

While Watterson considers the calendar a friend of the league currently, as in every sport the start date is fluid.

“Right now we’re doing all the things that we would normally do to get ready for a season. Like everything in society today we hope things take a turn for the better.” Watterson said. “However, if another shoe or two were to drop to prevent us from holding a season, we would react accordingly.”

Having the players report to the team in time for the start of the season is unquestionably good for business, as a good amount of star players usually show up after the season has already begun due to finishing up their collegiate seasons.

It may improve business, but it is in fact a “collegiate” league and the players will be on unfamiliar grounds for the first time ever.

“I really feel for our players. I talked to a DI coach and he said it was the worst day of his career when he had to walk in and tell the kids that their season was cancelled,” Watterson said.

“He said it was funeral-like.”