Westfield Starfires, Futures Collegiate Baseball League to start shortened season next week

Sports Editor
Published: 6/22/2020 4:31:16 PM

The Futures Collegiate Baseball League held out longer than any other summer league in order to salvage its season.

The wait paid off as the league announced Monday the dates and starting times for its shortened season.

The FCBL will hold a 39-game regular season that will start July 2 and end on Aug. 19. Six teams will participate, including the Westfield Starfires. Fans will be allowed to attend the games.

“The Futures League looks to maintain its momentum as the most popular summer collegiate league in New England,” league commissioner Joe Paolucci said in a statement. “Our team owners and operators put a tremendous amount of work into positioning our ballparks to open as safely as possible in order to provide fans with our unique brand of baseball and entertainment. We’re excited to get going.”

Safety guidelines and requirements will be made available on the league website by the end of the week, according to Paolucci. According to the Boston Globe, teams with work with local officials in regards to COVID-19 protocols, and there will be capacity and concession limitations.

The 10th season of the FCBL will feature the defending, four-time champion Worcester Bravehearts, Brockton Rox, North Shore (Lynn) Navigators, Westfield Starfires, New Britain (Connecticut) Bees and Nashua (New Hampshire) Silver Knights.

The Pittsfield Suns will not operate in 2020 but are working toward bringing baseball back to Wahconah Park next summer.

According to the Berkshire Eagle, meeting the safety guidelines proved to be too much for the team.

“In March, our organization developed a logistical plan to re-open our parks, filled with safety measures recommended by experts,” Suns owner Jeff Goldklang wrote in an email obtained by The Eagle. “That list was extensive, and contemplated the safety of our players, fans and co-workers in the most complete manager possible. Sadly, we have determined that we are unable to guarantee those measures.

“Wahconah Park, while historic and charming, poses impossible restrictions on our abilities to maintain everybody’s safety.”

The Westfield Starfires will hold its home opener on July 8 against Worcester at Bullens Field. Florence native and Hartford infielder Devin Kellogg will return to the Westfield lineup. Kellogg tied for the team lead with 51 hits last season.

Several UMass players are in the league. Outfielder Jack Whorf will play for North Shore, pitcher Jack Pawloski and pitcher/designated hitter Mike Rounds are with Nashua, and pitcher Kevin Dow is with Brockton.

Holyoke native and Southern Connecticut State infielder Tyshaun Diaz, and Amherst College catcher Christian Fagnant will play for New Britain.

Following the regular season, the top two teams in the standings will play a best-of-three series to decide the league champion.

The schedule will begin with games on July 2, 3 and 5 at both New Britain Stadium in New Britain, and Historic Holman Stadium in Nashua, prior to phase three of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan. The earliest phase three can begin is July 6.

All teams have a minimum of 18 home games, with New Britain and Nashua having 21. Both clubs gained dates due to their ability to open their respective facilities from local governmental and health officials, while the Massachusetts clubs remain in phase two.

The “Home Run Derby Wins It” tiebreaker will return this summer. Any games tied after one extra inning will be decided with a shootout-style home-run derby. The team that hits the most home runs during a three-minute round wins the game. A two-minute round and, if still necessary, a one-minute round would follow in the event of a tie or ties.

The Cape Cod Baseball League as well as the New England Collegiate Baseball League canceled their seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com. Follow on Twitter @mikemoranDHG.

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