Baseball: Wildcats reflect on playing in summer leagues during COVID-19


Courtesy of Anthony Calarco

Anthony Calarco fields the ball. The junior spent the summer playing in the Northwoods League for the Kalamazoo Mac Daddies.

Sophia Scanlan, Sports Editor


Dating all the way back to the 19th century, college students have spent their summers playing in baseball leagues. They provide an opportunity to develop skills, meet other athletes from across the country and engage in fun competition.

Northwestern players routinely spend their summers in such leagues, and many were slated to do so this summer.

Juniors Mike Doherty and Shawn Goosenberg, for instance, planned to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League this summer — a premier league that has produced many major leaguers. But when the CCBL cancelled its upcoming season on Apr. 24, the players had to make other arrangements.

Doherty found a spot with the High Point-Thomasville HiToms in the Coastal Plain League. Because of the pandemic, the season went a bit differently than usual. The start of the season got pushed back to mid-June, and only around 40 fans could be in the stadium at a time — though more sat on trucks outside the stadium to watch.

“It was a little weird,” Doherty said. “It was a different culture.”

Players also had to get their temperature checked before entering the clubhouse. They weren’t required to wear masks on the field, but coaches warned that things would change if players weren’t socially distancing in the dugout and bullpens.

However, Doherty said the rules about masks weren’t really enforced, except for when the team went to get food or between batting practice and the game.

“(It was) probably for an optics kind of reason,” he said.

However, the Kalamazoo Mac Daddies of the Northwoods League — where Goosenberg ended up playing — required masks on at all times, but not when playing on the field. They also weren’t allowed to go to bars, either. Additionally, no families hosted players, so Goosenberg and his teammates had to live out of a hotel for the season.

Goosenberg said despite the differences from a normal summer of baseball, the level of play in the Northwoods League was still high.

“Definitely the top players on all the teams were equivalent to Big Ten play or any other team we play at Northwestern,” he said.

One of Goosenberg’s teammates this summer was junior first baseman Anthony Calarco. The Wilmette native was lined up to play for the Conejo Oaks of the California Collegiate League but the day after he signed, the league canceled the season.

Like Goosenberg, Calarco heard about the team from one of his coaches at NU, and several other freshmen joined, including infielders Vince Bianchina and Ben Grable and outfielder Ethan O’Donnell.

Over the two and a half months he was in Kalamazoo, Calarco led his team in nearly every category, with a .321 batting average, a .423 slugging percentage and 44 hits. Even with a shortened season, he still felt like he improved his game.

“I really showed that I can finally play at this level,” he said. “I’ve never really shown (that) in my college career and I’m hoping to bring it into school ball.”

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Twitter: @sophia_scanlan

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