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Vincent hopeful that two leagues will play baseball beginning in July – The Collinsville Press
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Vincent hopeful that two leagues will play baseball beginning in July

In 2018, the Avon American Legion team won their third straight Zone 1 title. If plans go forward as organizers hope, Legion-age ballplayers might have an option to play baseball this summer with social distance rules in place.

SIMSBURY, June 3, 2020 — There could be some summer baseball in Connecticut in July if the leagues can meet the health requirements and protocols that will be shared by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont.

The Connecticut Elite Baseball Association (CEBA) has 92 teams interested in fielding teams in four divisions – 19 and under, 17 and under, 15 and under and 14 and under. The Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League (CCBL) has 12 teams interested in playing.

Simsbury’s Tim Vincent is the commissioner of the CCBL and the assistant director in the Connecticut Elite league to Craig Zimmerman.

“We are waiting for Gov. Lamont’s protocols and guidelines so we can adopt them,” Vincent said. But he did caution that if the protocols were too restrictive or unfeasible, the leagues may not play. “We need to see the guidelines.” Vincent said they hope to receive protocols and guidelines from the Lamont administration by the end of this week.

But Vincent is optimistic that there will be an opportunity for some organized baseball this summer. The entire collegiate and scholastic baseball seasons were eliminated due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

And the pandemic isn’t over. League rules are being modified to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 between players and umpires.

Umpires will call balls and strikes from behind the pitcher instead of behind the catcher. There will be no sharing of equipment. Players will need to have their own batting helmets and water bottles, for example.

Roster limits are being extended to 25 and teams in the Connecticut Elite league will have pitchers on pitch counts. “Their arms aren’t strengthened by having a spring season so we will have to monitor their pitch counts,” Vincent said.

If these two leagues play, Vincent anticipates practices beginning June 20 with games beginning on July 1 and running through the end of the month. Eight teams would make the playoffs, which would be single elimination. Vincent said they would be completed by August 9, if everything works out as planned.

Connecticut Elite (CEBA)

Vincent said that 92 teams are interesting in playing. The U-19 division is aiming to replace American Legion baseball with U-17 in place for Junior Legion teams. Vincent said that Avon should have U-19 and U-17 teams. He said many programs that fielder American Legion teams a year ago will have teams in Connecticut Elite.

Vincent said this is a one-year initiative. “It is a bridge-the-gap league,” he said. “Next year, we’re going back to American Legion again.”

American Legion cancelled their 2020 Connecticut season earlier in May. The national and regional tournaments were cancelled in late April.

Vincent anticipates a schedule of around 21 games for the U-19 division, 16 games for U-17 and 14-to-15 games for U-15 and U-13. The schedules are not finalized yet.

Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League (CCBL)

The CCBL will begin their 12th season in July. The league was founded by Vincent in 2009 to give collegiate age players from Connecticut another opportunity to play more disciplined, competitive baseball. Players use wooden bats.

For years, the league has flown under the radar with many high-level prospects from Connecticut going to the Cape Cod baseball league or the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL). But both leagues have cancelled their 2020 seasons due to the pandemic.

Now, interest is growing for the CCBL. Three new teams are scheduled to take the field if the league plays – the Hamden Miners, Brass City Bombers in Waterbury and two additional teams in Manchester – the Eagles and an unnamed third team.

Returning teams include the Manchester Mavericks, Simsbury Sabercats, Tobacco Valley Renegades and Glastonbury Arrows. The Sabercats and Renegades play out of Memorial Field in Simsbury.

Vincent anticipates 24 games for the CCBL squads.

The Mavericks beat Glastonbury last year in the championship game, 8-3, for their first-ever CCBL title Last year, the teams played 14 to 17 games depending on the weather.

Canton’s Peter Meyers, a Division I pitcher from the University of Hartford, is on the roster for Tobacco Valley along with Granby’s Parker Hansen, who plays at Bryant College.

The Sabercats will have Simsbury’s Jack D’Onofrio, who plays at Notre Dame, on the roster along with Simsbury native Thomas Girard, the No. 1 relief pitcher at Duke University. Luke Benneche, who set to attend Lafayette, is also scheduled to suit up with the Sabercats.

Avon’s Justin Olson (Trinity) and former Falcon teammates Jeremy Zarwanski (Newbury College in South Carolina) and Dylan Nastri (Colby) are also on the Sabercats preseason roster.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 35 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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