Players, fans revel in the return of Delco League baseball

By Terry Toohey This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. @TerryToohey on Twitter

From the Daily Times published 7/1/2020

 

EASTTOWN TWP. — For a short while Tuesday evening, it looked as if the Delco League was going to have to wait at least one more day to commence its coronavirus-shortened season.

Dark, ominous clouds hung overhead and a light rain fell on the finely manicured field at Devon Prep. The odds of a rainout seemed high as players and fans began to arrive.

“I was a little worried,” Wayne general manager Chuck Freeman said as he looked toward the sky.

 

Mother Nature, though, wasn’t about to be that cruel and spoil the much-anticipated return to live local sports after more than three months of inactivity due to the pandemic.

Eventually, the rain stopped and the skies cleared and the tarps were removed from the field so that Wayne and Concord could get the season under way, much to the delight of the nearly 40 players and more than 80 fans in attendance to see the teams battle to a 2-2 draw.

The outcome didn’t matter. The fact that there was an actual event to watch in person was the most important factor on this evening.

“I’ve been jonesing for some baseball,” said fan Ted Seiler Sr.

That was pretty much the sentiment everywhere, especially among the players. They’ve been waiting for this day since the pandemic shut down all sports in mid-March.

“It was just good to get out on the field,” said Concord first baseman Chris Salvey. “I just missed being out here, the atmosphere, everything. Nothing compares to being on the baseball field.”

It didn’t take the Cardinal O’Hara grad and five-year league veteran long to give the fans and his teammates a thrill, even though he hasn’t faced live pitching in quite some time. Sure, he hit off a tee and went to a batting cage when he could as he and every player in the league waited for the green light to play, but it’s nothing like stepping into the batter's box for the first time with a runner on base.

 

And Salvey made the most of the opportunity. He belted a two-run homer in the top of the first inning, a no-doubt-about-it blast that landed roughly 35 feet beyond the right-field fence, which is estimated at 285 or 290 feet, giving the Canes an early lead.

“I was saying before the game that it’s been a while since I hit one,” said Salvey, who played collegiately at Cumberland County and Lincoln Memorial in Tennessee. “It felt good off the bat and the fence isn’t that far.”

Eventually, the game settled into a pitcher’s duel, as expected. The teams combined to use 11 pitchers, seven by the Canes. Only four other balls fell safely for hits after Salvey’s bomb. There were two errors, 12 combined walks and two hit batters, which was not completely unexpected for the first time out.

Concord didn’t score again after Salvey’s blast and Wayne needed an RBI single from Ed Paparella in the bottom of the seventh inning to draw even and earn a point.

“It felt a little surreal to be back out there,” Wayne second baseman Dan Williams said. “The tough part for me was getting my timing at the plate and getting a couple of ground balls, getting that out of the way.”

There were a few other hiccups.Several of the newcomers for Concord had jerseys with no numbers and the color of the newer caps was different than last year’s model. The jerseys were leftovers from last year, according to Concord general manager Joe Convery, who said he didn’t have time to get numbers put on them. He also had to scramble to get the caps. But as he looked out on the field, Convery liked what he saw.

“We’ve got some pitchers,” Convery said. “I’m ecstatic about this team. Last year, we ran out of pitchers. I look out there tonight and we have four lefties. I’m just glad we’re back playing baseball.”

That sentiment was echoed several times throughout the contest.

“I can’t wait to step in the batter’s box and see live pitching,” said Marple Newtown first baseman-outfielder Tom Carey Jr., who stopped by to watch the game. “This was going to be my first season as the head (baseball) coach at Upper Darby and I just felt so awful for those players who had their season ripped away from them, especially the seniors. It’s heartbreaking. As a player, all you want to do is play and I’m excited for myself to be able to get back on the field and play.”