Shark Tank will be empty this year

COVID-19 strikes again, cancelling summer college baseball season.

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It's going to be a summer without baseball at the Shark Tank. — Gabrielle Mannino

The Martha’s Vineyard Sharks baseball team won’t be playing at the Shark Tank this summer.

On Friday night, after a meeting of league officials, the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) pulled the plug on the season because of the ongoing pandemic. The NECBL has 13 teams, including the Sharks, featuring some of the top collegiate talent in the country.

“Basically, it’s best for everyone involved — the players and the host families,” Russ Curran, general manager of the Sharks, told The Times. “The last thing we want to do is have a situation where a host family gets sick because a player may have come into contact with the virus.”

The Cape Cod Baseball League, another league of top collegiate players, canceled its season a week earlier.

Curran said there was talk of pushing the season, which was scheduled to begin in June, into July. “It just wasn’t in the cards,” he said. Two of the cities with teams — Holyoke and Danbury, Conn., have had high levels of confirmed cases, he said.

There were also logistical problems. “Some of the teams ran into problems with use of fields until July,” he said. “What if that gets pushed back?”

Curran said the players were immediately notified by the league and he’s reached out to them personally. It’s particularly difficult on returning players who would have had exposure to scouts. If they were having a good summer, it could mean a chance to get signed to a minor league team.

“It’s not the way we wanted the season to go, but we know it’s the right decision,” Curran said.

Some host families have told him now that the decision is made, they don’t have to make the tough decision and tell him that they didn’t feel comfortable hosting a player this year, he said.

The Sharks have a lease agreement with Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. The team installed a new infield and will maintain the field this summer as if baseball is going to be played. At some point, when health officials give the green light, Curran wants the Sharks to host a game played by the high school teams. At that game, he wants to honor the MVRHS seniors who never got a chance to play in their senior seasons.

“We want to do something for the community,” he said. “I don’t know when, but once we’re allowed we’re going to do it — under the lights, with the music, and honor every senior.”

This is a financial blow for the team, which does well enough to cover its costs, but will struggle if sponsors want their money back, he said. He had to order uniforms and baseballs before he knew the season would be canceled. The team also purchased a new concession trailer that will sit idle, Curran said.

For now, he’s retrieving beds from host families and setting his sights on 2021. “I’m standing behind my players,” he said. “Some of them have already said they’re going to come in 2021 . . .  Our roster will be as good as it has been the last couple of years and it’s been good.”