I recall a strange feeling one morning a few days after creating the Gators. The pure excitement of creating my own local, competitive baseball team was wearing off. I sat up in bed as the morning sun rose and nervously listed off all the items of Gator business that needed to be taken care of: Jerseys, Hats, Waivers, League Dues, etc. The list goes on. It took a lot more than I was expecting to make the magic happen. It was safe to say I had underestimated the task simply because I was so excited to be able to play baseball again in a real game-like situation with umpires.
The apartment was empty again in the mornings when the lockdown ended and Shawn returned to work. Although I would occasionally wake up anxiously listing off the day’s Gator duties, there was something worse that was robbing me of sleep each and every week morning. Construction. Deafening, screeching construction smack dab right next to our apartment on Route 44 in Lakeville. The apartment building would shake from the jackhammers, the grinding of the caterpillar tracks on the excavators felt like they were making my ears bleed, even with the windows closed. This started like clockwork every weekday at 7:15 AM. Therefore, I would wake up every day with the construction and start working on Emails and making phone calls to work on Gator business.
My main working area was the apartment’s balcony, the sunlight crushed the porch in the morning making it very nice to do work and have coffee out there. Soon enough I had dubbed the apartment in Lakeville the Gator Offices, location of the offices of the GM (yours truly), the Team President (Shawny), our Skipper (Jeremy, formally Coach Stew), and of course our beautiful statistician and scorekeeper (Book Keep Lindz).
The first thing I had to do was contact potential sponsors to help fund our season. Thankfully, at this point in time, the Orioles informed their Minor Leaguers that we would be paid through June, which led to compensation for the remainder of the summer. Selfishly, I found myself in a position where it was in my best interest to prioritize fundraising for the Gators to create those games-like reps for myself.
Less selfishly, the Gators created opportunities that benefited many people in the moment, as well as for the future. I knew we wouldn’t have trouble finding players, but we had so many high-quality guys on and off the field that wanted to compete. Every practice, every game and any Gator event, we were a walking Energy Bus. It made every moment we spent together special during the craziness and uncertainty that 2020 featured. For the future, the Gators brought groups of unfamiliar people together and created the Gator Gang. One group united by our home area, our hunger to play ball, and our desire for a distraction from 2020’s ugliness with fun and competitive nights at the ballpark. It made the only season in Gators history about more than just baseball. This was our way of enduring through the most turbulent times of our lives and something we could not have accomplished without help.
There will never be enough ways to describe my gratitude to the sponsors of the Great Falls Gators. During these trying times for businesses all over the country, the Gators were able to find enough gracious local sponsors to help us pay for all summer season expenses. One of my proudest accomplishments from the whole process was that every Great Falls Gator was able to play for free. This was only possible because of the great businesses that support us. It is a true testament to the generosity of these Northwest Corner businesses as well as other businesses who contributed from afar. The entire Gator Gang is forever grateful!
Technically our first practice was on June 10th behind Patco in Lakeville, about a Patty Mahomes flick-of-the-wrist away from the Gator Offices. I would describe that day more as a recruiting and batting practice session to see who was really interested out of the gate. Hell, I texted my buddy Seth Sherwood about the Gators 15 minutes before practice and at 6:05 he was filling out a form to join the team. Relative to how fast the Gators franchise was created, Seth’s quick path to joining the team doesn’t sound as crazy in hindsight.
Our first documented practice was on June 14th, again behind Patco. We had a beautiful day weather-wise, but the best part was getting old teammates from Housatonic and the Trojans back together to have some fun on the ballfield. We were low on numbers so we did teams of three in order to have a full defense and let pitchers rotate on and off the mound as they wished.
As we inched closer to the first game of the season, we scheduled a scrimmage at Community Field in Litchfield. (pic of Walt watching the game) My buddy Kyle and I organized the game between the Gators and Elmer’s Angels on Father’s Day. Kyle joked that day saying the scrimmage was ‘just to see what I was missing out on’ because Elmer’s originally recruited me before the formation of the Gators. We didn’t quite play a full game and some pitchers were flip-flopping from one team to another to get more innings, but it was still a great day.
Due to new teams joining the CTL late, like the Gators among others, the schedule was not announced until the Phase 2 Reopening on June 17th. We finally found out that our first game was going to be against another new team to the CTL, the Terryville Blacksox. They were not unfamiliar to our TriState League players, though, especially the Trojans guys. The Trojans and the Blacksox have been duking it out atop the TriState League for the last eight seasons. The Gators season was going to start out with a marquee matchup that to some, was personal.