Featured Story

Bucks cancel 2021 season: Inability to secure housing forced decision

If the saddest day in baseball was the day Mudville’s Mighty Casey struck out, Island baseball fans can mark another. It was announced that the Shelter Island Bucks won’t play ball this summer. After months of trying, organizers have only been able to find three beds for players instead of the 30 needed.

The Bucks 2021 season in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League (HCBL) would have seen players arriving at the end of this month, General Manager Brian Cass said. Just a month ago, he had said if the season didn’t happen, it would be because of the inability to get enough housing for team members.

The effort to find housing started several months ago, with a soft approach to residents when it remained more controversial to consider providing housing in view of COVID-19 numbers. All the team organizers wanted to know at the outset was whether there might be enough Islanders willing to house players if infection numbers subsided. Despite infection numbers dropping and an earnest, stepped-up effort to get commitments to house players, it simply isn’t happening, Mr. Cass said.

HCBL President Sandi Kruel said players were lined up for all seven teams, including the Bucks.

In a normal year, housing team members in the HCBL has always been a challenge. With the COVID-19 pandemic surging in 2020, the league canceled the season. With fewer cases flaring and countywide numbers now down to about 2%, the other six HCBL franchises have teams ready to play in 2021, according to Ms. Kruel.

As of press time, the six teams — the North Fork Ospreys, the Riverhead Tomcats, Westhampton Aviators, Sag Harbor Whalers, Southampton Breakers and Long Island Road Warriors — were expected to find housing in time for the season.

With the effort still underway to find housing, Ms. Kruel said she couldn’t require players to get inoculated, but was encouraging them to do so. Any player not vaccinated would be required to find his own housing, she said.

Players are to be tested during the season, Ms. Kruel said.

She has hopes the Bucks will be able to field a team next summer. In the past, when a team bowed out, it was accepted it was out of the league permanently. But the circumstances this year imposed by the pandemic make it unusual, and Ms. Kruel expects if the community rallies to support the Bucks next season by providing sufficient housing, the Island’s team will be welcomed back as an important part of the league.