2022 will be a very special year for the Cotuit Kettleers as we celebrate the 75th year of baseball on Cape Cod. Many people have contributed over the past 75 years-players, donors, house parents, coaches, volunteers and of course the many fans who have flocked to Lowell Park to watch and cheer for the Kettleers. This is another in the series as we recall the many memories people have of the Cotuit Kettleers!
Christine and Don Barley-House Parents 1988, Sponsors of Bats & Balls/Uniforms last 9 years, Contributor to the Capital Campaign in 2020
We had never heard of the Cape League when a job transfer brought us to Cape Cod in October of 1987. We were happy to find a home just perfect for us in the Cotuit Bay Shores community, and our first introduction to Cape League baseball occurred when we attended a Kettleers game at Lowell Park the following June. We equated that evening to feeling like we had stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting, and we loved everything about the experience. We also had the good fortune of sitting near Arnold Mycock, Moe Sherman, and Art Brennan (the three amigos), and, by the end of the game, we were totally hooked on the Cotuit Kettleers and this amazing summer baseball League.
Shortly after that game, we received a call from Arnold saying he had a big request for us to consider. A player from the University of Texas-Austin was arriving soon as a last-minute addition to the team’s roster, and he needed a place to live. With two daughters (one of them a teenager), we felt the decision required consideration as a family, but it did not take us long to agree that housing a player sounded like an intriguing opportunity to become personally involved with the Kettlers in an integral role. A couple days later, Arnold arrived at our home to introduce us to our player, Patrick Varni, (accompanied by another Kettleer, Pat’s college roommate, Howard Prager), and our lives were forever changed. Little did we know in that moment how the experience of being house parents would enrich our lives from that summer and forevermore.
It did not take long for Pat to fit right into our family, and because his summer employment involved working at Don’s office, he truly was integrated into all aspects of our life. He was a great addition to our household, and it took him only about 48 hours to help us understand the benefits of transitioning from an antenna to cable TV! With Pat playing shortstop for the Kettleers, going to baseball games took on a whole new meaning for us and became an enjoyable family affair, and we also traveled to the away games which gave us an opportunity to enjoy the other Cape League parks. The home games at Lowell, however, were always the very best for us as we sat among new friends and watched the young men, who we had come to know, playing ball. I don’t think we missed attending a single game once Pat arrived! It was a fabulous season in the League with 40 eventual major leaguers playing. In addition to our own Tim Salmom and Jeff Kent, we had the privilege of watching players scattered on teams across the Cape such as Frank Thomas, Mo Vaughn, Chuck Knobloch, Jeff Bagwell, Denny Neagle, Mike Myers, and J. T. Snow.
In addition, it was always fun when some of Pat’s teammates were hanging around our house (which often coincided with the dinner hour). Near the end of the season, Howard’s parents, Jerold and Patti, came to visit from Dallas, and we first got to know them at a team cookout. It was a very hot summer, and Patti was lamenting that their B&B accommodations were not air conditioned. I happened to mention that we were very grateful for our central air, and the next day, and every day of their visit thereafter, she showed up at my door to ask if she could spend some time cooling off. We still laugh at how air conditioning was the start of a lifelong friendship with them, and the entire Prager family – a friendship that continues to be a treasured part of our lives today.
In the years to come, we celebrated at the weddings of Pat and Suzanne and Howard and Cori, shared in their joy when their children were born, and continue to take pride in their professional and personal accomplishments. Twenty-five years later in 2013, on a beautiful July day, we reunited at Lowell Park with Pat and Howard, as well as their wives and children, for a Kettleers baseball game, and we most recently saw Pat and Suzanne a couple years ago when they made time for a last-minute trip from their home in Houston to see us during our stay with the Pragers in Dallas.
Those three months of being house parents was a life-changing experience that enriched our lives beyond anything we could have imagined, and taking on that role was one of the best things we’ve ever done. Sadly, housing a player was only a one-year experience for us as another job transfer for Don required us to relocate out of state the following year. The move also meant we were not able to avail ourselves of the opportunity to accept positions on the Board as we’d been asked to. We regret we never had another summer to host a player or enjoy the wonderful experience of attending Cape Leagues games, but we are grateful neither time nor distance has diminished our relationship with the Varni and Prager families. Pat came into our lives as a college baseball player, and when he left, he was our “son”. We are eternally grateful for the summer of 1988 in Cotuit; it was the best summer of our adult lives, and we will always be fans and supporters of the Kettleers.