For the first time in three months, there was an official organized sport taking place on Cape Ann.
On Tuesday night, the Intertown Twilight Baseball League — the country’s oldest active amateur baseball league — opened up the 2020 season at Memorial Field in Essex.
The opener saw the 2019 league champion Manchester Essex Mariners, who have also won six of the last eight ITL championships, take on the Ipswich Chiefs to start the belated and shortened 2020 season.
The ITL season normally kicks off in May, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the season back to where it could finally open up on Tuesday night. Governor Charlie Baker eased restrictions on certain sports, and baseball was one of those that was able to begin.
Of course, the ITL is taking the necessary safety measures to compete as both dugouts are equipped with hand sanitizer, players can not high-five in celebration, and players were social distancing in each dugout, sitting the required 6 feet away from each other.
The league will have a bit of a different look this season as well. While the ITL normally houses seven teams, the Ipswich Chiefs and Topsfield Tories have merged for the 2020 season, making it a 6-team league.
The teams will all play each other twice in a 10-game regular season, with the playoffs slated to begin the second week of August. The top two finishers earn an automatic spot in the semifinals, while seeds 3-through-6 will meet in play-in games.
The championship is slated to be completed at the end of August, which is about a week later than it finishes in a normal season.
The Mariners look poised to contend for another league championship with its entire roster intact from a year ago. Rusty Tucker, Ryan Marques and Peter Clark will lead the pitching staff with Rory Gentile, Caulin Rogers, Kellen Field and Adam Philpott powering the Mariner offense.