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Chatham, Mass. — The last time Matt Cook stepped onto Veterans Field was in 2014 when he celebrated Senior Day as a member of the Monomoy Regional High School baseball team. Today, however, Cook, a native of Harwich, suited up for the Chatham Anglers. “There’s a bit of a hometown feel being here, at least more than most guys,” said the outfielder from Wheaton College. And though Cook hails from just over the town line, he has a long history with his new home.
During his time at Monomoy, Veterans Field served as the part time home field for the regional school’s baseball team. As a freshman and a sophomore, the last two years before Chatham and Harwich merged high schools, Cook sat in the visitors’ dugout when he frequented the park as a member of the Harwich Rough Riders.
“I’ve seen this place from every angle you can think of,” said Cook laughing at the unusual relationship he’s had with Chatham’s baseball epicenter. Along with a selection of his new teammates, Cook took batting practice donned in his new Angler blue. John Schiffner’s squad has been sharpening its hitting prowess this past week in preparation for Friday’s Opening Day game against the Falmouth Commodores.
“We’ve just had simple batting practice, you know doing the things that help you win in this league,” said Schiffner, who enters his 24th season as Chatham manager. “We’re working on our hitting, hitting balls to the opposite field, we’re working on hitting behind the runners, we’re working on hit and runs, we’re working on taking short swings, we’re working on staying inside the baseball, bunts…just playing baseball.”
The beginning of the season coincides with the NCAA’s Super Regionals, causing the Anglers’ roster to feature an unusually high number of temporary players. Schiffner hinted that the first handful of games could be beneficial to players not on the permanent roster. “For the guys who are trying to make a spot on the team as a temp [the goal is] for them to play hard,” said Schiffner. “We don’t have that many position [players] so the guys that are here are going to play. We basically are going to put out 12 hitters, so they’ll be three guys on the bench, and we’ll just go play.”
While Schiffner hasn’t determined his Opening Day lineup yet, pitching coach Rob Bono confirmed that J.B. Bukauskas will take the mound on Friday. Bukauskas, the six-foot right-hander from North Carolina, went 7-2 with a 3.10 ERA for the Tar Heels. The Anglers take on Falmouth in the first of four matchups on Friday. First pitch is tabbed for 7 p.m. at Chatham’s Veterans Field.