Last weekend the only professional baseball games in the United States were being played in Sugar Land at Constellation Field.
While Major League Baseball teams go through workouts in preparation for a pandemic-shortened 60-game season to start July 24, the Constellation Energy League is under way with four teams playing at Constellation Field. The league – created in one month by the Sugar Land Skeeters – made its debut Friday night with the Eastern Reyes Del Tigre (Tiger Kings) beating Team Skeeters 7-0 on a sweltering 90-plus degree night. That was followed by seven-inning double-headers on Saturday and Sunday. Team Skeeters found some redemption by beating the Sugar Land Lightning Sloths 8-5 in a 3.5-hour game. That was followed by Eastern beating up on Team Texas 10-4. On Sunday Texas downed the Skeeters 5-2, followed by Sugar Land beating Eastern 6-5 in the first game to go into extra innings. In the Constellation Energy League, rather than play extra innings the winner is decided in a home run derby. Former Skeeter Barrett Barns belted the game-winning dinger.
In keeping with health and safety requirements, attendance at the ballpark is limited to 31% of capacity, meaning no more than 1,800 fans. The attendance for the first few games have not been announced, but it appears the league is drawing 800-1,200 per game so far.
After Saturday night’s win, Skeeters manager Pete Incaviglia had high praise for the players and the league.
“I thought both sides pitched pretty well,” he said. “I thought the strike zone was a little tight for both sides. I mean these guys haven’t picked up a baseball in probably five or six months. It was a great game, it was fun.
“These guys are just trying to get into shape right now. This is like spring training. I felt the game last night (Friday) was played pretty well; Team Eastern played pretty well. Today I thought we played better. Some of our guys started swinging bats a little bit. Pitching, you know, the command of pitches is not where it needs to be, but they’ll get there. It’s going to take them a week or two to get going.”
With temperatures into the 90s for each game, it has had an effect on the players. One Eastern pitcher was pulled in the first game after getting light-headed.
“A lot of these guys coming from the north and the east where it’s not as hot maybe as it is here in Sugar Land, I think we had one guy who got a little light-headed from the heat last night but so far it’s been pretty good. The heat’s definitely taking it out of the guys, no doubt about that, especially since they haven’t been playing any games,” Incaviglia said.
With Constellation Energy League being new, nearly everything that happened was a league first. The first pitch was thrown by Chase De Jong of the Skeeters, which resulted in the first double, belted by Eastern’s Evan Marzilli. The first out was made by Skeeters first baseman Dustin Peterson, who caught a fly ball by Eastern’s C.J. McElroy (a former Skeeter).
Incaviglia had a few kudos for his players as well.
“I thought Gibby (Daniel Gibson) pitched well late in the game. I thought we swung the bats really well. D.J’s (Peterson) coming in here and he looks like he’s in game-ready form… I thought Ryder Jones swung the bat well, Dustin Peterson hit the ball hard four or five times but hasn’t had any hits. G’s (Anthony Giansanti) had some good at-bats. Hawk’s (Courtney Hawkins) working himself in shape. It’s fun, you know, it’s fun. Guys are out there doing the best they can under these circumstances. They haven’t had much time to get ready. They’re having to get their reps in while the game is going on, which is tough, but they’re doing a good job,” he said.
With the league being made up of a mix of former Major Leaguers, first-round draft picks, and high-level minor leaguers, the talent pool is strong in the league.
“I think the talent’s really good,” Incaviglia said. As a matter of fact, I think the talent might be better than what it is in the Atlantic League, to be honest with you.”