If baseballs could talk, there is one in the universe with a story that’s hard to beat.
It’s an official Cape Cod League baseball and it is currently aboard the Space Shuttle
Endeavour, docked with the International Space Station in orbit some 220 miles above the Earth.
Cape League officials had been anxiously awaiting Endeavour’s launch for several weeks
because their baseball and a small league patch were to be carried into space on the orbiter’s 25th
and final mission as a result of their request and U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s efforts.
Lift-off was originally scheduled for April 19, then postponed until April 29. On that day, a
heater in one of the ship’s onboard hydraulic power generators failed during the countdown,
prompting another delay. Technicians replaced and retested an electronics box and rewired the
heater and a third attempt at lift-off was scheduled. Finally, at 8:56 a.m. ET on Monday, May 16,
Endeavour rose majestically from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida,
beginning its final mission and carrying for the first time a baseball bearing the Cape Cod
League logo and the signature of Commissioner Paul A. Galop.
“What a thrill to see that launch, especially knowing what I knew,” said Galop, who along
with league President Judy Walden Scarafile and a handful of other league officials had kept
“Operation Spaceball” under wraps for several weeks.
“We didn’t want to say anything until we knew for sure that our ball was in space,” Galop
explained, noting that although NASA had formally approved the league’s request, there was
always the possibility of the ball’s passport to space being revoked.
Why a Cape League ball in orbit?
Joe Sherman, the league’s special projects coordinator, said the idea was conceived shortly
after the league became aware that 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, who died of wounds
inflicted by a crazed gunman in Tucson, Ariz., in early January, had strong ties to the Cape
League. Her dad, John Green, is the Los Angeles Dodgers’ East Coast scouting supervisor and
the family enjoyed summer days in Brewster while he evaluated the league’s pro prospects.
Christina would accompany her father to Cape League games and her brother, Dallas, now
11, attended the Brewster Whitecaps’ baseball camp for youngsters while Christina played on the
playground adjacent to the Stony Brook School Field.
“We wanted to do something to honor the memory of little Christina, who dreamed of
becoming the first woman to play major league baseball and who loved her family’s visits to
Cape Cod,” said Sherman. “We knew that Endeavour’s commander would be Navy Capt. Mark
Kelly, husband of Gabrielle Giffords, the U.S. congresswoman who was seriously wounded in
the same shooting rampage that killed six people, including Christina, so we approached NASA
to see whether we could send one of our baseballs on Capt. Kelly’s last Space Shuttle mission.”
When the request was made, the normal deadline for arranging to carry a non-essential item
on a Space Shuttle flight had already passed. Enter the staff of Sen. Kerry, D-Mass. Asked to
intercede on behalf of the Cape League, Kerry’s staff immediately contacted NASA, explained
the reason behind the request and succeeded in getting a positive response from the space
“Without their help, this historic event in Cape League history could not have happened,”
Scarafile said in lauding the efforts of the Kerry staffers.
“The Cape League ball represents two things that were important to Christina-Taylor Green –
baseball and Cape Cod,” Scarafile said. “Once it is returned to us, it will be displayed for all to
see at our Hall of Fame & Museum in Hyannis and we will also take it to our All-Star Game at
Fenway Park, which has been dedicated to Christina’s memory.”
Galop said Sen. Kerry, along with his Republican counterpart, U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, and
U.S. Congressman William Keating, D-Mass., have all been invited to attend the July 29 game in
The “Spaceball” is an official Cape League baseball manufactured by Diamond Sports of
Cypress, Calif. It bears the Diamond logo, the Cape League logo underscored by Commissioner
Galop’s signature and the logo of the eight-league National Alliance of College Summer
Baseball. The alliance includes the Cape Cod League, the Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate Baseball
League, the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, the Florida Collegiate Summer League, the
Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League, the New York Collegiate Baseball League, the
Southern Collegiate Baseball League and the Valley Baseball League.
Sherman said the Cape League will get the “Spaceball” back once Endeavour’s 16-day
mission concludes. “It will probably be a couple of weeks after Endeavour’s return to Earth,” he
said. “We expect there will be some sort of presentation ceremony, possibly at the Johnson
Space Center in Houston. Then it will go on public display at our Hall of Fame Museum on Main
Street in Hyannis. “We hope that those who see this piece of Cape League and NASA history
will remember the wonderful little girl who inspired its journey to the heavens.”
This is Endeavour’s 25th flight into space and the 36th Space Shuttle flight to the ISS. The
six-man crew of astronauts includes Capt. Kelly, the mission commander, pilot Gregory H.
Johnson, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel, Michael Fincke and the European Space Agency’s
Roberto Vittori, all mission specialists.
Baseballs have gone into orbit before. In 2008, NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman tossed the
ceremonial first pitch from the International Space Station prior to a New York Yankees’ home
game against the Boston Red Sox. The first pitch for the 2002 World Series actually took place
aboard the ISS when Peggy Whitson threw the ball to the Expedition 5 commander. And in
October 1995, baseballs from the American and National leagues were seen floating near the
windows of the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Columbia, with Earth in the background.
It is believed, however, that Cape Cod’s “Spaceball” is the first from a collegiate summer
league to enter Earth orbit.