BAY CITY — Bay City’s vintage baseball club is hitting the road this season.
The Bay City Independents, a team that plays baseball with the 1865 rules, is traveling to Mackinac Island and Cooperstown, N.Y. In addition, the Independents host a team from Cleveland this summer as they play their seventh season.
“This season will be a new adventure to add to the chapters that we’ve already had,” team captain and organizer Jayme Johnson said.
But the first trip Johnson and the boys make this season is the trek to Saginaw as they take on a familiar opponent, the Saginaw Old Golds, in the season opener at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ojibway Island.
It will be a cold opening for the Independents, who only have a few practices under their belts due to poor field conditions at Carroll Park.
Shortstop Shawn LaRue said relying on the weather is one thing that hasn’t changed about baseball since it started.
“The great thing about baseball is that you have to play outdoors. You have to deal with the elements, like they did back in the 1860s,” LaRue said. “We’ve played in rain and scorching heat, but any opportunity to be out and play is a great opportunity.”
But the team shouldn’t have too much trouble getting back into the swing of things. Johnson said most of the members of this year’s team played for the Independents last year, with a few new faces sprinkled in.
What is new for the Independents this season is the travel schedule.
On June 11, the Independents travel to Cooperstown to take part in a tournament at Ommegong Brewery. Four teams from the Midwest and four teams from the East Coast are expected to participate. The Midwest teams take on the East Coast teams in a style Johnson compared to golf’s Ryder Cup, where a team’s win earns a point for its side.
Johnson heard about the tournament from the Cleveland Blues, a team new to the Independents’ schedule this season. The Blues plan to visit Bay City on Aug. 27.
“One of our future opponents — the Cleveland Blues — went out to Ommegong and played one match out there,” Johnson said. “They were amazed with how many people came out and watched.”
Another new trip for the Independents this season is the July 23 match on Mackinac Island to play the Never Sweats.
The Never Sweats only play one game a year, usually against the Rochester Grangers, but Johnson said the Grangers needed a break and their captain suggested the Independents.
“Each year, we’ve had an opportunity to travel to different places,” LaRue said. “Any time you have something new to be able to do, it’s very exciting.”
The Independents also have a full slate of home games scheduled for Carroll Park, including the Michigan State Championship Tournament on Sept. 24. Johnson said new people continue to come out, watch the game and learn how the game was played over a century ago.
“The message gets conveyed well. People continue to come out and watch even though they have no affiliation,” Johnson said