WayCo returns for its 15th summer

Class+of+2023+WayCo+players+lean+against+the+fence+at+the+Cochituate+fields+watching+their+teammates+play.+This+summer+marked+the+15th+season+of+WayCo+softball.+Even+since+I%E2%80%99ve+joined%2C+I%E2%80%99ve+seen+the+spectator+turnout+and+social+media+presence+grow+a+ton%2C+2020+WHS+graduate+Jack+Brown+said.

Credit: Courtesy of Dave Burgess

Class of 2023 WayCo players lean against the fence at the Cochituate fields watching their teammates play. This summer marked the 15th season of WayCo softball. “Even since I’ve joined, I’ve seen the spectator turnout and social media presence grow a ton,” 2020 WHS graduate Jack Brown said.

Sophia Oppenheim

It’s a Monday night in the middle of July. The sun has just set and you are tying up your cleats. You step onto the field, the lights turn on as you listen to spectators chatting behind you. Your team spreads out on the field taking their positions. Players on the other team take a few practice swings before stepping up to the plate. And just like that, another night of WayCo softball has begun.

The WayCo softball league started in 2007 after four 2006 WHS graduates found themselves looking for some entertainment in Wayland during the summer evenings. Co-founder, Dan Burgess, and his friends, Joe Dorr, Connor Hanlon and Dan Hogan created a league for WHS students and alumni to come together and play softball during the week in the summertime. The following March, Burgess died unexpectedly from undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. The sudden passing of a friend brought together the town of Wayland to continue the softball league and make it an annual tradition. Dan Burgess’s brother, Dave Burgess, is now the president of the league.

“[The league] meant so much to my brothers and his friends,” Burgess said. “The really great thing about the league is that every spring there is always another group of guys who are excited to play.”

The league grew from a few college students to more than a hundred Wayland students and graduates. During its first year, WayCo took place at the WMS softball field. Now games are played at the Cochituate ball fields. The league is a non-profit organization with many sponsors ranging from national businesses like Whole Foods to local businesses like Henley Landscaping & Masonry and John C. Bryant Funeral Home. Many sponsors are also companies owned by graduates who had played in the league in former years.

“It’s great to see guys who played on WayCo come back and say ‘I want my company on my jersey,’” Burgess said.

Junior Finn Bumstead watches as the ball flies towards him. (Credit: Dave Burgess)

Through the years, the league continuously grows in numbers. Each year, there is another group of WHS juniors who want to play in the league. The students who are currently still in high school play on a team made up of only players in their class. The rising junior team wears pink jerseys, and the rising senior team wears orange jerseys. As soon as they graduate, they become part of a draft to be placed onto a team that consists of graduates of various years.

“It’s hard to stop [WayCo] because there’s always 20 more kids who want to play each year,” Burgess said. “We have had this really consistent thing of people who sign up every summer. The good thing is that at the conclusion of every season we get such nice feedback of what a great experience it is.”

“I’ll definitely play next year,” 2020 WHS graduate Jack Brown said. “It’s a ton of fun to spend summers playing softball and getting closer with a new group every year.”

Every year during the draft the most recent graduates can be put on teams with WHS alumni from many years before. This has created relationships with different people for former WHS students years after graduating.

Former WHS class president, CJ Brown, steps up to the plate. This team of graduates wear their jerseys sponsored by Haffy’s Construction. (Credit: Dave Burgess)

“I love going [to WayCo] after a long day of work and socializing with some guys that I wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to,” Brown said. “It’s a great way to have some fun and reconnect with some of the guys you otherwise wouldn’t [see] post-graduation.”

“The bond between different grades, them finding a way to become friends and teammates and enjoy playing together and spending time in the park together is genuinely amazing to see,” Burgess said.

As the number of WayCo players started to grow, so did the number of spectators. Students and parents would show up with food, ready to socialize and enjoy the games. Conny and George, parents of Dave and Dan, always came to watch games and cheer on the players. Conny worked in the Wayland school system and she was able to watch her former students play.

“[My parents think the league is important] because it’s in memory of their son and they have a genuine love and excitement for it,” Burgess said.

Despite the fact that over the years only three games have been won by a junior team, the junior team always shows up ready to play, no matter how overwhelming it might be to play against much older players. One of the biggest games of the season is when the junior and senior teams play against each other.

WHS senior and WayCo captain Colin Brown, prepares to take a swing. This summer was Brown’s second year playing for WayCo and first year playing in the All-Star game. (Credit: Dave Burgess)

“It’s a fun thing to get out of the house during the summer,” WHS senior and WayCo captain Colin Brown said. “It’s a relaxed atmosphere and I enjoy being able to see and talk with people I know who have graduated and I may not see otherwise,”

This summer, the games were played in honor of William McInnis, a second grader who went to Loker Elementary School who passed away this past January from a rare genetic disease. This season all WayCo players wore jerseys with “Play like William” written on the back.

“He’s a kid who I imagine would have probably played WayCo in a few years,” Burgess said. “The league always finds a way to bring back what should be at the top of mind, like honoring William. If we can find a way to give back to great organizations or bring organizations to light it’s a win-win for everybody,”

Each year, players participate in a playoff game in August to wrap up the WayCo season. While the season comes to a conclusion, the games will happen the following summer, and it seems like there is not an end in sight for the local love for WayCo.

“The most exciting and bittersweet part [of WayCo] is playoffs,” Burgess said. “You really see the league take shape because all the kids have become well prepared and a lot better over the summer. It’s also bittersweet because it’s almost like the summer is over.”