Ben Rice only played in seven games with the Dartmouth Big Green this spring before the coronavirus took his college season down.

“It was definitely pretty sad, especially with all the seniors and things like that," said Rice, who was in his sophomore season. "And then eventually just hearing about all the conferences and things canceling. We knew it was pretty serious.”

The catcher, like countless other college ballplayers, was suddenly a player without a field. As collegiate summer leagues, where players can develop and showcase their skills during vacation, also shut down, the chances of participating in organized ball in 2020 were looking slim.

But as other leagues cancelled their seasons and waited for next year, the Futures Collegiate Baseball League kept hope alive by going ahead with a season. For players like Rice — who the Futures League named MVP for the 2020 season — and his teammates on the Worcester Bravehearts, it’s been a lifeline to the game when so many other options have sunk to the bottom.

Joe Paolucci, the commissioner of the FCBL, which fields five of its seven teams in Massachusetts, says the stance from Day 1 was to operate like a season could happen, even though the early days of pandemic made the future murky.

“You know, with some other leagues and some other sports and things, the decision was made really early on to cancel," Paolucci said. "And I just think that with us, that didn’t make sense at the time. We just wanted to keep trying.”

That persistence paid off. With the Cape Cod Baseball League, the New England Collegiate Baseball League and even the minor leagues all waiting out a pandemic rainout, the FCBL has provided some of the only ball games in New England besides the Boston Red Sox'.

Those games have gone on with major changes.

The Bravehearts, who typically play at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field in Worcester, had to move to a public park in Leominster after their home field was closed for the summer.

But Dave Peterson, general manager of the Bravehearts, said it’s been a blessing in disguise and a chance to attract at least a few spectators.

“If we were playing at Fitton Field on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross, it would be 3,000 empty seats, and we would be piping in crowd noise," Peterson said. "We’re playing at a public park where we can’t legally push somebody out of that space. So now, we’ve got people who are visiting that public park and actually watching the game, and so at least there is an atmosphere to play baseball in front of.”

The bleachers are closed, and the team is not making a dime off of anyone who happens to bring a picnic blanket to watch the game from afar. But it’s better than nothing.

In early July, Gov. Charlie Baker announced he was starting the first part of Phase III of the state's reopening plan, meaning only games without fans are allowed. Derek January, president and general manager of North Shore Navigators in Lynn, said that announcement came right before their opening day.

The team had already sold around 900 tickets — all of which had to be refunded.

“It’s been a disaster financially. I mean, we’ve lost an awful lot of money," said January, who is in his first year as the leader of the team's ownership group. "It’s actually cost us a certain amount of money per game to run the games, even with no fans. Umpires, baseballs, food for the teams. You know, press box staff and so forth. From a financial standpoint, it’s been an awful year to run a team like ours.”

But seeing the players simply get the chance to play the game again made it worth the pain to the pocket.

“Some of these kids never even got their college season started," January said. "So to see them play and smile and be a team and play for a cause like ours, it was very gratifying to see and watch.”

Baseball in a pandemic just isn’t the same. A number of host families, who house players for the summer months, opted out, forcing teams to find alternatives and look for more local talent. One of the teams, the Pittsfield Suns, didn’t even play this season.

It’s been a weird time to be on a diamond and play nearly 40 games in less than two months, for sure. But Danny Torres, an infielder for the Bravehearts, recalls a recent conversation with a teammate that put it into perspective.

“We were talking about how we’re both going to be redshirt seniors and this could be, potentially, our last taste of baseball," Torres said.

The Bravehearts, who had the best regular season record in the league this season, made it to the championship series against the Nashua Silver Knights. The league hosted all the games in New Hampshire and the Silver Knights capped stadium capacity at 25 percent in order to keep fans socially distanced.

The Silver Knights ended up taking down the Bravehearts in three games on Saturday, capping off a season unlike any other.

For the players and teams in the FCBL, the season brought back a hint of a familiar summer flavor back to New England.