Around The Horn With Crusader Summer Baseball
For the next nine weeks, GoHolyCross.com will feature a blog from current Crusader baseball players playing in summer baseball leagues across the country. For a list of where the Holy Cross baseball team is playing summer baseball, click here.
This summer, Justin and I are spending our time playing in Pittsfield, Massachusetts for the Pittsfield Suns in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. As a team we are doing great, seeing our record improve over the last two weeks and notching us a first place spot in the Western Division. Justin and I have both been pitching well lately, starting once a week for the Pittsfield faithful. The team experience has been great for both of us, embracing the relaxed feel of summer ball, but still surrounded by guys who want to get better and push us to improve every day. A unique part of our stay in Pittsfield is that we live with a host family that hosts three other players besides us, so needless to say things get a bit hectic. It has been fun though, as our host family had their daughter and her husband visit for two weeks, so they rented a pop-up camper and stuck it in the backyard for us to live in while our room was occupied. Our host family also recently received a Saint Bernard puppy named Finley, so when we're not at the field or around town, you can surely find Justin cuddling with the puppy.
As far as baseball experiences go, this is definitely something we are going to remember forever. Pittsfield has always been a baseball town, with many minor league teams and independent league teams having played here. This baseball-rich past is what continues the tradition of almost the entire town coming out to our home games and supporting the team through ups and downs, with an average of about 1,000 fans at each game, sometimes more. This year, the Suns feature players from all across the country, so it's been an awesome experience getting to meet and play alongside players from all different walks of life. Although this summer has been awesome so far, we're definitely looking forward to getting back to work alongside our brothers at HC and bringing a Patriot League championship to the Cross.
This season so far for the Southern Ohio Copperheads has been a roller coaster ride. In the last month and a half, we've seen more lightning delays and tough one-run losses to last us a lifetime. The Cheads, as we like to call ourselves, are coming off of a tough road trip, only winning one out of six games. However, the past two nights we have begun to turn things around, beating the Lexington Hustlers twice and we are looking to take game three tonight. We're in sixth place right now, only four and a half games out of first place, so even with the setbacks the league is still up for grabs.
For me, the season has been a great experience. I have spent this summer totally on my own, meeting new guys and playing in a part of the country I have never been to. I was excited and nervous to come out here, but I am happy I did. The team put us up in a sorority house (AOII House) and we all have grown closer by living together, instead of with host families. I consider myself very lucky because this team has a great bunch of guys and I have gotten to know them all pretty well. Our off days tend to consist of either relaxing around the house or exploring the city of Athens. While there aren't many attractions in the city, there are great places to eat. On a few days players will go down to a local library and read to kids and get involved with the community. Because it's a college town everything is pretty close to us, so walking around Court Street always is a good way to spend some time.
On the field, I have been lucky enough to play in just about every game and play every position in the outfield. I started out the season playing very well both offensively and defensively. Unfortunately, my good fortune at the plate ran out for about four games or so and now I am grinding to get my average back up, but I've been able to stay among the top players in the league for stolen bases. I look forward to finishing these next couple of weeks out strong and hope to bring back my success to Fitton Field.
This season thus far has been a grind but a true blessing. It has been a rather different playing atmosphere than I am used to, but it has been nothing but fun. I have loved it out here so far and I look forward to what the rest of the season brings for me. Once the season concludes, it is time to turn the page back to college ball and start working with my Holy Cross baseball family to bring home the Patriot League title next year.
As we write this as a group from the bullpen prior to our game against the North Adams Steeplecats, we would like to thank the organization for what has been a fulfilling and rewarding experience thus far. For Collin, Joe and myself, the past week with the New Bedford Bay Sox has proved to be a unique one. We have witnessed the squad's first winning streak as well as Hurricane Arthur's landfall on the east coast.
After being thoroughly outplayed by the Mystic Schooners (former team of Crusader legend Brandon Cipolla), the Bay Sox offense came out of a season long slump against the Laconia Muskrats, churning out double digit hits and runs to earn a 13-6 win. Joe and I both pitched in relief without yielding any earned runs and tallying four strikeouts. Not only did the Bay Sox earn a rare victory, but Joe also earned his first collegiate win in the process. In the ensuing game against the Newport Gulls, an NECBL juggernaut, we collected our second win in a row by the score of 5-1, starting our first winning streak of the season. In what has been a season plagued by injuries and a stagnant offense, it was gratifying not to see another solid pitching performance spoiled. With a record of 2-1 on the week, the month of July has proved to bring more positive results for the team.
Outside of the baseball diamond, we were able to spend our off days with our families as well as Holy Cross teammates Donny Murray, Bobby Pease and Jack St. Clair. On July 3, my family hosted a cookout at our house on the Cape with the Pease, Murray and Manning families, where we enjoyed burgers and a day on the lake. Joe was able to integrate himself with the senior class and witness, firsthand, the camaraderie we share as a group. In what was supposed to be an away game at Newport on July 4, Hurricane Arthur had different plans for us. With all of our games being cancelled, Jack drove up from Torrington, Conn., to join Collin, Bobby, Donny and I for the evening to partake in the holiday festivities. Joe, who went back to his host house that morning, was not able to make a return trip to the Cape, as his street was flooded, stranding him to celebrate with his three host siblings. We attempted to send a New Bedford whaling boat to his rescue, but our effort failed. The consecutive off days were somewhat of a blessing in disguise, as it allowed us to reunite on the Cape and spend time together before we embark on our senior year.
In general, the three of us have become part of a closely bonded pitching staff that has had to traverse the offensive deficiencies all season. Our pitching coach, Kyle Fernandez, has worked with us extensively in order to send us back to Holy Cross as more polished pitchers. We throw flat grounds every day and throw bullpens every other day in order to cement the mechanics he has taught us. We have also imparted on the bullpen our unique conditioning style of running football routes (Coach DiCenzo's personal favorite), which has turned into a daily routine. It is also worth mentioning that we are fed handsomely at home after games, which are catered frequently by Chipotle and Texas Roadhouse. In looking ahead to the four weeks remaining, we hope to continue improving and developing as pitchers, not only to help the Bay Sox this summer, but to prepare for our return to College Hill. Speaking on behalf of Collin and myself going into our senior season, it is our only focus to accomplish our goal established the day we step foot on campus: a Patriot League championship. This has been an elusive title thus far as everyone knows and a white whale to our class in particular. Hopefully, our stay in the town famous for the novel Moby Dick will be fitting start for our final quest. The work and dedication put in to this next season needs no source of motivation other than the alumni who built this program before us and continue to make what we do possible. There is no doubt in our minds that anything will come in the way of our mission to bring Holy Cross' first Patriot League Tournament title to Fitton Field.
Heading into our third full week of New England Collegiate Baseball play, the Sanford Mainers are off to a great start. The Mainers are located in Sanford, which is a small city in southern Maine. Having never been to Maine before, I was excited to see what this place had to offer before I came here for the summer. So far, we are 8-8 and right in the middle of the pack in the NECBL playoff chase.
This past week in particular has been an interesting one, as we started off playing the New Bedford Bay Sox (where three of my Holy Cross teammates call home: Jeremy Perron, Collin Manning, and Joe Cravero). It was nice seeing them and catching up with them before the game and hearing how their summers have been going. To make it even more interesting, Joe Cravero was the starting pitcher in the game and Jeremy Perron came out of the bullpen against us. That was a fun experience that I will be sure to relive with them when we get back to school in the fall. Another notable occurrence from this past week happened when we played the Laconia Muskrats, as their starting pitcher was Mariano Rivera, Jr. It was very cool to face one of the most legendary pitchers of all time's son and getting a hit off him is something that I will also never forget.
On the field, I have played every position around the infield already, but primarily shortstop and second base. I have been given the opportunity to play in almost every game, so I am grateful for that and hopefully I can continue to perform, while contributing in the lineup for the remainder of the summer. Off the field, my days consist mostly of playing games with my host-family's children, weight-lifting and hanging out with the guys on the team. It is a great group of players on the Mainers and they are a lot of fun to be around. We have also done activities such as traveling to elementary schools to read to children, working baseball camps and even lobster fishing as a team building event.
The last few weeks have truly been a blast and I continue to look forward to what the rest of the summer has in store. We anticipate being right in the playoff hunt and extending our season until mid-August and to hopefully bring a third championship in the last 10 years back to the city of Sanford. I hope to see many of you this fall on campus and certainly at our Crusader ballgames in 2015. Thanks so much for your time and please enjoy the remainder of your summer.
Gustin: The saying goes "there's no place like home," and for Shane and I there is no place like Fitton Field. Earlier this year, when contemplating where to play summer baseball, Shane and I were approached and asked if we wanted to play for a team in Worcester this summer. At first we were drawn back, as neither of us had heard of any team located in this city. However, we learned that a new team was being formed in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League right here in Worcester, the Worcester Bravehearts. Shane and I immediately jumped on the opportunity to play here, not only to have a chance to continue to play on such a familiar field, but also to have a chance to bring back baseball to a city that has yearned for its return.
Thus far, just a little bit over two weeks into the season, the Bravehearts are off to a tremendous start. With three weeks of the season complete, we have found ourselves atop the West Division with a 13-4 record. This past week we have had a number of close games, including a one run win over Nashua, as well as a one run loss against Martha's Vineyard. At the same time, however, we are proud to have won the last two games handily, with scores of 19-1 against Old Orchard Beach and 17-3 against Torrington. Whether it is an offensive onslaught or a tight pitching duel that requires late inning heroics, the Worcester Bravehearts, with players from all over the country coming from many different leagues, have been determined and resilient in our efforts to win.
On an individual level, Shane has found his time at first base and designated hitter, coming up with some big plays in the field and timely extra-base hitting, including his first home run of the year this past week, both of which have helped the fighting Bravehearts earn victories. I have continued in my role from Holy Cross as a relief pitcher, occasionally coming in early in the game, but mostly appearing in the later two or three innings and have excelled in this role, getting the team out of a number of jams in big situations.
While neither Shane nor I could complain about what we have here, a meticulously manicured field, a few thousand fans every night, myriad pregame and postgame meals, being able to play in Worcester is about more than just baseball. The name of our team, the Bravehearts, was chosen by the people of Worcester and perfectly represents the men and women who tirelessly work, each and every day, to make this city as amazing as it is. Thus, we are not only here to play baseball this summer, but also to give back to this wonderful community. Last week, for instance, Shane and I helped at a local food pantry. While that is just one example, we both look forward to continuing to work hard this summer, on and off the field, to give people a chance to watch a sport that has meant so much to Worcester and to make this city a better place, a place that many can call home.
Murray: We are now almost a full week into the Cape Cod Baseball League season and the team is starting to come together more and more each day. Including myself, the Falmouth Commodores returned 10 players from last summer's team, which is very rare for any collegiate summer league team. We are also still waiting on a few more players to report, most notably, two players from TCU who are still playing in the College World Series.
Similar to last summer, I will be working again out of the bullpen in a relief/setup role. I had one appearance in our first few games and although it didn't go as well as I had hoped, I should have my next opportunity sometime early this week. The coaching staff down here has been awesome to play for and they really try to keep a loose environment for us every day at the yard.
I'm going to begin working at a children's baseball camp in July, but until then it's just eat, sleep and play baseball every day for me. I feel so blessed to be spending another summer down here and I am just trying to enjoy it as much as I can and take the most I can from it.
Ocello: This being my first experience in the Cape Cod Baseball League, I have enjoyed the past week playing with some of the best players in the country. I have had the opportunity to play in every game thus far and have enjoyed playing against the higher level of competition and improving my skill set each and every day. I have enjoyed playing with my new teammates and learning about their experiences at schools all across the country.
I will be participating in reading to children at schools this upcoming week and look forward to participating in the camp events as well. I am honored to be given this opportunity to play on the Falmouth Commodores and look forward to continue to improving my game throughout the summer.
Even after being back in California for three full weeks, I felt like my summer has not even started because of how much preparation and anticipation I've had for the summer season. This summer I am playing for the Neptune Beach Pearl, in Alameda as a part of the California Collegiate League. Obviously, I am excited to get back on the field after this 2014 season did not go as anyone planned. However, I know that everyone on the team is excited to use this summer and next fall to fix some of our shortcomings both as a team and as individuals. Personally, I have used these last three weeks to get completely healthy, revise and improve my mechanics, and make a dedicated effort in the weight room, which are all hard to focus on during the grind of a 44-game season in three months.
These efforts have led up to my first appearance two weeks ago (May 31) in our season opener against the South Bay Storm. I got to pitch three innings out of the bullpen and aside from a couple change-ups that I could have located better, I felt good about my performance. I had to make some adjustments to piece together the mechanical changes I have been working on in the last couple weeks, but I was able to get a lot of ground balls and a couple strikeouts. I was also able to work on another one of my goals for the summer when I faced three straight left-handed hitters in my second inning. Coming into the summer, lefties were something I knew I had to improve on because they hit over .300 against me this year.
I was able to get more comfortable with my mechanical changes on our first road trip south last week to San Luis Obispo (June 3-5) and Santa Barbara (June 6-8). I recorded a save with the final two outs in a game at San Luis Obispo, while I tossed 4.2 innings at Santa Barbara against the Foresters. I was able to stop the damage versus the Foresters and only allow one run after our starter had allowed five runs in 1.1 innings. I felt like I was able to make more progress in applying my adjusted mechanics to my fastball as well as my off-speed pitches. This summer will continue to be a work in progress for me as I perfect my mechanics to get ready for next fall and spring.