Wareham Gears Up for a Season of Change
WAREHAM, Mass. -- As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, the Wareham Gatemen are gearing up for the 2009 Cape Cod Baseball League season, which undoubtedly will be one of great change. The biggest change will be the absence of longtime team president John Wylde, who lost his battle with cancer this past winter. Filling his very large shoes as interim president will be Tom Gay, a longtime volunteer with the Gatemen and Wylde’s handpicked successor as general manager last year.
“I feel good,” said Gay. “John and I had enough time to prepare the organization with regard to his passing and luckily he was around long enough after he was diagnosed and he worked hard to have everything lined up. I think we are in real good shape. We have a strong roster (of players), and we did a lot of things to strengthen the organization. A number of new people have stepped up to the plate and made my job a lot easier.”
Field manager Cooper Farris from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College returns for his ninth season with the Gatemen, joined by two newcomers, Gary Rath and Bill Selby. Rath, Farris’s pitching coach at MGCCC, will serve as an assistant, replacing Ryan Beggs, who worked with the Gatemen for several years. Rath has Major League experience and played in Japan for several years. Selby, who assumes the hitting coach position, has 14 years of professional experience, including a brief stint with the Boston Red Sox. Returning as first base coach is Darryl Maxwell.
“All the players like Darryl.” said Gay. “He is an easy guy to get along with. The players go to Darryl when they have questions because they feel they can relate to him. He makes them feel comfortable.”
The Gatemen roster is loaded with fresh, new talent. Ten players are expected to return, while another 18 will make their Cape League debuts at Spillane Field in a few weeks. Of the 28 players currently on the roster, 10 come from top 25 collegiate programs such as Texas, Georgia Tech, Arizona State, Arkansas and Hawaii.
Returning to the mound will be Brandon Workman (Texas), a talented right-hander who went 3-3 with a 3.44 ERA in nine games last summer. Robby Broach (Tulane) will be looking to pick up where he left off last summer as well. In nine starts for the Gatemen, Broach posted a 2-4 record with a 3.66 ERA. Heading the bullpen staff this year is Zach Brewster (Georgia Tech), who recorded a 2-1 mark in 2008 with a 4.68 ERA in 16 appearances.
Ten new pitchers will look to improve on the Gatemen’s 2008 record. Joining Workman (Texas) will be Longhorn teammates Cole Green and Taylor Jungmann, both right-handers. Louisville will be sending lefty Dean Kiekhefer and righty Gabriel Shaw. David Fischer and Matt Barnes will make the short trek up from UConn while Josh Slaats will travel nearly 5,000 miles from Hawaii. Connecticut native Scott Rembisz will represent Florida International University in the Gatemen pitching rotation. Rounding out the list of newcomers are Blake Monar (Indiana) and Jack Armstrong (Vanderbilt), son of a former Gateman and big league hurler.
“If we base our opinions of our pitchers on their performances this spring, then we will be really happy this summer,” said Gay. “Green is a freshman and has done much better than anyone expected. Hopefully, he can keep that going when he gets here. Jungmann has been pitching extremely well for Texas. The Longhorn pitching staff has given us some of our best pitchers. Put those guys together with the other guys we’ve got coming in and we’ll be in good shape.”
Returning behind the plate is Cole Leonida (Georgia Tech). Last summer, Leonida averaged .202 in 89 at-bats, including three homers and 15 RBI. Although Leonida tied for second on the team in home runs last season, he struck out 36 times. This season, he will strive to make more consistent contact at the plate. But he will have plenty of competition from Tyler Albright (Harvard), Chris Hannick (Cal State Northridge) and Jordan Swaggerly (Arizona State), all of whom are ready, willing and able to step in as signal-callers.
Ryan Pineda, Jake Lemmerman and Shea Vucinich will be back in the Gatemen infield. Pineda (Cal State Northridge) will look to continue his success at the plate after a 2008 season in which he led the Gatemen in slugging percentage (.433) and doubles (11). He tied for the team lead with two triples and also whacked three home runs. Lemmerman (Duke) and Vucinich (Washington State) will figure prominently in the team’s infield plans. While these players are veterans in the Cape league, no one is certain who will be starting yet due to the influx of talented new recruits. Zach Wilson (Arizona State), Ryan Pfisterer (Duke) and possibly Derek Dietrich (Georgia Tech) will add talent and youthful exuberance to the squad.
“The infield is wide open right now as far as who will be starting,” said Gay. “There is a lot of competition, and that’s good. Dietrich has been killing the ball, so we really hope he can make it up here. The guys we have are great defensively and if they can get on base, that’s great.”
Connor Rowe (Texas) will be back in the outfield. In addition to playing great defense, Rowe led the 2008 Gatemen with a perfect 10-for-10 stolen base record. Another returning player, Bret Eibner (Arkansas), will bring with him Razorback teammate Jarrod McKinney for his first stint in the Cape League. McKinney will be playing alongside Eibner in the outfield. Ryan LeMarre (Michigan) and George Springer (Connecticut) will also be tracking down fly balls this summer.
Wareham will open the Cape League season on the road, facing Chatham on Friday, June 12, in a 7 p.m. game at Veterans Park.
Katy Fitzpatrick, CCBL Intern (email@example.com)
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