When John Farrell attended the 2013 Hot Stove event, put on by the Falmouth Commodores, he spent much of the evening fielding questions about how he would turn the Boston Red Sox around as their newly appointed manager.
This year, he spent most of the evening talking about the things that went into the making of a championship season.
"With the number of new people who came in a year ago, we didn't experience what took place in 2012," Farrell said. "So in my mind and in the minds of many of the free agents that came in, we came in with a kind of renewed energy and internal confidence that this was a team that was going to be successful."
He continued: "You never know how that end game is going to play out, so what transpired over the course of the year — we had a group of guys who came together so tight as a team, they loved to compete, they loved to prepare — I think those elements are what allowed us to meet some of the challenges along the way. It turned out to be a very special year for a lot of reasons, but most importantly for the group of guys in the clubhouse that cared for each other."
The event is the second and, as Falmouth president Steve Kostas put it, "hopefully annual" fundraiser for the Commodores. Last year, the event helped raise enough money to renovate the Eric Palmer Memorial Press Box at Guv Fuller Field. This year, the team hoped to raise enough money — at least half of the $50,000 price tag — to put in safety netting and a new backstop at the park.
Farrell and Hall of Fame baseball writer and MLB and NESN analyst Peter Gammons headlined the Hot Stove panel, which also included Falmouth manager Jeff Trundy and New York Yankees Northeast area scout Matt Hyde. All four have deep ties to the Cape League. Farrell played for the Hyannis Mets in 1982, and his sons Jeremy and Shane played for Falmouth in 2007 and 2009, respectively, while son Luke played for both Falmouth (2011) and Wareham (2012). Hyde was a bat boy for Chatham, and covers the league during the summer, scouting the nation's top players as they test their talents on the Cape. Gammons, a Massachusetts native, has a house on the Cape and has been attending games on the Cape for more than three decades.
The panelists spoke in front of a crowd of roughly 250 people about their experiences on the Cape and the importance of the experience to young players on their journey toward the majors, providing insight into what it takes to play for the Cape League, and to take a player’s talent to the majors.
"Every kid who plays here is a good player, no question, but first and foremost we want kids with good character. I love the game of baseball and that's obvious but when it's all said and done, it's all about the relationships,” said Trundy, noting that the relationships with the players, coaches and community are what makes the league most special.
Farrell echoed the sentiment, saying that what he took from his time playing for the Mets wasn’t what he experienced on the mound, but what he learned off the field. Farrell’s three sons all lived with host family Tim and Emily Schorer during their Cape League stints. Their relationship with the family has been long-standing.
As Hyde noted, what makes the Cape so special is that it’s not about the uniform or the stadium or the intense college rivalry. The beauty of the league lies in the quiet parks and the uniforms that strip away college colors, allowing scouts to watch the top players in the nation competing on fields free of distraction.
“No other league provides the combination of experiences that the Cape offers,” Gammons said. But, he noted, “playing on the Cape can be humbling.”
It can be the first time a player faces adversity, Hyde added. What scouts like Hyde look for is how players respond to failure. And a stint with the Cape League can hold a lot of weight, said Farrell. Playing well consistently with wooden bats every day during the short summer season against some of the top players in the country makes it easier for young athletes to be evaluated by scouts.
And, as Farrell pointed out, that opportunity to play on the Cape and be challenged is a dream for many of the players across the country.
"When the Cape calls, the bell goes off and the light goes on. It is a beacon for them to come here,” he said. “You may take it for granted the games in Chatham in the summer but for kids across this country, to play here, it's paydirt."