16 July 2009
Power Surge at First Base
By Chris Blake, CCBL Intern
HYANNIS, Mass. – One came into the league as nearly an all-star lock; the other arrived through the tryout camp. One has been drafted twice already; the other hasn’t been drafted at all. One plays in the spotlight of the Southeastern Conference, while the other plays in the relative obscurity of the Colonial Athletic Association.
These are among the numerous differences between Hyannis’ Cody Hawn (Tennessee) and Ryan Cuneo (Delaware). But the two left handed hitting first basemen have one thing in common: they can hit, holding down the three and four spot of the Mets’ lineup. Through July 13, Hawn is hitting .375 with 4 home runs and 14 RBI, while Cuneo has put up a line of .311-3-18.
This first base/designated hitter tandem was not supposed to happen. The Mets planned on using Hawn at first base and Oklahoma’s Cam Seitzer at third until Seitzer informed the team that he would not be playing on Cape Cod this summer. The Mets took to the tryout camp in Wareham looking for a corner infielder, enter Cuneo.
“I loved the way he approached himself, and took ground balls. I didn’t get to watch him take batting practice but the three swings I saw I liked,” Hyannis head coach Chad Gassman said. “After watching the first few games I realized he belonged up here.”
The only problem was the Mets had signed Cuneo to a temporary contract and did not have any open roster spots.
“They told me that even if they couldn’t find a way to keep me around (Hyannis) they would do their best to find me another team because I certainly belonged up here,” Cuneo said. “Luckily for me a spot opened up and I got to stay here and play for the Mets.”
The Mets were confident that even if they couldn’t find a spot for the Delaware first baseman that someone would.
“I really think that he’s an SEC caliber hitter, no doubt in my mind,” Hawn said. “From my experience playing this year, he’s one of the better hitters I’ve seen.”
Hawn, though highly touted coming into the season, has had his own winding road to the Cape league. After he committed to Arkansas out of high school in Knoxville, he tore his ACL and did not play as a senior in high school. He instead decided to stay close to home and play the 2008 season at Walters State Community College, less than an hour from Knoxville.
Coming out of Walters State, Hawn decided to commit to Louisville, but Arkansas would not release him. His initial plan was to go back to junior college, but the Razorbacks released him at the eleventh hour, opening the door at Tennessee.
“It’s always what I’ve wanted to do,” Hawn said of playing for his hometown Volunteers. “It’s right in my back yard, I live ten minutes from campus and I got to go there and I got to play.”
The opportunity to play at Tennessee put Hawn in the spotlight and he didn’t show any stage fright, as he hit .364 with 22 home runs and 81 RBI, leading the Volunteers in all three categories.
The combo showed what they could do early on in the season when, on June 18th, they hit back-to-back home runs in a 13-5 Mets rout of Falmouth. It was the first of the year for each player and Hawn’s was a grand slam. (Not to be one upped, Cuneo would add a grand slam of his own seventeen days later against Yarmouth-Dennis.)
A big blow to Hyannis’ season came on June 27th in a twelve-inning affair at Falmouth. Hawn fouled a ball off his foot and has not been able to get on the field with any regularity since. Since his injury, the team has struggled, losing one of its premier power hitters.
“It gives us a dimension of the game that we didn’t have,” hitting coach Tim Burgess said. “By having Ryan (and Cody) here…it gives us a legitimate power bat in the middle of the lineup.”
Gassman went as far as to let it be known how much his mindset changes with his big bats in the lineup.
“My game plan changes a little bit. When we get a runner on first base sometimes I’m not quite as aggressive because I know that Cody or Ryan could hit a ball into the gap,” Gassman said.
While he might be aggressive with his base runners when Cuneo and Hawn are not at the plate, trying to advance either one of them on the base paths can be a chore, although Hawn picked himself to win in a footrace between the two.
“It’d be a fun race, pull out the sun dial because it would be something else,” said Gassman.
Luckily for Hyannis, Hawn and Cuneo are not here to run; they are here to hit. And hit they have.
Chris Blake can be reached at [email protected]
Interns: Chris Blake, James Chandley, Ashley Crosby, Phil Garceau, Michael Campbell, Katy Ann Fitzpatrick