This week in Baseball
10 July 2003
Following a grueling three-month, 60-plus game journey, that begins on college campuses throughout the country and aspires to end in Omaha, NE, there is just one question on the minds of the Nation’s top collegiate baseball players: where’s the next game?
Some players will travel the country representing Team USA while others will find their next game on the storied diamonds of the Cape Cod Baseball League.
While the experiences of playing for Team USA and the Cape League are universally unique, the leagues do overlap when scouting talent, forcing recruiters to sell their experience.
“I believe that playing on the Cape provides a better experience than Team USA. You want to know where you stand with your talent level and this league will give that to you,” says Falmouth GM Chuck Sturtevant.
While the recruiting scramble starts in the fall, Cape League GMs have shown success in deterring Team USA invitees from joining the National team. This season Harwich GM Mike DeAnzeris and Wareham GM John Wylde lured away top collegiate prospects Jeff Niemann (Rice) and Jeremy Sowers (Vanderbilt) respectively.
In 22 games for the Owls Niemann posted a perfect 17-0 record with a 1.70 ERA. Sowers went 7-5 and led Vanderbilt with 123 strikeouts in 115 innings.
Team USA invites 35-45 of the Nation’s top collegiate players to partake in a three to four day tryout, eventually narrowing its roster to 20-22 players who will participate in the USA Baseball Red, White and Blue Tour, a schedule of summer exhibition games all across America versus the world’s top baseball talent.
“USA is tough to turn down,” says Cotuit GM Bruce Murphy who has recruited against Team USA for better than the last decade. “Team USA is high profile (but) our kids make as good of an impression here as the do with USA.”
Team USA has been fielding teams since the mid-1970s but it was not until the 1984 Olympic games that the team gained public recognition at the first ever Olympic Baseball Tournament. In 1998, though, the International Olympic Committee voted to begin allowing professional players to compete thus ending the team’s run as America’s representative in the Olympics.
The Cape Cod Baseball League’s rich history reaches back further to 1885 and has been widely recognized as the premier amateur baseball league in the country. Cape Cod Baseball offers a personal touch that is often overlooked without losing any of the exposure or competition.
Rice’s Phil Humber (Yarmouth-Dennis), winner of game three over Stanford in the College World Series, played for Team USA last season and was extended the invitation this season but opted to play in the Cape League.
“If you want exposure, the Cape is the place to be,” said Humber.
One of the larger draws for Humber was the Cape’s relaxed atmosphere, which seems to be a selling point for some other players as well.
“It was a better fit for me here, without the traveling around, plus the beach and weather, and the competition is better too,” says Humber, “the hitters are much better; they hit for more power.”
Humber’s teammate at Rice, Wade Townsend (Wareham), also chose to play in the Cape, giving up the travel and profile of Team USA.
“I’m glad to have come up here. I wanted to see this part of the country and I didn’t want to be living out of a suitcase all summer. I wanted to meet some of the guys and get into a rhythm,” says Townsend. “The people here are great too. I mean we are only 8-12 and the stands are filled just about every night.”
While worlds just off the diamonds of the Cape League and Team USA could not be any more different, with the at home feel of the Cape and the scurry of Team USA’s seemingly summer long road trip, the game is still the same on the diamond. It all boils down to host families and hotels, home-prepared meals and take out, jobs and stipends.
–Gregory Feeley, CCBL PR (508) 432-9786