08/09/2007 3:03 PM
9 August 2007
Cape League Special
Hoosiers Catch Up on the Cape;
Harwich Backstops Shared Indiana Roots
HARWICH, Mass. -- Their bags are packed and as they autograph the last scuffed baseball for an anxious young fan, they leave the Cape. Some will be back next summer, but some will never return.
For catchers Kyle Day (Michigan State) and JB Paxson (Western Kentucky) of the Harwich Mariners, this is the second time they will bid farewell. Maybe their paths will cross again, maybe they won’t, but whatever diamond they end up on, they are sure of one thing: They will do anything to protect home plate.
Day and Paxson, both Indiana natives, didn’t know each other in high school. Day is from Fort Wayne and Paxson lives two hours away in Indianapolis. “In high school, I joined the Indiana Bulls, a traveling team where they select the top players in the state to come together and play. Kyle was selected as well, and that’s how we came to know each other,” Paxson said.
Throughout high school, they became fast friends. But once Day moved on to play for Michigan State and Paxson traveled south to Western Kentucky, the bond that they had formed while playing for the Bulls began to deteriorate because they were not in contact every day. “We stayed in touch by internet mostly,” Day said.
Neither knew at the time that they would be crossing the country to catch on the same diamond once again -- as players in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
“When I found out I was moving to the Cape for the summer to play for the Harwich Mariners, I called JB,” Day said. To Day’s surprise, Paxson had the same response – he, too, would be playing for Harwich!
“It was cool to know that we were going to be playing baseball together again after two years,” Paxson said.
The position of catcher is the most physically demanding in the game. Catchers are mowed down by runners racing in from third base; they’re constantly being hit by pitches, and they must always be alert for thieves on the bases. Day and Paxson are involved mentally and physically for all nine innings. “By the end of the game, your knees definitely hurt,” Paxson said. “But your adrenaline keeps you going.”
Their adrenaline hasn’t slowed down this season. In a recent game against the Falmouth Commodores, Paxson gunned down two base runners, helping the Mariners to a 5-4 win. Day brought a .264 batting average into the final week of the season, with 11 RBI and an on-base percentage of .371. He was chosen as a CCBL All-Star, giving him the opportunity to catch several of the best pitchers in the league in front of scores of major league scouts.
“We play around scouts all the time, so I wasn’t that nervous,” Day said. “You just acknowledge them, and go play the best you can. I’m just happy I’ve had a good season and was chosen to play with all the other all-stars.”
Although the Mariners struggled as a team and were eliminated from playoff contention some time ago, manager Steve Englert and his coaches have helped Day and Paxson hone their skills this summer. “The coaches have reiterated a lot of techniques about the game, and I have enjoyed playing under coach Englert,” Paxson said.
Coming off 56-game schedules at their respective colleges where winning was the goal of every game, Englert believes that players come to the Cape League primarily to “showcase their abilities,” according to Paxson.
Day and Paxson say their personal competition helped make the summer fun. “We would always have competitions to see who could throw more runners out,” Paxson said.
“I am going to look back on the Cape knowing that I had the opportunity to play alongside players like Cole Figueroa (University of Florida), Alex Avila (Alabama), and Kyle Day and catch the best pitching all summer long,” Paxson said. “Not only were they teammates, but they became good friends.”
Now the lights are out and wisps of fog sweep across Whitehouse Field. The dugout is empty and last goodbyes have been said. The road ahead is unknown for Day and Paxson, but both know that should one fall, the other will always be there to catch him.
By Lauren Malone, CCBL Intern [email protected]