A Big League Experience
Future big league talent is a commodity sprinkled across the country following the collegiate season, but one small corner has a longstanding history and tradition that attracts the nation’s best players. In Massachusetts, the Cape Cod Baseball League is a breeding ground for future Major League players, draft picks and managers. College players flock to the Cape for the opportunity at one of the most coveted roster spots in summer ball.
Recent rosters have featured two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum (Harwich), World Series champion Jacoby Ellsbury (Falmouth) and third overall pick Evan Longoria (Chatham). Looking deeper into the league’s past brings up names such as Thurman Munson (Chatham), Carlton Fisk (Orleans), Jeff Bagwell (Chatham) and Craig Biggio (Yarmouth-Dennis).
This summer a trio of rising juniors from Oklahoma have taken to the Cape to face some of the best competition summer baseball has to offer. Craig Aikin, Jacob Evans and Anthony Hermelyn are all members of the East Division leading Harwich Mariners (18-10-2).
“So far, I think we’re in first and have been since the first game of the season,” stated Hermelyn, a catcher and first baseman. “We’re over halfway through and playing well.
“The biggest difference between summer ball on the Cape and playing at school is that it’s not as much about wins and losses, but more about showcasing your skills. If we don’t get the win, there’s always another game tomorrow.”
The Mariners won 4-2 last night at home against the Wareham Gatemen. Hermelyn went 2-for-3 at the dish with a run and a walk as Harwich picked up the win over University of San Diego right-hander Ryan Olson.
“Every night you know that you’re basically facing someone’s best from any school across the country,” Hermelyn continued. “Usually in Big 12 play, you can knock out the starter and get into the bullpen to face some weaker arms, but out here you don’t get a break. Guys are throwing harder and have better stuff than the usual arms we face.”
The Sooners’ lead-off man and center fielder, Aikin has adjusted to the role of batting second behind Kentucky’s Kyle Barrett and playing left field. He has been limited to just nine games after suffering a high ankle sprain against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks on June 15. After a brief stint at home in Texas, Aikin returned to the Mariner lineup on July 8. Overall, he is hitting .419 (13-for-31) with 11 RBI and hit a three-run home run against the Cotuit Kettleers in his second game back on July 9.
Rounding out the Oklahoma portion of Harwich’s roster is the left-hander Evans. After making 21 appearances, nine of which were starts, for the Sooners this spring, he has been used exclusively out of the bullpen. Evans is 2-0 with a 0.42 ERA and 21 strikeouts to just four walks across 21 innings of work.
“The majority of the times [Jacob] comes in, I’ve been catching,” said Hermelyn. “He’s given up maybe one run all summer and unfortunately I think I was catching when it happened. It’s pretty cool going out there and rooting for each other. Pretty cool having him and Aikin on the same team.”
Q&A With Craig Aikin:
What has been the best part of your experience so far?
Harwich is probably the best spot on the Cape. The longest bus ride is one hour one way and 25 minutes the other. Being on the Cape has been awesome, especially with Herm and Jacob. The level of competition is high and a lot of fun.
What is the best ballpark to visit?
Chatham has been the coolest, even though I haven’t gotten to play there yet. They’ve got the history. It’s a pretty big deal and they get huge turnouts every night.
How have you adjusted to hitting second?
I like hitting in that two-hole. I get to handle the bat and I can have a productive at-bat with Kyle Barrett on base. It’s fun to hit two behind him. I’ve looked around the Cape and some of these other teams are struggling to score some runs, but our offense is pretty potent. The hitting has been pretty contagious.
How much did you enjoy the Cape League’s Pro Day at Fenway Park?
I’ve been to Fenway a few times. My family has tickets right on “Pesky’s Pole” in right field. Jacob and I have gone a few times and Herm came with us once. Being at Fenway is always cool, but when they let us on the field, it was a whole different thing. Being able to step on the field, walk around the outfield and take BP was awesome. It was cool to stand in the batter’s box where guys like Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson and Ken Griffey Jr. stood. It was pretty incredible.
|Cape Cod Baseball League|
|Craig Aikin, Harwich Mariners|
|Jacob Evans, Harwich Mariners|
|Anthony Hermelyn, Harwich Mariners|
|California Collegiate League|
|Alec Hansen, San Luis Blues|
|Sheldon Neuse, San Luis Blues|
|Austin O'Brien, San Luis Blues|
|Keach Ballard, Duluth Huskies|
|Corey Copping, Duluth Huskies|
|Mac James, Duluth Huskies*|
|*Drafted/Signed by Tampa Bay|
|Texas Collegiate League|
|Kolbey Carpenter, Brazos Valley Bombers|
|Hunter Haley, Brazos Valley Bombers|
|Chad Nelson, McKinney Marshals|
|Far West League|
|Colt Bickerstaff, Redding Colt 45s|
|Jeffrey Curran, Redding Colt 45s|
|Alaska Baseball League|
|Tyler Gibson, Peninsula Oilers|
|Arizona Collegiate League|
|Cole Stevens, Sidewinders|
|Coastal Plain League|
|Tyler Coolbaugh, Fayetteville SwampDogs|
|New England Collegiate League|
|Joshua Ake, Plymouth Pilgrims|