17 June, 2004

East teams looking to knock Cardinals off perch 
East Division preview

     Reputations must be defended.

     “There is a reason this is the best summer league in baseball and that was evidenced last Sunday when the major league draft was held and 163 players from the league were drafted,” Cape Cod Baseball League Commissioner Paul Galop said Sunday at the league’s opening brunch. “That’s the most there ever was.”

     That’s a testament to recent seasons and the recruiting acumen of the local general managers and head coaches. No doubt the squads this summer will sport more future draftees, as well as some of the stars of tomorrow.

     But today, as in every other year, some of the best performers are little heralded. Think back 10 months to when Justin Maxwell of Bourne, a former temporary player, was the MVP of the West Division champs.

     So how are things shaping up this summer in the East?

Carmen Carcone will have only one player back from his 2003 Cape League championship Orleans Cardinals team, but is hoping for the best.
Staff photo by Don Sherlock

Cardinals looking to repeat
     Orleans won the Eastern Division Championship in 2002, manager Carmen Carcone’s first season. And the Cardinals bettered that last year, winning the Cape League crown, besting Bourne 1-0 and 7-2 in the championship series.
     The Cards have one returning player; relief ace Abe Woody of Baylor, who posted an 0.77 ERA in 17 games last summer.
The team’s Georgia Tech connection, which dates to Nomar Garciaparra in 1993, continues with outfielder Steven Blackwood (.353 this spring) and Micah Owings (9-3 record as well as batting .306).
     “On paper we’re ready to go,” Carcone says. “We’d like to get a couple more pitchers in here; as always you’re only as strong as your pitching staff. We hope to have Micah Owings and Steve Blackwood is a terrific batter.”
Orleans will be more proletarian this season.
     “I really don’t think we’ll have that many big names this year, but we’ll have quality guys from good programs,” Carcone says. “And they can make a big name for themselves.”
     Carcone cites several Team-USA players — pitcher Mike Pelfrey of Wichita State, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman of Virginia and outfielder Brad Corley of Mississippi State — whose status is uncertain. 
     “The only thing I can tell you is that after the start of the season anything can happen,” he says.
     Pitcher Erik Averill and outfielder Curtis Colin of Arizona State, pitcher Spencer Grogan of Oklahoma State, infielder Blake Sharp of Southern Cal and pitcher Matt Torra of UMass and Pittsfield also are expected. 

Last year’s Manager of the Year Bob Macaluso returns to guide the Brewster Whitecaps.
Staff photo by Don Sherlock

Whitecaps expect to be offensive
     Bob Macaluso of Muhlenberg College led the Whitecaps to a 24-17-3 mark last year, best in the league and was named Cape League manager of the year.
     This will be the Whitecaps last season at Cape Tech in Harwich. A new field is under construction in Brewster at Stony Brook Elementary School.
     This summer the Whitecaps hope to have Baseball America Freshman of the Year Ryan Braun of Miami in town. It may take a while, however, for all the Whitecaps to arrive.
     “We have quite a few players playing in the College World Series,” Macaluso said. “On paper we look very good but we’ve also got quite a few at Team USA trials. We’ll be a temporary team for awhile.”
     If everyone shows up, Macaluso expects to have a good offensive club.
     Right now Roy Tulowitzki and Cesar Ramos, both of Long Beach State, Travis Buck of Arizona State, infielder Jed Lowrie of Stanford and Blair Ericson of California Irvine, are all at Team USA trials. 
     The Whitecaps certainly recruited top people, but perhaps they were too close to the top.
     “This will give the temporary players an opportunity to play on the Cape and perhaps make the team or play for awhile,” Macaluso says. “But I’m definitely looking forward to it, coaching some of these outstanding players.”
     The Caps hope to feature pitcher Matt Avery of Virginia, outfielder Michael Campbell of South Carolina, pitcher Cesar Carrillo of Miami, outfielder Craig Cooper of Notre Dame, pitcher Josh Cribb of Clemson, pitcher Jason Determann of LSU, infield returnee Paco Figueroa of Miami, catcher Mile Liuzza of LSU, pitcher Colin Matheny of Rice and infielder Gaby Sanchez of Miami.

The Cape League’s all-time winning manager, John Schiffner, will try to build on his 241 victories in his 11th season with the Chatham A’s. 
Staff photo by Don Sherlock

A’s will boast strong arms
     Coach John Schiffner has the most wins of any active Cape League manager (241) and is the only manager, active or inactive, to have been immortalized on the silver screen (by actor Brian Dennehy).
     He returns for his 11th season as head man in Chatham.
     “Like I say before every year, I think I have one of the 10 best jobs in America,” Schiffner says.
     He’s also waiting to see who actually comes to town.
     “We look fine,” Schiffner noted. “Three of our best prospects are southpaws Andrew Miller [North Carolina] and Ryan Mullins [Vanderbilt] and righty Kyle Bono [Central Florida]. They rank up there with the higher profile kids.
     “I like Matt Camp of N.C. State,” Schiffner says. “And Glenn Swanson [Cal-Irvine] will be back. I think pitching will be our strength.”
     Swanson was 5-1 with a 2.14 ERA last year.
     “We don’t have the power people, but power is lower on the scale here, we want pitching and defense,” Schiffner says.
     The A’s hope to go to battle with catcher Zach Dillon of Baylor, infielder Chris Getz of Michigan, outfielder Jeff Grose of Rutgers, catcher Jake Muyco of N.C. State and outfielder Marshall Hubbard of North Carolina among others.

Mariners have the players for opener
     Manager Steve Englert is back for his seventh season in the Cape League, his second as head man in Harwich. Last year Harwich was 21-22-1. He is also an assistant coach at Boston College and lives in Chestnut Hill.
     “We don’t have too many in the regionals and super-regionals,” Englert notes cheerfully. “Brett Lillibridge [infielder from Washington] was on Team-USA this year and he’s coming to the Cape.
     The Mariners have more of their players in town than just about anyone, so they’re looking to get a jump on the competition while the College World Series unwinds.
     “We have two Team-USA guys — Clete Thomas of Auburn and [infielder] Alex Gordon of Nebraska,” Englert says. “We have a temporary player from last year back, Drew Davidson [Illinois], who will fill in Thomas’ spot.”
     Englert went for college experience as well.
     “We have a couple of juniors too,” he notes. “I think the older kids are more able to handle it mentally. But we do have some freshmen and sophomores. I think with an older team we have a little more chance for success.”
     Juniors include infielder Jon Aughey of The Citadel, outfielder Sebastian Boucher of Bethune-Cookman, infielder James Holder of Cal-Berkeley, returning pitcher Kevin Lynch of Florida State and catcher John Slone of Miami.
     Mike Pankratz of Baylor was an All-Conference selection.
     “He had a football scholarship at Texas A&M before he figured out baseball was his best sport and went to Baylor,” Englert notes. “Tim Grogan, a left-handed pitcher from Western Kentucky, can play three other positions.”
     Englert expects the Mariners will have a good pitching staff. They’ll have two pitchers from St. Johns — Craig Hanson and Anthony Varvaro — as well as lefty Zach Kroenke of Nebraska. 
     “And we have a kid from Gardiner-Webb, Zach Ward, who has been scouted and can throw 94-95,” Englert noted. “If we stay healthy these guys can do it. You never know what will happen till a couple of weeks into the season.”

Red Sox tapping New Englanders
     Scott Pickler has won 128 games as Y-D’s head coach, and hopes his seventh season will be the best. The Red Sox were 21-21-1 last year.
     During the year Pickler coaches at Cypress Junior College, where he’s managed eight future major leaguers.
“We have two All-Stars coming back [Trevor Crowe of Arizona and Justin Meier of LSU]. They’re both at the Super Regionals,” Pickler says.
     Crowe hit .283 for Y-D last year, while Meier had 1.19 ERA in 14 games.
     The Sox have also dipped into Red Sox territory for more talent; catcher Frank Curreri of UMass, pitcher Josh Faiola of Dartmouth and pitcher Mike Wlodarcyzk of Boston College.
     “I think we’ll have some speed in the field,” Pickler says. “You can slump in pitching, hitting and fielding, but you can’t slump in speed. There are a lot of questions. I’ll be able to tell more after the first week of the season.”
     There aren’t many Red Sox in town yet, only one infielder and one catcher and a pile of pitchers as of Sunday.
     “We may have to put some pitchers in the outfield,” Pickler notes. 
     If the tickets are all punched, pitcher Charles Benoit (Oklahoma), infielder Adam Davis (Florida), first baseman Will Harris (LSU), third baseman Wes Hodges (Georgia Tech), outfielder Jim Rapaport, shortstop Brandon McArthur (Florida) and pitchers Blake Holler (Stanford), Clyde Lee (Georgia Tech), Chase Gerdes (Baylor), Brandon Morrow (California) and Cory VanAllen (Baylor) should all be Red Sox.

By Rich Eldred