Leading Men: 
No One Sets The Table Quite Like Chatham’s Addison Johnson And Harwich’s Cole Figueroa, Who’ve Helped Their Teams Feast

19 July 2007


HARWICH — There is a look about Cole Figueroa his teammates and coaches can’t quite understand, a sleepy-eyed stare that washes across his face in the waning minutes before a ball game.

No one else appears tired at this time. Some players, chomping at the bit, grip and grind the base of their bat, while others ease the tension by cracking jokes, which makes Figueroa’s somnolence something of a mystery.  

Hitting Pretty. Harwich Mariners leadoff hitter Cole Figueroa is hitting .342 this season, which ranks as the third-best batting average in the Cape League. ERIC ADLER PHOTO.

“People always say I look tired, they mistake me for being asleep, but the truth is I’m just a laid back guy,” said Figueroa, in a soft-spoken tone that matches his tranquil temperament. “I’m just relaxed.” 

Watching the world pass him by may seem unbecoming of an athlete who must summon the strength and bat speed to hit a ferociously fast white ball, especially one whose job it is to set the tone for the game, as Figueroa does as the Harwich Mariners leadoff hitter. 

Don’t be fooled by his without-a-care-in-the-world attitude, however, because once the game begins, Figueroa flips the switch to high-voltage intensity, much to the chagrin of opposing pitchers. 

Through the first half of the season, the 20-year-old shortstop has collected 27 hits, stolen four bases, is hitting .342 (third-best in the Cape League), slugging .430 and carries a .441 on-base percentage – numbers that rank number one among the Mariners’ entire 24-man unit. 

Those stats are rather remarkable when you consider Figueroa never swung a wood bat with any regularity before, yet has been forced to do so day in and day out against the nation’s elite college pitchers.

Even more astonishing is the fact that Figueroa, a college freshman, began the season on an 11-game hitting streak. 

“The biggest advantage I have is that I feel like I can hit anybody,” said Figueroa without a shred of smugness. “Earlier in the season I was getting hits, but they weren’t quality hits. They were Judy hits and seeing-eye singles, but as time has gone on I’ve gotten used to hitting with the wood bats and swinging more with my hands.”

Figueroa truly found his groove against Cotuit in late June when he went 4-for-5. That stellar effort wasn’t enough to earn the win for Harwich, which lost a 10-8 shootout, but it was good enough to upstage Figueroa’s twin brother Correy, a second baseman for the Kettleers, who finished 1-for-4 that night. 

“After the game Correy said, ‘I told them not to throw you fastballs away,’” said Figueroa with a laugh. 

Cotuit’s pitchers aren’t the only ones who have got their comeuppance. Many others have learned the hard way that if they serve what Figueroa desires, he’s going to feast on it. And if they don’t, he’s content to keep his bat on his back and take a 90-foot stroll to first, which he’s done a team-leading 13 times for Harwich.

Still, he admitted, nothing in the Cape League comes easy. 

“The biggest challenge has definitely been the pitching,” said Figueroa. “Even if you play for Team USA, you’re not going to see the same caliber of pitching you see here. You’re facing a Friday night guy every night. These are the best arms in the country.”

That fact alone makes hitting leadoff all the more difficult, or so it would seem.

“It’s definitely hard going up there and taking that first fastball down the middle, especially against guys from out West who I’ve never seen before,” said Figueroa. “But my first at-bat is my favorite at-bat of the day, because there’s no pressure. If you get a hit, you’re off to a good start, but if you get out, it’s no big deal. You’ve got three more shots.”

Most of Figueroa’s hits have come after his first hacks of the day, which not only speaks to his ability to make adjustments, but his maturity to erase the memory of his failures as well. 

“What’s helped me the most is forgetting about the bad games and not taking the good days for granted,” said Figueroa. “I just try not to let any at-bats get away from me, and I try not to think about the future.”

The future, however, has already thought about him. 

After hitting .563 and driving in a mind-blowing 70 runs for Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Fla., Figueroa was nabbed in the ninth round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. 

It would’ve been understandable if Figueroa signed a pro contract, perhaps to prematurely follow in the footsteps of his father, Bien, a middle infielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. But rather than traveling 1,500 miles north, he went 150 miles south to the University of Florida, where he excelled this spring. 

In a fabulous freshman season, Figueroa collected a team-best 87 hits, drove in 50 runs, and sported a .332 batting average, second only to Florida senior and former Cape League All-Star Matt LaPorta. 

Those gaudy stats caught the eye of Harwich Field Manger Steve Englert, but it was the way Figueroa showed he could keep his head about him at all times that truly earned him an invitation to the Cape. 

“I really hesitate taking freshmen in this league because playing up here is not only a physical struggle, it’s a mental struggle,” the fifth-year Mariners skipper said. “A lot of kids can’t handle it, but Cole hasn’t had any problems at all. He’s been around baseball his whole life and he understands the game very well.”

Figueroa’s main appeal is that unlike some of his Cape colleagues who try to show off for the myriad of major league scouts, he consistently plays within himself. 

“Cole doesn’t try to do too much and he takes what the pitchers give him, which is why he’s successful up here,” Englert said. “He’s a good base runner, he always has the green light to steal, and he plays very solid defense. He has a way of making the tough plays look routine. We’ve asked a lot out of him and he’s come to play every day.”

Figueroa’s full-throttle effort is a central reason Harwich (11-16-1), which lost nine in a row at the beginning of the year, has won four straight games and is back in the East Division wildcard hunt. 

“The last couple of games we’ve been playing more like a team,” said Figueroa. “But we’ve got to keep working hard and keep moving forward.”

In his attitude and in his actions, it seems that Figueroa is the perfect man to lead the charge.

by Eric Adler
Eric Adler 


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