From The Cape League To The Big League
Former Chatham, Harwich CCBL 
Players Making Their Mark In The Majors

23 August 2007


Eric Adler

CHATHAM — From its sandy beaches to its quaint sea-side getaways, Cape Cod has long been a popular tourist attraction. But for an elite cross-section of college baseball players, the Cape’s charm lies in its celebrated summer league, which serves as a bona fide breeding ground for future major league stars. 

Two For The Show. Two years removed from his summer stay on the Cape, former Chatham A’s ace Andrew Miller (left) has posted five wins for the Detroit Tigers this season. Meanwhile, Shaun Marcum, a 2002 Harwich Mariner, has logged a 10-4 mark with the Toronto Blue Jays this year. PHOTOS COURTESEY OF MARK CUNNINGHAM/THE DETROIT TIGERS and THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS

     Each year, hundreds of hungry MLB hopefuls come to the Cape – that is, if they’re invited – to showcase their skills in front of scouts and an adoring fan base in what’s widely considered the best summer league in the nation.

     Those who do well up here often write their ticket to the next level, a fact that’s supported by statistics. 

     According to CCBL records, 198 major league players once played on the Cape, and a record 202 Cape League alumns were selected in this June’s Major League Baseball draft. 

     There are several examples – Thurman Munson (Chatham), Jason Varitek (Hyannis) and Nomar Garciaparra (Orleans) to name a few – who’ve achieved Major League success by virtue of playing on the peninsula. But what about those who graced the Cape League fields just a few short years ago? 

     Many are still making their way through the minors, but a few have already made it into baseball’s hierarchy. 

     One player who used the Cape League as a pipeline to the pros is former Chatham A’s ace Andrew Miller. The sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft, Miller quickly rose through the minor league ranks (amazingly in less than two months time), and is now hurling his way into history with the Detroit Tigers. 

     In his first full season in Motown, Miller has gone 5-4 with a 4.42 ERA, helping the Tigers to a first-place 67-54 record in the AL’s Central Division. His finest outing came last month, when the six-foot-six southpaw allowed one run on four hits and struck out five in as many innings in a narrow win over the Minnesota Twins. 

     After appearing in only three minor league games with class A Lakeland (just 130 miles from his home in Gainesville, Fla.), Miller made his debut with the Tigers on Aug. 30 of last year, in, of all places, Yankee Stadium. 

     He pitched one scoreless inning in a day made all the more memorable by recording the final out against Yankee captain Derek Jeter, whose bid for a 4-for-4 performance ended in imperfection after hitting a broken-bat grounder to third.

     “My heart was racing so fast, I just kept thinking, ‘Slow down, slow down,’” Miller told writer Jason Beck of his inaugural outing. 

     Miller couldn’t put the brakes on his body, however, tossing a 95 mile-per-hour strike (his first pitch), followed later by a 97 MPH heater to former Boston Red Sox centerfielder Johnny Damon. 

     “I had so much adrenaline going, I don’t remember what I remember thinking,” he reportedly said. “At one point, I looked over and Johnny Damon was at first and I was pitching to Derek Jeter, and I'm like pinching myself.”

     A standout at the University of North Carolina, Miller went 13-2 his junior year, was named College Baseball’s player of the year, and led the Chapel Hill school to the National Championship series. 

     Though Miller, projected as a number one pick, slipped a few slots in the MLB draft, it didn’t hurt him in the pockets, as he signed a major league contract that came with a $3.55 million bonus.

     Much of Miller’s development, and the exposure to pro scouts that helped him sign such a lucrative deal, can be attributed to his playing days with the A’s.

     The lanky lefthander, who spent two summers in Chatham, went 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 2004 and 6-0 with a 1.65 ERA the following season, in which he earned top honors as the league’s best pitcher and the top pro prospect award. 

     Another ace who made a stopover on the Cape on his way to the show is former Harwich Mariners two-way star Shaun Marcum, who’s figured prominently as a starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays.

     After a solid, first full season in the majors last year, Marcum is proving his MLB worth again this year, by posting an impressive 10-4 record with a 3.31 ERA. 

     The scruffy faced right hander, who throws a fastball, change-up and slider combination, has improved with each outing. He’s won his last five games, including a stellar effort against Kansas City, in which he took a no-hitter deep into the game.

     Marcum’s bid for a no-no was nixed, however, when the Royals’ Billy Buttler beat out a two-out infield hit in the seventh inning. But there was a consolation prize for Marcum in the form of his family and friends, who made the half-hour trip from Marcum’s home in Excelsior Springs, Mo. to KC, to cheer him on and witness his most accomplished outing. 

     Marcum, no stranger to handcuffing teams, was equally impressive against the Tampa Bay Devils Rays earlier in the season, when he tossed six scoreless innings in his first start of the year. 

     Another virtuoso performance came against the Anaheim Angels last week, when the strong-arm 26-year-old pitched four-hit, one-run ball while fanning six in seven innings in the Jays’ 2-1 win. He retired the first eight batters he faced and left to a standing ovation by the Sky Dome crowd, who saluted him for pitching pressure-free with a narrow lead.

     A third round 2003 draft pick, Marcum showed off his mastery on the mound during his ’02 summer stay on the Cape. A shortstop/relief pitcher, he went 4-1 with a 1.48 ERA, struck out 31 in 24.1 innings, and saved a team-best 10 games for the Mariners. 

     Marcum’s superb stats got the attention of the Blue Jays, as well as the neon numbers he put up while at Southwest Missouri State. He notched 13 saves and hit six home runs with 41 RBIs in helping the remote school reach its first-ever World Series in 2003.

     Of the recent crop of pitchers who have come through the Cape, no one’s shown more major league promise than former Harwich Mariners hurler Tim Lincecum. 

     Throughout his college career, the five-foot-10, baby-faced right hander was chastised for his lack of size, but Lincecum, who’s been called the future of the San Francisco Giants organization, is proving its not how big you are, but how big you pitch.

     To that end, Lincecum is towering over his 23-year-old contemporaries.

     Off to sizzling start, Lincecum is 7-3 with a 3.95 ERA for San Francisco, and gave credence to his nickname “Franchise” by striking out 12 – the fourth highest by a Giant’s rookie – and scattering only three hits in seven scoreless innings in a July 1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

     Added to that, Lincecum fanned 10 against the Houston Astros in his third game, and has logged eight or more strikeouts in 19 starts. All told, he’s piled up 121 K’s and leads all National League rookies in strikeouts. 

     Before he was a star in the Bay area, Lincecum made a name for himself in the Pacific Northwest, particularly at the University of Washington. He went 12-4 with a 1.94 ERA and struck out 199 in 125.2 innings his junior year with the Huskies, earning him the Golden Spikes Award, which is annually given to the best college baseball player.

     When San Francisco drafted Lincecum 10th overall in the 2006 draft, he became the first UW player to be selected in the first round. He signed a $2.025 million bonus, which at the time was the highest amount the organization had ever paid to an amateur player, until they gave $2.1 million to Angel Villalona a month later.

     While on the Cape, Lincecum gave every indication he was a cut above the rest and ready for the prime time. 

     Showcasing his slingshot delivery and a fastball that’s been clocked in the triple digits, Lincecum logged a 0.69 ERA, 68 strikeouts in 39.1 innings, and a team-best seven saves as Harwich’s lights-out closer. 

     It’s not just pitchers who have found their way into the bigs, however.

     Former Chatham A’s catcher Chris Iannetta is now in his first full season with the Colorado Rockies, after playing in 20 games for the team last year. 

     The Providence-born backstopper hit .260 in 21 games for Colorado last year, but was optioned back down to the team’s triple A affliate in Colorado Springs after he hit below the Mendoza Line (a .179 average) in 51 games with the club this year. 

     Iannetta’s 2002 Chatham teammate, Chad Orvella, is another estrwhile A’s player who’s seen time in the majors. The right handed relief pitcher has played in 69 games over the past three years with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and has loggeed a 5.79 ERA over the stretch. Orvella’s best year was his first when he went 3-3 with a 3.60 ERA in 37 games. 

     One-time Harwich Mariners closer Craig Hansen has also alternated between the major and minor leagues, with the Boston Red Sox and their triple A farm team in Pawtucket.

     Hansen made his debut with the Bo-Sox in September 2005, a little more than a year after his near perfect summer on the Cape, in which he fashioned a flawless 0.00 ERA and struck out 41 battesr in 22.1 innings.

     Hansen struggled at times with Boston last year, recording a 6.63 ERA in 38 games. But with three wins, three saves and a 4.35 ERA in 35 games for the PawSox this year, he remains one of the team’s most promosing prospects.

     Though he’s yet to make his big league debut, Harwich Port native and 2003 Harwich High School graduate Cody Crowell is off to an auspicious start with the class A Auburn Doubledays of the New York Penn League.

     A 14th round draft pick by Toronto this year, Crowell is 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA and three saves in his first minor league season. He’s also played in the NYP All-Star game last Monday, pitching a scoreless sixth inning. 

     Crowell played two years in the Cape League, first with his hometown Harwich Mariners in ’05, then with cross-town Brewster the next year. 

     After a 1-6 season with Harwich, he went 2-2 with the Whitecaps, helping the team clinch a playoff berth. 

     At Harwich, Crowell was a three-year South Shore League All-Star, and is best remembered for throwing a no-hitter in a state tournament game as well as striking out 24 batters against Norton, a school record that may never be broken.


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