By Bubba Brown
As the top options for collegiate summer play, the Cape Cod League and USA Baseball are annual competitors for the top collegiate talent. However, the calendar has thrown a wrench into the equation this year.
Due to a number of scheduling factors, namely the start date of the FISU World University Baseball Championships, trials for the USA collegiate national team will run much later than normal—from July 6 through July 11—which conflicts with the schedule of the Cape Cod League.
Cape players that have been invited to try out for the USA squad must decide if they want to leave their teams in hopes of making the USA team, which leaves both USA Baseball and the Cape in flux.
“We’re not happy with that,” said Eric Cambell, USA Baseball's longtime national team general manager. “We would not want to conflict, but unfortunately I think the summer window is becoming shorter and shorter for everybody. I’m not saying that makes it easier for anybody, I’m saying it seems to make it a tough process for everybody.”
For Team USA, it made inviting the right players to try out particularly important, knowing that some players may want to stay and play in the Cape Cod League instead.
“We talk about what we have for (the players),” Campbell said. “Whether it’s trials and the fact that 38 are coming in and only 22 are going to stay, and they balance that off their other options and what their other goals are. We think that the strength of the program really sells itself. We respect everybody’s decision whether they say ‘Yeah, I want to do it,’ or ‘Thank you, but I don’t.’ We try to make sure that the 38 guys here really understand what we’re going to do”
Teams in the Cape Cod League, on the other hand, must wait and see which of their players accept Team USA's trial invite. If they lose players to the trials, teams can either play shorthanded for the week during trials, or use one of their limited roster moves to activate temporary players, who are under contract to replace anyone who leaves the league to play for the USA team.
However, teams can’t keep an unlimited amount of temporary players on the rosters.
“Because of some league rules, and I think they’re looking at that, you sometimes have a difficulty keeping guys here to potentially fill those spots,” said Jeff Trundy, head coach of the Falmouth Commodores. “ . . . What it really comes down to is not only may you lose (Team USA) players, but you may lose a player that you have here to fill that guy's spot if you lose him to USA.”
Further complicating matters is the fact that some teams, such as the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, have only one player invited to the trials, while others like the Commodores have as many as five.
“It takes some creativeness from all the managers up here to save a spot for those guys that don’t make Team USA and come back,” said longtime Y-D head coach Scott Pickler.
While Cape coaches may try to persuade their players not to attend the USA trials, it is a difficult sell.
“It’s very, very tough to tell a kid that he’s not going to play with USA across his chest,” Pickler said. “It’s a pretty high honor, I think. I’m sure there are some guys that are trying to talk guys out if it, but it’s a tough thing to do.”
Instead, most Cape coaches will hope that the benefits of the league, including a lengthy schedule, speak for themselves and influence players’ decisions.
While the scheduling quirk has created problems for both Team USA and the Cape, if there is a benefactor, it’s the players who have been invited to play with both organizations, such as Rice’s Anthony Rendon, Cal State Fullerton’s Nick Ramirez, Virginia’s Danny Hultzen, and Utah’s C.J. Cron.
“These kids are getting two or three weeks up in the Cape, so they can experience the Cape and experience Team USA,” Pickler said. “They get the best of both worlds.”
News & Notes
The Cape League kicked off with an opening-night game on Sunday and played its first full slate of games Monday. Here are some player highlights from the first days of action:
• Boston College junior righthander John Leonard, a 36th-round pick by the Giants, had the best start of the day, striking out seven in six shutout innings, while giving up just four hits and no walks for Yarmouth-Dennis.
• Sophomore Troy Channing, who already holds the St. Mary’s career homer record with 35, hit the lone homer in the league’s first day, which was part of his two-hit performance for the Brewster Whitecaps.
• Lefthander Matt Iannazzo, who started for Pittsburgh this year, worked a three-inning save for the Red Sox, giving up two hits and a walk while striking out one.
• Oklahoma State’s Mark Ginther, playing for the Chatham Anglers, had a good day at the plate, driving in two runs on two doubles.
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