SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass.–The 2005 Cape Cod League all-star game featured North Carolina teammates Daniel Bard and Andrew Miller on the mound to start the game, beginning a scoreless duel that also featured pitchers such as Tim Lincecum and Brandon Morrow who pushed radar gun readings toward the 100 mph mark.
The big pitching name of the 2006 edition of the game was . . . Matt LaPorta?
“Hey,” one scout joked while the all-star affair was still ongoing, “he hit 88 (mph).”
LaPorta, the Florida slugger who led the nation in home runs in 2005 and has 54 career homers in three seasons with the Gators, said it was his first time on the mound in a game since he was a freshman at Charlotte High in Punta Gorda, Fla. Yet that was the type of affair the Cape Cod all-star game at Dennis-Yarmouth High’s Red Wilson Field devolved into. The East won 7-2 behind three RBIs, including a two-run homer, by Orleans’ Josh Satin (California). Satin hit just .222/.311/.299 for the Bears this spring.
About the only thing more surprising than Satin’s star turn was the fact he didn’t pitch. The losing pitcher for the West was Mitch Moreland (Mississippi State), who was added to the all-star roster after winning the early-afternoon home run derby with a 25-blast display. Moreland and LaPorta were among the four position players used on the mound in the all-star game who don’t usually pitch, a situation that vexed the approximately 80 scouts on hand. The use of position players on the mound was only one disappointment as the crowd, announced at 3,761, sat quietly throughout most of the game as if it were a tennis match or golf tournament. Scouts were headed for the exits by the seventh inning, which would not have been the case if actual pitchers were being used or if all the players were running out every ground ball.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, and I think I can speak for the other scouts that we’re all very disappointed,” one veteran scouting director said in sentiments echoed by at least three of his colleagues who spoke to Baseball America. “The clubs take scouting the Cape Cod League very seriously, and you can see all the scouts who are here and are leaving early.
“And this is your first time to the Cape?” the scout asked this reporter, who replied in the affirmative. “Well I’m terribly sorry to hear that, because this is about as bad as I’ve seen it for an all-star game. The league is probably going to hear about this from the clubs.”
Cape League officials were girding for such a discussion. A difficult summer weather-wise, with plenty of postponements, has led to a compressed schedule and several doubleheaders scheduled for the season’s last two weekends. East manager Scott Pickler (Cypress, Calif., CC) of host Yarmouth-Dennis said the integrity of the Cape schedule and pennant races were more important than possibly damaging arms scouts wanted to see, such as closers Josh Fields (Georgia) of Y-D or Falmouth’s Eddie Kunz (Oregon State).
“If we had used a pitcher for an inning here who say pitched two days ago, we’re changing the rotation for one of the teams going for a pennant, and I don’t want to ruin a team’s chance to win a pennant because that would damage the integrity of the league,” Pickler said. “I don’t know if a day off would help either, because the scouts don’t just come here for the all-star game–they’re here for a week, and if you take a day away with five games the day before, that would seem to be worse.”
Commissioner Paul Galop said the league would be happy to discuss possible changes with Major League Baseball and its clubs but added that the later NCAA schedule–as recently as 1998, the College World Series ended June 6; now it ends three weeks later–already has compressed the Cape schedule significantly.
Luckily, the Cape all-star affair had some highlights. Falmouth outfielder Brad Chalk (Clemson) continued his solid summer (.310) with a pair of hits and a stolen base, while a pair of high-profile transfers also performed well. Hyannis third baseman Matt Mangini had a hit in two trips; he’s moving from North Carolina State to Oklahoma State, rejoining assistant coach Billy Jones, who recruited him to Raleigh but now works in Stillwater.
And West starter Charlie Furbush of Hyannis tossed a scoreless frame, retiring highly touted East starters Buster Posey (Florida State) and Matt Wieters (Georgia Tech). Furbush, who pitched for Division III St. Joseph’s (Maine) last spring, will join former Birmingham-Southern ace Blake Martin in transferring to Louisiana State. Furbush earlier had been named the Cape’s pitcher of the week for throwing a no-hitter against Bourne.
Overall, scouts panned the all-star game and sounded only mildly enthused about the Cape’s talent level in 2006. The Cape class has depth of hitters, with 2007 draft-eligible players such as Tulane’s Warren McFadden (.265, eight HRs), Wieters (.324, seven HRs) and Mangini (.313) all having breakout summers. But the breakout pitchers have been closers such as Fields or command artists such as UC Riverside’s James Simmons (4-1, 1.07, 42-4 K-BB ratio in 51 IP) rather than the power arms who were on display at last year’s all-star game.
Except, of course, if you count LaPorta as a power arm.
Preps, A’s Put On Better Show
Two of the top franchises in the Cape were also on display during BA’s quick three-day Cape jaunt, which started in Wareham at Spillane Field. There, the second annual Cape Cod High School Classic was staged by Baseball Factory and Team One Baseball, won 6-1 by Team One.
The score of the game was essentially immaterial. The approximately 75 scouts who signed in were there to see some of the top players in what appears to be a strong 2007 high school draft class. The event was clearly planned with the scouts in mind–the home run derby started at 8:30 a.m. and the game began at noon, which gave the scouts and college recruiters on hand time to see the game, then fan out to Cape regular-season games that afternoon and evening.
The stars at Wareham included some expected and familiar names, but at least two players also had breakout performances. Middle infielder John Tolisano (Estero, Fla., High) has played in major showcases since he was 14; for example, in the fall of 2003, Tolisano was the lone class of 2007 players at Perfect Game’s World Wood Bat tournament in Jupiter, Fla. Now finally coming to his draft year, the home-schooled Tolisano has worked hard to maintain his place near the top of the ’07 class. He won the home run derby Friday and showed solid tools both at the plate (with a quick, short stroke) and in the field, though scouts doubt he’ll remain a shortstop.
“The summer schedule is really important because there’s more continuous playing, more of a professional schedule,” Tolisano said. “I love playing so much, it’s not really a problem that the schedule gets kind of long. I’ve been to East Cobb (Ga.), Perfect Game events, then I’ll go to Wilmington (East Coast Showcase) and the Aflac game, but I love to play, so I don’t think it’s a problem that there are so many events.
“This event is as good as any. I’ve got family from Connecticut that was able to come up here and see me, which was great, and they treated us very well. It was a good group of guys and a fun couple of days.”
Tolisano edged lefthanded-hitting Anthony Rizzo in the home run derby, and Rizzo also had an RBI single as part of his impressive day. Team One’s Rizzo was one of three players from Florida’s Douglas High in Broward County who played in the game, as teammates Joey Hage and Daniel Elorriaga-Matra played for Baseball Factory.
Two other impressive performers were Cypress (Calif.) High infielder Josh Vitters, who took home the MVP for Team One with a pair of hits, and Canadian righthander Phillippe Aumont, who flashed an 89-92 mph fastball and one of the most impressive frames at the event at 6-foot-7, 225 pounds. Vitters’ older brother Christian was a 10th-round pick of the Athletics this June after being the Western Athletic Conference player of the year at Fresno State. His younger brother said he was considering Fresno State and Arizona State, among other schools.
“This was a great experience because I really like facing this kind of competition,” Vitters said. “I think I thrive more against better pitchers, guys who throw harder. These pitchers are consistently throwing harder than what I am used to seeing in high school.
“Playing in the Cape has been something I always wanted to do, and whether or not I play in college, now I can at least say I’ve done that.”
Cape Cod Notes
• Scouts saw more interesting performances Friday night in Cape regular-season action than they did in the all-star game. A healthy, enthusiastic crowd of 2,524 at Chatham saw the A’s beat visiting Orleans 6-5 in a game played with playoff intensity. The A’s won behind a pair of homers, including a grand slam, by first baseman Allan Dykstra (Wake Forest), and a solo shot by DH Matt Rizzotti (Manhattan). Satin and Wieters each had two hits, including a double apiece, for the visiting Cardinals, whose healthy traveling contingent of fans would have drowned out the much larger all-star game crowd by a large margin.
• Falmouth swept slumping Cotuit in a Friday double-header despite three homers over the two games by Kettleers first baseman Justin Smoak, who has 10 homers to lead the league. A rising sophomore at South Carolina, Smoak went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts in the all-star game. Smoak was leading the league with a .591 slugging percentage and tied for the lead with 24 RBIs with Rizzotti.