Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Patti Page and Summer Days on Old Cape Cod

River Ave. Blues has an excellent post on the progress, or lack thereof, of a couple Yankees' draftees in the Cape Cod League this summer.

The Cape League is the premier summer league for college ballplayers. Each year, the best amateur players in the country head out to the Cape, where they are spread out among 10 local teams. While there, the players all stay with local host families and work small-time jobs at restaurants, fish markets and the like to help pay expenses. In some ways, the league is a relic from another era — a throwback to a time when even big-leaguers worked "regular" off-season jobs. It's a place where future millionaires work for $7.50 an hour and sleep in the spare bedroom with Crazy Cousin Rory. And have I mentioned the wood bats?

Despite the quaint charm and lazy, seaside atmosphere, the pressure for prospects on the Cape is enormous. A fantastic or mediocre showing over the summer can mean the difference between signing a big-league deal and heading back to college for another year. A three-week slump might cut a recent draftee's signing bonus in half, or knock a younger player down several rounds in next year's draft. Big-league and college scouts pepper the bleachers and lawns at every game.

For a true baseball fan, there is almost no better experience than catching a Cape Cod League game on a warm summer night, and for most Yankees fans, the ballparks are just a four-to-six hour drive away. You're watching the best, young players in the country playing in a unique atmosphere out of the 1950s. In any given game, you're likely to be watching at least one, and possibly several, future big leaguers. Bring a blanket and some drinks, and you're good to go....admission is free.

The Chatham A's get most of the hype, thanks to a winning tradition and Jim Collins's excellent 2004 book chronicling a season in the life of the team. I'm partial to the Orleans Cardinals, though, de facto home team for all towns on the Outer Cape, and former club of Nomah, Ben Sheets, Scott Proctor, Mark Teixeira and the immortal Aaron Boone.

Peter Gammons has been known to wax romantic about the simple pleasures of the Cape League, and for once, he's not wrong. Go there now. Orleans visits the Hyannis Mets at 7 p.m. tonight.