While many Penn students spend their summers indoors carrying out research or interning for a firm, many Red and Blue baseball players are using time away from school to continue to participate in the national pastime. Playing for teams stretching from California to New Jersey, nineteen Quakers are currently honing their skills against fellow college players in thirteen different summer collegiate leagues.
Penn’s coaching staff works hard to find the right summer leagues for its players to participate in.
“Our coaches have certain connections with different leagues, and they choose where the players go for the most part,” said rising junior pitcher Mitchell Hammonds, who plays for the Southampton Breakers of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League.
“They want us to play in a league where we have a chance to get better as a baseball player by playing in as many games and getting as many reps as possible,” junior pitcher Nick Pedalino, who is on the Jersey Pilots of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, said. “While at the same time, playing in a competitive league.”
These leagues expose players to a great variation of competition.
“There's definitely a wider range of talent in summer ball,” sophomore outfielder Andrew Murnane said. “In the Ivy League, everyone is at a relatively similar level. In the summer league I'm in, we have players from [Division I, Division II, and Division III], and different talent levels.
However, this doesn’t stop them from seeing familiar faces. Murnane’s North Jersey Eagles are also in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, and junior pitcher Jesse Roth plays on the Breakers alongside Hammonds.
In particular, junior pitcher Jake Cousins, who plays for the Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod Baseball League — traditionally considered the premier summer collegiate league — feels as if his summer experience has almost been an extension of the spring season.
“The level of competition in my summer league is very good, but can be comparable to Ivy League play as there are multiple other Ivy League baseball players in the league,” Cousins said.
Many players have targeted specific areas of the game upon which they hope to improve this summer. Hammonds, Cousins and Pedalino named strength and pitching mechanics as their focuses for the summer, while Murnane is working on recognizing pitches out of a hurler’s hand earlier at the plate and getting quicker reads on batted balls in the outfield. Senior infielder Ryan Mincher and Pedalino will also use the game action to improve their consistencies at the plate and on the mound, respectively.
“The most important thing about playing in the summer is getting a lot of at bats and in-game experience,” Mincher, who is playing for the Asheboro Copperheads of the Coastal Plain League, said. “Especially for younger players who may have not played as much as they hoped during the school year.”
While summer baseball is largely geared towards personal improvement, that doesn’t mean players aren’t trying to win.
“Baseball is a game you are always trying to win,” Murnane said. “If I'm doing things to help my team win, then I'm also getting better.”
“Self-improvement is something that goes on during practice or before games,” Cousins added, “And then when the lights are on when the game starts the competitiveness comes out and winning is the goal.” Pedalino also points out that players have much more free time to work on their skills in the summer without the worry of schoolwork.
While some players are on teams near their homes, many are members of clubs that are several states away from where they live. Murnane, who is from Minnesota, has been able to lodge with relatives in New Jersey. Many, however, are living with host families.
“Without host families, summer baseball would not be possible,” Mincher said.
There is a certain tradeoff present in playing summer baseball, as the near-daily frequency of games and rigorous travel schedule limits the ability to work a job or internship. However, some players, such as Cousins, are still able to find ways to make money. The right handed pitcher works at a camp for young children put on by his team each morning.
Playing in the summer also gives players exposure to professional scouts. Both graduated senior catcher Austin Bossart and graduated senior pitcher Ronnie Glenn, selected earlier this month in the Major League Baseball draft, spent multiple summers playing summer league ball. Mincher, who plays for the same team that Bossart played for last summer, has spotted a few scouts at Copperhead games.
Most importantly, though, summer baseball allows players to continue to have fun.
“I’m just grateful that I'm given an opportunity to play the game I love everyday,” Mincher said.
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