The summer of 2014 was a big summer for Alex, as he took the next steps as a ballplayer and a person in the preparation of his junior year at the University of Maryland.
Summer ball is always an interesting time for every player in their own way. There are multiple collegiate summer leagues throughout the country, some are more well-known than others. For instance, the Cape Cod League is arguably the most distinguished of all the summer leagues, whereas a league like the Hampton’s League on Long Island, New York is a lesser-known league. While one league is more distinguished than the next, both serve the purpose of allowing college ballplayers the opportunity to sharpen their craft, get more in-game situations, expose themselves to a different environment, play with and against a wider variety of talent, and showcase their talents to professional scouts.
The previous year, I spent time in the Cape Cod League playing for the Falmouth Commodores and in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League for the Baltimore Redbirds. This summer I was sent to Keene, New Hampshire to play for the Swamp Bats, in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL). Being a northeast guy, I had played in just about every state in the region, but never in New Hampshire. I showed up a couple of days after the season had started as the Terps had just finished with the NCAA Super Regional. We were given a few days off to rest, recover, and see our families before we left for summer ball. Alumni Field was the name of the baseball field, located in what seemed to be the woods or mountains. Being a New Yorker I hadn’t played or spent too much time in this environment, so it was a nice change of scenery. When I got to the field, I was a little concerned because right center looked to be 250 feet to the fence and as a pitcher, I was hoping for a little more real estate in the outfield. Nonetheless, there was a grandstand behind the home dugout on the first baseline and I caught myself imagining the crowd cheering in the stands on a Friday night. The community of Keene really embraced us as players, it seemed like everyone knew who the players were and were always greeting us with a smile and a “good luck tonight!” It felt good to get on the mound at Alumni Field knowing the fans in the stands cared about us as people as much as they did with us winning the game.
I knew coming into this league that it was going to be very competitive and that is what I was looking forward to most. There were a few of my teammates from Maryland playing in the NECBL, so it was going to be fun playing against them and have some bragging rights heading back to College Park in the fall. Our team was constructed of talented ballplayers from all over the country. I knew a few of them from playing with or against them in college and the high school summer ball circuit. We had players from Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, Auburn, and St. John’s. There were a few players from the University of Virginia on the team and after some tension-filled interactions (just me being salty, we lost to them in the Super Regional) we became friends. It was a really good group of guys that all seemed like they had something to prove in one way or another. Summer ball is always interesting in terms of what you’re going to get out of guys. Some guys show up huffing and puffing that their college coach sent them to play in a summer league instead of letting them relax at home for the summer. Then you have your ballplayers, guys who eat and sleep baseball, who just love competing, no matter who it’s against or where they are sent to play ball. Finally, you had the guys whose goal for the summer was to improve their craft and work to make a bigger impact the following year at their respective colleges. I fell into the improved craft group, as I wanted to move back into a starter role for my junior season at Maryland. The previous season I made the switch to the bullpen because at the time I felt that’s where I would have the most opportunity to pitch and where I could have the biggest impact on the team. Now that the 2014 season was over, I had my sights on the 2015 season and 2015 MLB Draft. As a starter, scouts would be able to see me throw on a regular schedule whereas, a reliever is harder to see throw because they come into the game as needed.
Throughout the season I was getting more comfortable back in the starter role. My arm was getting stronger, I got into a great routine, and I was developing a change-up to add to my arsenal. As the season progressed, I felt like I was getting better and better. At the midway point of the summer, I was voted an All-Star and got to participate in the 2014 NECBL All-Star Game. It was a great experience with my whole family making the trip up from New York. Before the game, there was a Home Run Derby and one of my teammates from Maryland made it to the final round. It was fun cheering him on and watching him hit some baseballs into orbit. At the All-Star Game, all thirty MLB teams were represented by their scouts. I had been rolling leading up to the game and threw very well against some of the best hitters in the league that day. My fastball was jumping out of my hand, my changeup was fading, and I was able to shape my slider. At the end of the season, I was named the #1 MLB pitching prospect in the NECBL. As a team, we lost in the championship game in a close one after a year of really sound and consistent baseball. I felt extremely confident heading into my junior season at Maryland, coming off a great summer where I had added my name to the MLB scout’s radars. The summer of 2014 was more important than just sharpening my craft, I gained more confidence in my abilities, as well as in my work ethic and process. To say I was itching to get back on the mound at “The Bob” would’ve been an understatement.