06/09/2011 8:16 PM
Article By: Tom Quinlan
Summer Fun in Store for Orleans Firebirds
By TOM QUINLAN
ORLEANS, Mass. - Each area in the country has something unique about it during the “good old summer-time.”
For instance, New York is known for its city shopping and fashion and being home to two rival baseball teams. Next-door neighbor New Jersey is renowned for over 160 miles of beaches and family fun.
Cape Cod has a little both of The Big Apple and the Garden State during the dog days of summer. Like New Jersey, Cape Cod is known for storied beaches and rich history of the area. Families like the Kennedy’s, the Affleck’s and the Kraft’s vacation here on Cape Cod every summer as a way to “get the family out of the house.”
Also on this historic peninsular where the Pilgrims first landed before settling on Plymouth Rock, the talk of the town is always the Cape Cod Baseball League. It has become a national attraction and is well known for its many alumni, 236 currently and over 830 all-time, who’ve enjoyed successful careers in the major leagues.
In Orleans, the Firebirds have been one of the most feared organizations since their inception shortly after World War I.
Future major league stars such as Red Rolfe, Carlton Fisk, Todd Helton, Nomar Garciaparra, J.T. Snow, Mark Teixeira, Matt Wieters and “ The Big Hurt,” Frank Thomas have come through the organization in pursuit of getting to the Big Show. These players and many, many more have contributed to the organization’s success, helping bring home titles for the team. Since its last championship run in 2005, the team has experienced a six-year drought not winning a league title.
The Firebirds’ 2010 campaign was spoiled by loses in close games and falling six points behind the Y-D Red Sox for the division title. The Red Sox swept the playoff series and ended Orleans’ title hopes. The firepower of the Sox proved too much as the Firebirds could not keep up with the hot bats of Y-D. The previously stingy Firebirds pitching staff gave up 26 runs in two games and that proved to be the team’s Achilles heel.
Led by Kelly Nicholson in his seventh season as field manager, the 2011 Firebirds welcome back pitchers Kenny Long (Illinois State) and Marcus Stroman (Duke) and sluggers Jayce Boyd (Florida State) and Maxx Tissenbaum (Stony Brook).
Long posted a 4-1 record with six saves for his college team, while the fire-balling Stroman saved four games with a 2.80 ERA and struck out 90 batters for the Blue Devils. Tissenbaum hit .343 with five homers and 43 RBI for SB, while Boyd is batting a lusty .335 for the Seminoles, currently in the NCAA Regionals.
Orleans has enjoyed a busy offseason acquiring Tyler Gebler (Rutgers), who Collegiate Baseball News named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American in ‘10. This player needs to be a target on every professional scout’s list. Despite a 2-4 record for the Scarlet Knights, he’s given up only two home runs in 72 innings and struck out 38.
Other pitchers on the watch list for the Firebirds include right-handers Kurt Heyer (Arizona), Adam Plutko (UCLA), Michael Wacha (Texas A&M) and southpaw Matt Boyd (Oregon State).
The Firebirds could use extra offense and returning outfielder Zeke Devoss (Miami) is ready to deliver for the Firebirds. The sophomore slugger from the “U” batted .313 with two home runs and 18 RBI for the Hurricanes.
Other newcomers to the Firebirds include infielder Reed Gragiani (Virginia), outfielder Jake Stewart (Stanford) and catchers Ronnie Shaeffer (California-Irvine) and Jake Hernandez (USC).
John Garner, Jr.
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