Cape League vs. Team USA
Stars will be out tonight
By RUSS CHARPENTIER
CHATHAM - Hold onto your hats, Chatham. Team USA is in town.
After pregame ceremonies and a fly-over by F-15s from the 102nd Fighter Wing, Team USA and the Cape Cod Baseball League all-stars will get down to a game this evening at Veterans Field. First pitch is scheduled for 6, but batting practices and autograph sessions start at 2:30 p.m.
The home-run hitting contest, scheduled for 4:30 p.m., should also be a lot of fun. Doc Brooks (Falmouth, Georgia), Todd Linden (Chatham, Washington) and Brian Stavisky (Hyannis, Notre Dame) will swing for the Cape League. Georgia Tech's Mark Teixeira, the Cape League's 1999 Top Pro Prospect, California third baseman Xavier Nady, a second-round pick of the San Diego Padres, and Southwest Missouri State's Ryan Howard will represent Team USA.
This is the first appearance on the Cape by Team USA since 1984, when Odibe McDowell homered into the Chatham fire station and the USA team of Mark McGwire, Barry Larkin, Will Clark, B.J. Surhoff, Cory Snyder, Greg Swindell, Scott Bankhead and company beat the Cape League, 5-4.
At a Glance
First pitch: The game begins at 6 p.m. at Chatham's Veterans Field, but pregame activities begin at 2:30 p.m. with batting practices. It's suggested fans arrive early because of the large crowd expected.
If you're going: Veterans Field is located just off Route 28 in Chatham center.
Admission: Suggested donations will be accepted: $3 for adults, $2 children, $8 for families.
4:30 p.m. - Home run hitting contest
5:35 p.m. - Skydiving team with ceremonial first pitch
5:55 p.m. - National Anthem with F-15 fly-over by the 102nd Fighter Wing
That game drew one of the largest crowds ever at Chatham's Veterans Field and today should be no exception. Organizers are saying they expect about 6,000 fans to fill the picturesque park.
Team USA will also play at 7:30 tomorrow night at Eldredge Park in Orleans against Chinese Taipei.
But the real question for Cape League fans is how well their all-stars can hold up against the national team.
"I'm approaching this game to win," said Cotuit Kettleers' manager Mike Coutts, who heads the Cape all-stars by virtue of winning last year's league championship.
Team USA is managed by University of Southern California coach Mike Gillespie. The club is made up of college stars from around the country, but is not the team that will be representing the United States in the Summer Olympics in Sydney in September. The Olympic team will feature minor leaguers, though there is a chance a couple of Team USA players may be added to the roster. This is the first time pro baseball players will be in the Olympics.
There has been grousing by some Cape League managers about playing tonight's game just as the league pennant races reach the stretch drive, and teams' pitching rotations might have to be altered, but nonetheless, this should be a showcase.
"Is that a valid criticism? Yes,'' said league commissioner Bob Stead. "But look at the big picture. Is this event good for the Cape League and Cape Cod? Yes, it is. I think the dugout will be electric.''
"What this does is create another element of excitement for the league," said Coutts. "It's a great opportunity for the kids, for the league and for the town of Chatham."
The Chatham A's own Chris Young, the 6-10 right-hander from Princeton and third-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Pirates, will pitch the first two innings for the Cape League. Coutts has eight other pitchers to juggle, though he said he would have to be careful to save one or two hurlers for any possible extra innings.
"I'm glad to be a part of it," said Young, who turned down a second offer from the Pirates three weeks ago. Young is 3-2, 2.29 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 39¤ innings. He was not selected to play in last week's league all-star game. "Looking at both all-star games, Team USA is really the one I wanted to pitch in," he said.
Young will be facing a red-hot Team USA, which has won 12 in a row and is 19-3 overall.
Scheduled to start for Team USA against the Cape League is USC right-hander Mark Prior, who, ironically, was scheduled to play for Chatham this summer before opting for the national team. The 6-5, 220-pound Prior, who will be a junior for the Trojans, is 1-2, 1.80 ERA in three starts. He's struck out 24, walked nine and given up eight hits in 15 innings.
Teixeira and Nady are the two big names for USA, though others are having good summers. Teixeira was hitting .382 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 19 games. Nady, who is playing outfield and third, was hitting .310 with a homer and eight RBIs.
"This is a great team," Teixeira said of Team USA. "I think the best players in the country are represented on this team. Nothing against the Cape League. They have great players. It should be a great game."
Teixeira is not the only 1999 Cape Leaguer on Team USA. Harwich's Dewon Brazelton (4-0) is the USA's top winner, and Cotuit's Kirk Saarloos (1-0, 2 saves, 21 K's in 14 innings) is its top reliever. Y-D's Jake Gautreau is hitting .351. Orleans' Ryan Budde and Chatham's Patrick Boyd are also on the team.
The Cape League's starting lineup features all-star game West MVP Stavisky (hitting .348), and Linden (.345), the league's top two hitters, and DH Ryan Barthelemy (Hyannis, Florida State), who is fourth in the league at .319.
Included on the pitching staff for the Cape League is Orleans closer Taft Cable (UNC-Greensboro), who is leading the league with 10 saves and was the winning pitcher in last weekend's all-star game.