for immediate release: 31 March, 2002
Cape League Catchers Rank Among the Nation's Best
SOUTH YARMOUTH - It may come as no surprise, but 10 of the 31 candidates vying for the prestigious 2002 Johnny Bench Award, announced last week by Coleman and the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission, are all former Cape Leaguers.
Last year's winner was none other than Baylor's Kelly Shoppach, drafted by the Boston Red Sox in June's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Amateur Draft in the second round. Shoppach played for the Harwich Mariners in 2000, batting .228 with two home runs and 13 RBI in 26 games.
On this year's list of candidates are former Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox catcher John Baker (UC-Berkeley), Orleans Cardinals Troy Caradonna (Duke), Cotuit's Alberto Concepcion (USC), Hyannis Mets' Ryan Garko (Stanford), Falmouth's Stephen Ghutzman (Wake Forest), Brewster's Chris Hamblen (Cincinnati), Harwich Mariners' Jeff Mackor (Boston College), Brewster's Danny Matienzo (Miami), Wareham's Tyler Parker (Georgia Tech) and Brewster's Paul O'Toole.
Baker, a junior, was the 2000 Cape Cod Baseball League Manny Robello 10th Player Award recipient and was named a 2001 Cape League East Division All-Star. Baker hit .245 for Y-D in 2000, with one home run and 14 RBI in 39 games played. In 2001, Baker hit a solid .250 with two home runs and 20 RBI in 41 games played, pacing the Red Sox to a 25-19 record and tie for first place with Chatham in the East Division. At UC-Berkeley in 2001, Baker batted .331 with three home runs and 29 RBI and was named a PAC-10 Honorable Mention. Before breaking a bone in his throwing hand on March 12, 2002, Baker was hitting an even .300 with two home runs and nine RBI for the Golden Bears. He is expected to return to the playing field later this week.
Caradonna, considered the top catcher in the Cape League in 2001, was named to the Final All-Star team after ending fifth among the league's top batters with a .301 clip for Orleans. He started at catcher for the East Division in the 2001 Sprint PCS Cape League All-Star game held in Falmouth, MA.
Concepcion, who caught 37 games for the Cotuit Kettleers in 2001, batted .229, hit two home runs and drove in 18, with 13 runs scored.
Stanford's Garko, who platooned for the Hyannis Mets in 2001 at backstop, was nevertheless named a West Division All-Star. He played in 37 games, hit two home runs and had 19 RBI, batting .233.
Wake Forest's Ghutzmann played in 39 games for the Falmouth Commodores in 2001 and 34 games for the Cotuit Kettleers in 2000. He batted .196 in 2000 and .164 for Falmouth in 2001.
East Division All-Star Chris Hamblen (Cincinnati) had a solid year for Brewster in 2001, splitting time with fellow Johnny Bench Award candidate Matienzo of Miami. Hamblen batted .232 with one home run and 16 RBI while Matienzo, also an East Division All-Star in 2001, batted .230 with two home runs and 12 RBI in 31 games played. Hamblen played in 42 games for the Whitecaps in 2001.
Harwich Mariners backstop Mackor (Boston College), batted .216 with three home runs and 13 RBI in 2001.
Georgia Tech catcher Tyler Parker was behind the plate for two seasons with the Wareham Gatemen, and was selected as a Cape League All-Star in both 2000 and 2001. While Parker was trying to overcome a spring 2001 injury, he nevertheless batted .214 with 12 RBI in 32 games, helping lead Wareham to the league title. In 2000, Parker and Notre Dame's Paul O'Toole were named to the CCBL Final All-Star Team. In 2000, Parker hit .272 for the Wareham nine.
O'Toole, who played for league champion Brewster in 2000, was a late arrival to the Cape in 2001, ending up with the Y-D Red Sox. O'Toole hit .273 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 2000 and in 2001 with Y-D, batted .187 with nine RBI and no home runs.