SOUTH YARMOUTH ---- Twice is nice, and for two Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, they are hoping their second season will be even better than their first on Cape Cod.
Tyler Hanover (LSU) and John Leonard (Boston College) are back with the Red Sox. Catcher Ben McMahan (Florida) will also be returning after the Gators conclude their postseason run. Last summer, the trio helped the Red Sox to the league’s top record before they were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.
“Hanover gives us some flexibility, because he can play second, third and shortstop, and he hits in the middle of our order,” field manager Scott Pickler said. “Leonard was an all-star last year, and he is a good pitcher who has three pitches he can throw for strikes.”
At just 5-6, 165, Hanover may not be the typical middle-of-the-order man. But the Kernersville, N.C. native plays much bigger. “He just comes to play baseball. You know what you are going to get out of him every day,” Pickler said. “He is a baseball player.”
“Coming back, I get to stay with the same host family, which I really like,” Hanover said. “I was just excited to come back and hopefully win a championship this year.”
The LSU infielder is hitting .400 in his first five games. He batted .300 for the Red Sox last season with 16 RBI and 10 steals and was named to the all-star team. This season, he will be looking to get back to Fenway Park.
“That is every kid’s dream,” he said. “But I do have a lot to work on to make myself a better player.”
John Leonard has a slightly different story. The 6-1 right-hander is currently signed to a temporary contract. He was selected in the 36th round of the MLB draft by the San Francisco Giants and is unsure if he will remain on the Cape. Y-D general manager Jim Martin said he would be surprised if Leonard left the team, and Pickler expects the tall righty to sign a full contract with the Red Sox.
The Hanover, Mass. native tossed a six-inning shutout and recorded seven strikeouts on opening night against Harwich in his only appearance this season.
“Being back here is awesome,” Leonard said. “Being a local guy, it is like a dream to play here, and two years in a row makes it even better.”
Leonard missed some of his college season at Boston College with an injury and said he is working on getting his timing back. “Throwing out of the stretch and holding runners on is something I need to work on this summer,” he said.
Leonard went 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 35 innings for the East Division champs last season. He started six games and made 10 appearances, earning a spot on the all-star roster. If he stays for the summer, he will likely be used as a starter.
McMahan will be returning to the Cape once his college season concludes. He struggled last summer, hitting .241, but rebounded to bat .329 for the Gators.
All three players return to the Cape with the common goal of improving their game enough to make it to the next level.
“It is definitely the best league for college baseball,” Hanover said. “We get to play every day and kind of see what it’s like in the major leagues.”