America's League

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No magical repeat run for Kettleers

08/05/2011 10:27 AM

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     The Cotuit Kettleers stumbled into the playoffs last summer on a six-game losing streak. But they never looked back after entering the tournament, making it all the way to the championship series against the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. Considered heavy underdogs, the Kettleers took down the Red Sox, proudly bringing home the Arnie Mycock Trophy. Unfortunately, they will not have the same opportunity this summer after missing the playoffs.

      Field manager Mike Roberts, who completed his eighth season with the Kettleers, is sad that the season is over. "I have said this before, I cry when I drive (to the Cape) because I am so happy, and I cry when I drive home because I miss the league, the people, the competition, and the community," he said.

      Roberts isn't judging the season on wins and loses. "I base (the summer) on whether or not I teach the game to players, and teach them leadership and maturity," he said.

      One of those levels of maturity is work effort. Victor Roache (Georgia Southern) is a perfect example. He had a standout season, hitting .316 with six home runs and 28 RBIs, much of it due to Roberts' advice. "Coach Roberts told us that we all have the potential to make it to the next level and to the majors, and if you want something you have to go get it and work hard. It has motivated me for my fall and spring season," he said.

      Roache made the most of his opportunity. There were doubts if his power productivity would match up against tougher competition since he plays for Georgia Southern in the Southern Conference, and whether his swing would translate to wood bats. But he silenced the skeptics. "I proved I could hit against some of the best competition in the country. I also felt I proved that I am a power hitter," he said.

      John Birtwell, who covers the Cape League for ESPN Insider, considers Roache to be the best college hitter he has seen on the Cape
because of his terrific combination of hitting for average and power.

      Roberts said Logan Vick (Baylor) is another example of a player who did things the right way to improve. "At the end of June, Logan sat down with me and asked what he needed to do to be a better player. He took to heart some of the things we talked about and his energy level went up and his play went up," Roberts said.

      Roberts often talks about are self-motivation and commitment. "When these guys show up they have to be self-motivated, not girlfriend-motivated or parent-motivated," he said. "Also, they have to work hard and be self-confident in order to succeed."

      Vick ended the season hitting .337 with a .928 OPS. "I have been working on my hands and I have been able to work with coach Roberts before practice a lot," he said. "He has really helped me with my swing and I feel really comfortable at the plate. Overall, I really think I have polished my skills since I have been here."

      Freshman catcher and outfielder Stefan Sabol (Oregon) also made the most of his Cape League experience after underachieving in his spring season. Sabol hit .251 with one home run and 15 RBIs in 126 at-bats at Oregon, but on the Cape he turned his performance around by hitting .299 with one home run and seven RBIs in 77 at-bats. "If scouts looked at my stats in the spring they would have seen that I struggled. Out here on Cape I was able to show them I could still play at a high level," he said.

      Although Roberts has been coaching for almost 40 years, he also learned a valuable lesson this summer. One of the shortcomings of this year's team was a defense that was not fundamentally sound. The Kettleers often gave opposing teams extra outs in an inning and they paid for those errors. "I have to be more old school and more stubborn. I have a philosophy, stay within it, don't ever get outside of it no matter what players you have. I have to teach fundamentals every day and we will continue to work hard," he said.

      Roberts serves as a mentor and tries to guide his players to succeed at the next level. Before they took batting practice for the final game of the summer, he left them with a lesson. "I told them if you're dreaming about the big leagues, then get in gear and do something about it," he said.