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Former Cape League Stars Still Shining Bright

05/16/2007 1:38 PM

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16 May 2007

Cape League Special

Former Cape League Stars Still Shining Bright

CAPE COD, Mass. So many of today’s Major League players spent their collegiate summers living and breathing baseball in that unique place where the sea breeze and the game mingle together perfectly.

    The Cape Cod Baseball League is not just a stepping-stone on the way to playing baseball professionally, it is a virtual springboard. One in seven Major Leaguers called the Cape League home for at least one summer, an indication of how incredible the talent is, year-in and year-out.

    The Cape League showcases America’s best young players to sunburned fans and Major League scouts alike.

    With the 2007 CCBL season fast approaching, former Cape Leaguers have already tied their cleats and begun a new season playing at all levels of professional baseball.

    David Murphy, the 6-foot-3-inch, 195-pound lefty who played for the Wareham Gateman in 2001 and 2002 found success last year, playing in 20 games for the Boston Red Sox. In those games, Murphy stepped to the plate 22 times, posted a .227 batting average, and even crushed an offering from Jaret Wright over the right field fence at Yankee Stadium.

    Picked 17th overall in the 2003 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox, Murphy earned Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2005, before moving up to AAA Pawtucket in 2006. While his glove got all the glory, Murphy also smashed eight home runs last year for the Paw-Sox, drove in 44 runs, and scored 45 times. Murphy made his Major League debut September 2, 2006 at Fenway, recording a single as his first Major League hit against the Toronto Blue Jays.

    The 2002 Cape League All-Star is back in Pawtucket this year, but Murphy remains a top outfield prospect for the Red Sox.

    Jacoby Ellsbury, Falmouth’s speedy outfielder who led the Commodores to the CCBL finale vs. Y-D in 2004, went on a stealing spree last summer, swiping 41 bases while splitting time between the Single-A Wilmington Blue Rocks and Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.

    Drawing comparisons to Johnny Damon with a little less power but a much better arm, Ellsbury combines defensive talent with offensive consistency, utilizing his speed in both aspects. He spent his collegiate years at Oregon State, where he boasted a career batting average of .365, and used his quick legs to close the gaps that surround his position in centerfield.

    In his first 16 games with the Portland Sea Dogs this year, Ellsbury was hitting a lusty .449 and walked off with seven stolen bases, while only being nabbed once. 

    With such phenomenal stats, Ellsbury was called up to AAA Pawtucket to bat leadoff and play center field for the PawSox and went 1-for-4 with two runs scored in his AAA debut. Some day soon he may be snatching fly balls in that deep and dangerous centerfield corner at Fenway.

    Ryan Garko, former catcher for the Hyannis Mets in 2001 and 2002, has moved to first base and now starts for the Cleveland Indians. As a Met in 2001, Garko drove in 19 runs and hit .233.

    Selected in the third round by Cleveland in 2003, Garko bounced between the minors and short stints in the majors for the last three years, but established himself as a Major League-caliber hitter at the end of last season. 

    Called up August 8, 2006, Garko spent the remainder of the season with the Indians at first base, hitting in the number four spot for the majority of the 50 games in which he appeared. Despite playing in only a third of the Indians’s games, Garko still batted .292 with seven home runs and finished fifth among AL rookies with 45 RBI.

    Now calling the Major Leagues home as the Indians starting first baseman, Garko is batting .286 with three home runs and seven RBIs for the Indians this year. 

    Tim Lincecom – After watching Lincecom’s first bullpen session on the Cape, Harwich GM John Reid, Field Manager Steve Englert and the rest of the Mariners hierarchy knew they had something special in the 6-0, 160-pound right-hander from the University of Washington. 

    Lost in the shadows behind other flame-throwers such the North Carolina duo of Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard and two-way performer Brad Lincoln (Houston), Lincecum did NOT disappoint CCBL fans during the magical summer of 2005, leading the pitching-rich collegiate summer league with a microscopic 0.69 ERA (9th lowest in CCBL history), an eye-popping 68 strikeouts and a 2-2 record in just 39.1 innings. 

    At the beginning of the summer, Lincecum was a starter but was moved into the closer position after an injury and kept scouts around till the end of games. He was a major part of the record-setting Harwich pitching staff that finished the season with 445 strikeouts, a Cape League record. 

    With his mid 90's fastball and wide-breaking curveball, Lincecum’s rise to the major leagues was meteoric, following his being drafted in the first round by the San Francisco Giants and on May 7 made his MLB debut against the Philadelphia Phillies in a game televised nationally on ESPN. 

    Ironically, the 2006 Golden Spikes Award winner took the place of another former Cape Leaguer Russ Ortis (Yarmouth-Dennis ’94), who was placed on the 15-day disabled list. During his five starts at the AAA Fresno, Lincecom went a perfect 4-0 with 46 K’s and a 0.29 ERA in 31 innings, allowing just one run and 12 hits and going past the fifth inning in each start. 

    Andrew Miller, winner of the CCBL Pro Prospect and Top Pitcher Awards in 2005 while playing for the Chatham Athletics, appeared in eight games for the Detroit Tigers at the end of last season.
In his first season with the Athletics, Miller was 2-0 with an ERA just over two. In 40 innings, he struck out 48 hitters and only allowed nine runs on just 19 hits.Following that outstanding season, Miller further established himself as a dominant power lefty in 2005, going a perfect 6-0 and lowering his ERA to a miniscule 1.65. He struck out a staggering 66 batters in his 49 innings that season, adding an exclamation point to a phenomenal Cape League pitching career.

    At North Carolina, Miller went 12-2 with the Tar Heels in 2006, posting a 2.26 ERA and striking out 108 batters in 103 1/3 innings. Following that impressive season, many baseball analysts expected Miller to go first overall in the 2006 draft, but when the first five teams passed him over, Detroit happily snagged the lefty flame-thrower with their first pick.Miller was one of 198 former Cape League stars to play in the Major Leagues last year. For Andrew Miller, Ryan Garko, Jacoby Ellsbury, David Murphy and so many of the best aspiring baseball players at the college level, the Cape League represents the last stop on the way to professional ball.

    And for so many baseball fans, Cape Cod represents the one and only place to watch ‘the stars of tomorrow shine tonight.’

By Adam McGillen, CCBL Intern ([email protected])

John Garner, Jr.
Director of Public Relations & Broadcasting
(508) 790-0394 [email protected]