The RIBBE – The Rhode Island Baseball Experience

The Rhode Island Baseball Experience is the crack of the wooden bat, the first foul ball you chased down, watching future professional baseball players on a grassy hill in Wakefield, the joy of scoring the winning run in a title game. Here are some of the Rhode Island Baseball Experiences I would like to share with you.

Rhode Island Baseball Players and Families Should Be Prepared For High Heat This Weekend

When most of Rhode Island baseball leagues and school programs start in early Spring, I hear the following statements around the ballpark. “Baseball is a summer sport. Why are they playing in 30 degree weather? It is forecast to snow tonight into tomorrow, so there won’t even be a game???” Yes, baseball is much more suited for the warmer temperatures. But this weekend’s forecast of 90 degree (maybe 100 in some areas) temperatures and the added humidity levels can put players, coaches, and families in danger of health risks such as dehydration, heat stroke, and other heat related illness.

I’m so lucky to have expert resources in my Rolodex that are not only parents, but also baseball coaches, baseball instructors, and medically trained and licensed medical professionals. Two of these resources, Matt Hopkins and Jason Harvey, have been great supporters of the Rhode Island Baseball Experience and I reached out to them this week to discuss the heat element in youth baseball, especially with the Rhode Island Little League State Tournaments starting this Saturday. Here is more from Matt and Jason on the heat and how to be safe and prepared.

Matt – What I want to focus on is being an advocate for yourself as a player and parent…there is a difference between being “tough” and understanding the symptoms of dehydration/heat stroke. That mindset of toughing it out in the dangerous heat is a balance. For younger kids, parents need to keep an eye on the kids behavior on the field and in the dugout. Older players need to not tough it through the extreme heat and be able to speak up/communicate with their coaches.

Matt Hopkins is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and owns/operates Hops Athletic Performance, 9 Lincoln Ave., Coventry.

The Hat Wall of Fame at Hops Athletic Performance

Jason – With temperatures expected to be in the 90’s this weekend, the heat will definitely be a factor. In order to beat the heat, coaches, parents, and players should have a plan before arriving to the field:

  1. Hydration.  No kidding.  Proper hydration prior to playing is important.  If a player is not properly hydrated prior to the game, it will be very difficult to become well hydrated during the game. Drinking up to 16 ounces of water one hour before game time will help with hydration throughout the game.  During the game, the player should be drinking 5-6 ounces of water or a sports drink every half inning.  This will require the player to have two 16 ounce bottles of water and two 20 ounce bottles of a sports drink to get through a full game in 90 degree weather.  The player should then drink 16 ounces of water through the one hour following the game.  Players should avoid caffeinated beverages such as soda or coffee.  Caffeinated beverages will further dehydrate the player and have the reverse effect of water and sports drinks.  Be careful if any players take medication for inflammation, allergies, or any other condition.  Medication usage often require further hydration.  Even over the counter medication like Advil, Claritin, Benadryl, and others can cause players to become dehydrated and increase their body temperature prematurely.  Be careful with any increase in Protein intake.  If a player is drinking protein shakes or is eating foods high in protein prior to game time, the body can become excessively dehydrated.
  2. Find the shade as often as possible.  If the bench does not have a roof on the dugout, put a tent over the bench to keep players out of the sun. 
  3. Take hats, helmets, and gloves off when you’re on the bench.  Our bodies get rid of excess heat through the head and hands.  The reason we wear hats and gloves in the winter is to keep heat in.  When it’s hot and you want to decrease the heat, take your hat and gloves off.  Players should also take off batting gloves when they are on the bench and on base.  Give them to the base coach.
  4. Use cooling towels.  There are several brands of cooling towels that players should wrap around their neck and head when they are on the bench.  The cooling towels are drenched with cool water and then wrung out.  After the water is wrung out, you snap the towels to activate the material.  Activation of the material creates a cold towel.  The player can re-snap the towel and re-wet the towel each inning.
  5. Players should be rotated more frequently.  Particular attention should be paid to catchers and pitchers.  Catchers for obvious reasons should not play more than two consecutive innings.  Pitchers will fatigue quicker in excessive heat so normal pitch counts will not be sufficient.  Players should get a chance to rotate out of the game for at least one inning if possible.
  6. If playing more than one game in a day, eat water filled snacks between games.  – Watermelon, Strawberries, etc.  Eating some snacks with salt will also help with retaining water.  Snacks like pretzels and granola bars have sodium content that is sufficient to help retain water.
  7. Consider putting an ice pack on your neck when you come back into the dugout after being in the field.  After a few minutes, the player can put the ice pack back in an insulated lunch box to use next inning.  Having a few ice packs in the lunch box to last through the game will help the player keep their core body temperature in a safe zone.
  8. Coaches and parents will have to remind their player(s) to hydrate, use cooling towels, get out of the sun, use sunscreen, take their hats and gloves off, etc.  Don’t expect your players to remember.  They are engaged in the game.  They are thinking about their next at bat, the next play, and get distracted by teammates very easily.  
    There’s nothing like being at the ball field on a sunny summer day.  The better you beat the heat, the better chance you have at being your best and avoiding the dangers of heat exhaustion.
  9. Have fun this weekend! Play Ball!

Jason Harvey is a licensed Physical Therapist and is the co-owner of Elite Physical Therapy, which has over 10 therapy and treatment locations throughout Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.

The towel around the player’s neck is an example of a Cooling Towel.

Great advice from two former high level baseball players now parents and medical professionals working here in Rhode Island. The RIBBE is so blessed to have these great resources to give much needed advice on this and so many other important topics. I want to thank Matt Hopkins of Hops Athletic Performance and Jason Harvey of Elite Physical Therapy for their words of wisdom.

And to every player, parent, coach, fan, and league personnel attending the games this weekend for the Rhode Island State Little League Championships, be safe and stay COOL!!!

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The RIBBE Gets To Know Cranston’s Jeff Diehl – From CLCF To The Mets

This past winter, I got to know John DeRouin and some of the staff at local baseball resource, Hops Athletic Performance. Hops AP is a sports and conditioning resource facility for youth athletes, and is owned by Physical Therapist and Baseball Expert, Matt Hopkins. John and a few of his classmates held a charity indoor baseball tournament utilizing the batting cages at Hops Athletic Performance and the Hit Trax system. And John has stayed in touch with me throughout his baseball season at CCRI and now this summer.

John emailed me a few weeks back after seeing a few posts of mine involving RI players who have moved on to the Cape Cod League and even professional baseball. He texted me that he will be running a clinic this summer with a local RI baseball star, whom he thought would be a great story for RI baseball fans get to know. That player is Cranston’s Jeff Diehl, who I recently got to know through email. Jeff and John’s camp flyer is below:

Here is an excerpt from my conversation with RI’s Jeff Diehl, who told me a story that seems straight out of a Hollywood movie. Except this story actually happened.

RIBBE – Jeff, thanks again for agreeing to do this. So growing up in Rhode Island, did you play youth baseball? If so, for whom?  What was that experience like for you? Any state titles or championships?

Jeff – Growing up in Cranston, RI I got involved playing organized baseball at age 7 with CLCF which is a Cal Ripken league. My experience was some of the best times I’ve ever had playing the game. Our teams won the 9U, 10U, 11U, and 12U year old state championships. Though we never won the New England Regional, we were always a tough out and our best finish was 2nd my 12 year old year. 

RIBBE – How about the next phase in your baseball youth development? Was it AAU, a travel team?

Jeff – After my 12U season, I went on to play in the Cranston Babe Ruth league. And in my 13 and 14 year old years division, our team won one RI State championship during that time. I also played for Western Hills Middle School baseball team during my 7th and 8th grade years (Cranston didn’t have middle school sports my 6th grade year ) . We won the state title during my 8th grade year. At age 15, I stopped playing Babe Ruth and played for the American Legion Post 20 team and in the fall played in the RI Amateur League for Westcott. Growing up my dream was always to play professional baseball and from a young age that’s all I ever thought about doing. 

RIBBE – What was/is your primary position?

Jeff – My primary position was always catcher but during youth baseball and middle school I also pitched and played some infield and outfield. I ended up being drafted as a catcher out of high school.

RIBBE – How did you manage with the weather being such a factor in Rhode Island most of the year as opposed to say sunny Southern California?

Jeff – The weather never really came into play with me because once I entered high school and the cold months rolled around I was either playing football or basketball. I played football my freshman and sophomore years. Sophomore year I was the varsity quarterback but stopped playing after that to give myself some more time to focus on baseball… I played basketball all four years and our team won the state championship my senior year. 

RIBBE – When did the scouts start showing up for HS games?

Jeff – Scouts starting showing up starting my junior year at Cranston West High School. They even attended a couple basketball games to see what type of athlete I was.

RIBBE – How was the process of getting drafted? Stressful? A lot of letters and phone calls I’m guessing. When were you selected in the professional baseball draft? And by whom? Do you remember where you were and what that felt like?

Jeff – The draft process was an exciting time for not only myself but my family as well. It was a lot of letters in the mail, phone calls, and scouts at the house interviewing me. I was drafted in 2011 in the 23rd round by the New York Mets. I was actually playing in Game 2 of the RI High School State Championship against North Kingstown at McCoy Stadium when I found out I had been drafted. My dad came down towards the dugout from the stands and broke the news to me. My next at bat, I hit a home run – which has made for a good story.

RIBBE – How was the competition at Single A, Double A? I’m not sure how high up you got, so feel free to expound on the various levels of professional baseball you played at. What was Spring Training like? Did you attend?

Jeff – In 2017, I ended up making it to High A in the Florida State league where I made the all star team. The competition in that league was really good and filled with a lot of top prospects. Unfortunately my year was cut short due to injury.  Never got the invite to major league spring training but I attended minor league spring training every year from 2012-2018. Spring training was basically a month of the same schedule everyday Monday-Sunday with 1 off day thrown in. Spring training wasn’t a get in shape camp for the season so to speak. We were expected to be in shape and ready to go from day 1 to make a team. A normal day would be getting to the field around 7am, eat breakfast, get a workout in, and be on the field from 9am -noon practicing. We would get an hour lunch break and games would start at 1pm. 

RIBBE – What was it like playing for Brooklyn with the backdrop of Coney Island in the neighborhood (Side note: I lived in Brooklyn for a few years)?

Jeff – I spent parts of two summers in Brooklyn playing for the Cyclones ( 14’ and 15’ ). I loved living in Brooklyn during that time and playing for those fans. The atmosphere at MCU Park is unmatched through all levels of minor league baseball. Some of my best memories playing pro ball come from my time in Brooklyn.

RIBBE – When was it time to call it a career? How was that feeling? A relief? Disappointment? Did you feel that an injury shortened your career?

Jeff – In 2017 my season was cut short due to injury. I had two disc herniations in my lower back ( L4-L5 + L5-S1 discs ). I had surgery towards the end of 2017 and the Mets reassigned me for the 2018 season as a pitcher. I spent all spring training and extended spring training going through the position change process. Unfortunately, I was never able to get back to 100% and I ended up asking for my release mid season. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a disappointing way to end my career but I’m thankful for all the opportunities that I had and that I was able to ride it out for as long as I did.

RIBBE – What advice would you give RI baseball prospects who have hopes and dreams to make it in professional baseball such as yourself?

Jeff – My advice to anyone trying to make it to professional baseball would be to play hard, have fun playing the game and to work on your craft everyday. I’m looking to stay in the game and teach lessons and maybe even coach one day.  Pro ball gave me the opportunity to play the game I love every single day and I’ll always grateful for that. 

I want to thank John DeRouin, Matt Hopkins for introducing me to RI’s Jeff Diehl, who climbed the baseball ranks from Cranston’s CLCF, through Babe Ruth, Western Hills Middle School – all the way to the professional baseball ranks with the New York Mets farm system. I loved the story about his home run at McCoy after he learned of his name being called by the Mets in the 2011 draft. Memorable to say the least. Maybe Jeff will get a chance to play himself in the Hollywood adaptation of that event.

In the meantime, Jeff and John will be running a Pro Style Baseball Clinic this August. The clinic will take place at Cranston West High School, with a rain/weather option at Hops Athletic Performance, Coventry. Contact John at 401.525.6506 for more information about the clinic. Looks like an amazing week of baseball for players ages 13-16.

2019 Rhode Island Little League District All Star Tournament Recap

I had an opportunity to travel to several Rhode Island District Tournament games this summer. The truth is, I wish I could go to all of the games in every District because the atmosphere is so incredible. You have these youth athletes playing at a very high level, parents and friends cheering on every pitch, huge enthusiastic and passionate crowds, and local community pride is just exuding from every inch of every ball park. Parents of players text neighbors and family members during the game for updates. Social media is buzzing with photos and videos before, during, and after the games. The feeling that recreation baseball has somehow passed us all by is non-existent at these District Tournament games. If we as a RI Baseball community could only harness the intensity, the passion, and the sense of community from these District games and pour it into the regular season games, practices, and events – the thought of recreation baseball going away becomes an afterthought. But, that is for another blog.

Here is the recap of your 2019 District All-Stars and where they will be playing next:

10U Division – State Tournament to be hosted by Cranston Western Little League

  • District 1 – Cranston Western
  • District 2 – Portsmouth
  • District 3 – Warwick Continental American
  • District 4 – Smithfield

11U Division – State Tournament to be hosted by Smithfield Little League

  • District 1 – Cranston Western
  • District 2 – Barrington
  • District 3 – North Kingstown/Wickford
  • District 4 – Smithfield

12U Division – State Tournament to be hosted by East Greenwich Little League

  • District 1 – Cranston Western
  • District 2 – Barrington
  • District 3 – Chariho
  • District 4 – Burrillville

Juniors Division – State Tournament to be hosted by Johnston Little League

  • District 1 – Johnston
  • District 2 – Tiverton
  • District 3 – East Greenwich
  • District 4 – Cumberland

Seniors Division – The RI State Champions is Elmwood Little League

Good luck to all the players, coaches, and families participating in the 2019 Rhode Island State Tournaments and Congrats to Elmwood for winning the Seniors Division States.

Now Pitching For The Wareham Gatemen…RI’s Mike Webb

I recently posted a few stories on my RIBBE Facebook page about RI baseball players who are playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League.  The Cape Cod Baseball League is widely regarded as the most prestigious summer baseball league in the country, attracting top collegiate talent from all over the USA.  Players who are considered top prospects for professional baseball line each and every one of the ten Cape Cod League teams. And you can look to Major League baseball for hundreds of former Cape Cod League players every single time you go to Fenway, Yankee Stadium, Los Angeles, Texas, and every park in between.  So, to play on a team in the Cape Cod League, you have to be really, really good at baseball. I found such a player from Pawtucket, RI who fits that description.

Matt Hopkins from Hops Athletic Performance is a great baseball and sports conditioning resource and works with youth athletes, collegiate players, and the professionals.  Matt messaged me back about this player I posted about and why he thought this player would be an outstanding article and role model for any youth athlete – baseball, football, softball, whatever.  Hopkins remarked about his journey, his work ethic, and that his draft stock is going up, up, and up. Hops started working with him after this player lost a year of college baseball to injury (broken foot), transferred schools, changed majors and essentially moved back home to RI from Vermont.  The player I posted about, the player Matt Hopkins has worked with and helped to train, the player from Pawtucket, RI playing in the Cape Cod League is Mike Webb.

I texted Mike to gauge his interest in answering a few questions about his RI baseball experiences, his college journey, and his time now on Cape Cod.  His responses were really well thought out and insightful about what is like to play in this incredible baseball league. I hope to someday shake his hand and watch him pitch.  Mike’s path in college baseball has taken many turns but he has remained focused and determined to be the best player he can be. Youth athletes should take notice and see how a (soon to be) professional handles himself.  I was really impressed with his answers and would like to share them you here:

RIBBE – Mike, good morning.  Thanks again for agreeing to do this and continued success not only this summer but at RIC.  Tell me a little bit about your Rhode Island baseball roots – Little League? AAU? What was that experience like?

Mike – Noel, I played Little League for Darlington National at Slater Park in Pawtucket. I was the first person to throw a perfect game for that league and I was 12 years old (17 out of 18 batters were K’s). I started Little League a year early (for my age group) and continued playing rec ball until I began high school at Bishop Hendricken High School. Before high school began, I worked out with Ken Ryan, of Ken Ryan (KR) Baseball Academy. 

Once high school began, I played for the freshman team at Bishop Hendricken. I played second and pitched and I threw a no hitter against Middletown. That summer, I played Connie Mac for “Flood Ford” and also for Ken Ryan’s Express Team (The foundation of my pitching success comes first from my brother and secondly from Ken Ryan). Sophomore year I player JV and just mainly pitched, didn’t get as much playing time as I wanted and always had a chip on my shoulder. That summer I played for Senerchia Post 74 American Legion with Matt Murphy, Mike King, and Rob Henry.  Junior year and senior year I played Varsity and played infield and pitched. I had a few starts and mostly relieved. We won the championship both years and I closed the championship game my senior year (bases loaded no outs and I came in; and we won the next half inning with a walk off hit). The whole McCoy experience was surreal. I had been watching games at that stadium since I was a kid and I remember watching my cousin Jay Rainville pitch at that field and thinking it was the coolest thing that I have ever seen. At the time, I never thought I had the potential to play at that AAA level. I was just focused on getting better and working towards starting at College. I committed to St. Michael’s College that same spring. 

After high school, I played for Collette American Legion in the summer under coach James Mello. Freshman year of college at Saint Mike’s was a great experience for me.  I learned a lot being on my own and I significantly improved as a baseball player. I started at shortstop freshman year and was our number two starter. Unfortunately, I got hurt the fourth game of preseason and was out for the remainder of the season with a broken foot. I decided to switch my major to nursing and transferred to Rhode Island College to start my freshman year over again with a medical redshirt.

RIBBE – How many years have you played in the Cape Cod League?

Mike – Over my college career, I played two summers in the NECBL (New England Collegiate Baseball League). One summer with the Newport Gulls (freshman summer), and one with the Winnipesaukee Muskrats (sophomore summer). This summer is my last summer or college summer eligibility and my first time playing in the Cape Cod League.

RIBBE – What is your daily routine, baseball wise, on a game day?  Off day?

Mike – A typical game day begins for me by getting to the field around 11:30. I start my day by training with our personal trainer Tim and he walks me through about an hour and a half to a two hour workout session. Around 1 or 1:30, I make my way down to the field and take some swings in the cage as an early batting practice. Although I do not hit this summer, I like to maintain my swing for my collegiate season. Add about 2:45, we have our team meeting which involves discussing game notes from the previous game and talking about things we can work on for the day. Coach Weinstein wisely reads us a parable or fable of sorts that is meant to get our mental approach positive for the start of the game. We next activate by doing a team warm-up and stretch and shortly after we begin to throw lightly. Next the pitchers work on team fundamentals and work with the infielders doing PFP‘s and pick off plays to various bases. After this the pitchers and the position players split up and us pitchers work with Coach Lawler and go over our signs again and work on plyo care. We do this for about an hour and then have a break to eat before the game. During this break, I like to go out and shag and work on reading the ball off the bat from the outfield in order to get ready for my college season. Once the position players break to get food, I typically go back and hit some more in the cage. We typically reconvene at around 5:30 and get dressed and ready for the game. The position players will take infield and outfield and a few of us pitchers will join in on this and back up some of the bases to simulate a game like feel. After this, off day pitchers may throw some bullpens flat grounds or long toss of sorts before the game begins. At 6:45, we do the national anthem and the game begins. 

Other than 4 July, we have yet to have an off day. 

RIBBE – Overall, how would you define the experience in playing in one, if not the, elite baseball summer league in all of the US?  Given the history of players who have played in the Cape Cod League who went onto play professional baseball, it must be very satisfying for you and your family to have played in this league.

Mike – Baseball is an everyday opportunity in the summer.  Being on a Cape Cod roster has taught me a lot about being mentally tough and physically capable of becoming a great player. If I can do one thing every day that makes me a little bit better than I consider that day to be a success. Under the coaching of Coach Weinstein and Coach Lawler, I feel as though my knowledge of the game has improved greatly and my optimism has improved tremendously.

It is truly a blessing and a God-given opportunity that I was allowed to play in this historic league. It is by far the most consistent and best competition I have played with and played against however there are a select amount of players in the little east conference that could hold their own against these high caliber players.  Playing Division III Baseball was the best thing that could have happened in my athletic career. It allowed me to play college baseball and consistently gave me the hunger to better myself. It has always been a goal of mine to play baseball at the professional level and I believe that no matter where you play, if you are what the scouts are looking for then they will find you.

Many of the words that Coach Weinstein has spoken have resonated with me. One saying in particular was his talk about the achievement trap. In summary, he says that those who are content with what they achieved and let this moment in particular be the greatest of their lives will never reach a little bit higher for that bar that’s just out of reach. I am more than grateful for this opportunity to play in this highly prestigious league but I don’t want this success to be the highlight of my athletic career. I will always reach higher.

Just an incredible read and I loved Mike’s poignant and honest answers and reflection on his situation. The Wareham Gatemen have a busy summer schedule of games, so if you are ever in the area of Spillane Stadium in Wareham, stop in and catch a game. And, Mike has one more year of eligibility at Rhode Island College baseball and I wish him the very best.

For more information on the Wareham Gatemen, go to www.gatemen.org.

Now Pitching For The Falmouth Commodores…RI’s Caleb Wurster

I recently posted a few stories on my RIBBE Facebook page about RI baseball players who are playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League. The Cape Cod Baseball League is widely regarded as the most prestigious summer baseball league in the country, attracting top collegiate talent from all over the USA. Players who are considered top prospects for professional baseball line each and every one of the ten Cape Cod League teams. And you can look to Major League baseball for hundreds of former Cape Cod League players every single time you go to Fenway, Yankee Stadium, Los Angeles, Texas, and every park in between. So, to play on a team in the Cape Cod League, you have to be really, really good at baseball. I found such a player from Coventry, RI who fits that description.

Matt Hopkins from Hops Athletic Performance is a great baseball and sports conditioning resource and works with youth athletes, collegiate players, and the professionals. Matt messaged me back about a player I posted about and why he thought this player would be an outstanding article and role model for any youth athlete – baseball, football, softball, whatever. Hopkins remarked about his journey, his work ethic, and that his draft stock is going up, up, and up. The player I posted about, the player Matt Hopkins has worked with and helped to train, the player from Coventry, RI playing in the Cape Cod League is Caleb Wurster.

Photo snapshot courtesy of University of Connecticut website

I texted Caleb to gauge his interest in answering a few questions about his RI baseball experiences, his college journey, and his time now on Cape Cod. His responses, his answers spoke volumes about what kind of an awesome person Caleb is. I hope to someday shake his hand and watch him pitch. Based on his prep baseball scouting report, which was in his words, Caleb is a fantastic human being who has a grounded sense of self and an appreciative sense of who got him to where he is today. Youth athletes should take notice and see how a (soon to be) professional handles himself. I was really impressed with his answers and would like to share them you here:

RIBBE – Caleb, good afternoon.  Thanks again for agreeing to do this and continued success not only this summer but at UCONN.  Tell me a little bit about your Rhode Island baseball roots – Little League? AAU? What was that experience like? How did you settle on being a pitcher?  Was that your position throughout youth baseball or something you worked towards later on?  You played at Bishop Hendricken (Matt Hopkins filled me in).  Were there any state championships in your HS career? 

Caleb – I grew up in Coventry RI since I was 3. Started playing little league for central Coventry (now just Coventry) at 6 years old. I was blessed with amazing coaches that taught me love and respect for the game as well as friends that I hangout with even today. One teammate and his father particularly had a large impact on me: Mason Feole and his father Anthony Feole. That name may be familiar as for the past two years Mason was a teammate of mine again at UCONN, which was an absolute blessing. Mason’s father was our coach in little league for quite a while as well as the 1 year I played AAU for the Blackstone Valley River Dogs. We parted ways in high school where I attended BHHS(Bishop Hendricken High School). There I was a pitcher and an outfielder for my freshman year and part of my sophomore year until my coach thought it’d be best that I focus on pitching. I made Varsity my junior and senior year and had good years but never blew anyone away with my ability. I always loved competing though, whether it was a bad day for me or not I never wanted to come out of the game. We won 3 state championships for baseball over my tenure at BHHS.

By my senior year, I was dead set on playing football in college. However, I broke my right collarbone my senior year in preseason and so I sat out for 90% of the season so instead of looking at colleges I began to look at prep schools for a 5th year. I was beyond blessed to receive a full scholarship to Suffield Academy in Suffield, CT. There I played football and had a great season and a handful of options for football in college. However, after a couple minor injuries along the season I knew I needed to decide which sport I would give up. After a lot of thought and prayer I knew I couldn’t give up baseball. My head coach, Bryan Brissette, for baseball (who was also an assistant coach for the football team) began to help me try and get recruited for baseball. I emailed multiple schools, all of which showed minor interest. My head coach suggested I look at UConn as he was old friends with Coach James Penders. I went to a camp over the winter for UConn and did very poorly but they liked my mechanics so they said they’d follow me along the baseball season. At Suffield something clicked, as I went undefeated on the season with a couple of shutouts, one of which was against one of the top baseball schools Cheshire academy, a game at which coach Penders had shown up to watch me pitch. Giving up just 1 hit in 6 innings, he called me the next day saying that he wanted me to come visit the campus. When I did he was straightforward with me the whole way, telling me that he had no money for me and not even a guaranteed spot on the spring roster but he believed that I had the competitive spirit to win a spot. I had an OK fall with them but was working as hard as I could and he could see that so I was on the spring roster. After a few weeks into the season of not playing he asked if I wanted to redshirt and since there were minimal innings on the table I agreed. Continued working and played for the Brockton Rox in the FCBL for the summer where again I had a decent amount of success but nothing outstanding. After a mediocre fall back at UConn in 2018, I had a meeting with the coaching staff where they told me I was basically the 36th man on the roster, and they were right. They asked if they wanted to help me transfer so I went home that weekend to talk to my father about it. He said that I had come so far and surpassed so many obstacles that it would be foolish to lay down and not fight like I had thus far. I agreed to stay and that winter I worked harder than I ever have for anything. My pitching coach Joshua MacDonald has worked with a freshman that fall on lowering his arm slot and although it didn’t workout for him I thought I’d try it out. Over the winter I basically threw twice as much as I normally would, working on both over the top and side arm. When I got back to school in January in my first live appearance, I threw from both arm slots: 81-84 over the top and 84-86 from the side. From then on my coaches told me to stick to side arm. In about a month and a half of throwing live from the side I got my velocity up to 87-90. After two pretty rough appearances to begin the year I buckled down and began to fill up the zone and became successful. 

Photo snapshot courtesy of University of Connecticut website

RIBBE – Do players register for The Cape League or are they recruited?  Can you tell me a little bit about the process on how you were selected?  Do you get to then select a team if multiple squads are interested in you?

Caleb – Most Cape Cod contracts are initiated at the beginning of the collegiate season but I wasn’t terribly good then so wasn’t offered a contract till about a third into our season. Basically coaches from the cape watch college players as they go along and inform their college coaches that they have interest and then a player signs with them. I was a temporary contract at Wareham to start. As guys came in and spots decreased my pitching coaches fought for a spot for me on Falmouth where I am now.

RIBBE – Would you say this is the best competition you have ever played against?  Playing in the American Athletic Conference at UCONN, I’m sure you see a ton of collegiate talent every game.  But is the Cape Cod League truly the best competition you have faced?

Caleb – The cape is absolutely the best competition I’ve ever faced. Aside from team USA, these players are the all stars so to speak of returning college players. In an AAC game you might have 2-4 cape level competitors, but here you face them everyday (obviously).

RIBBE – How are the games attended in terms of fans?  And I’m sure there are MLB scouts floating around.

Caleb – We get about 600-1300 fans a game id say. Yeah, at least 6 scouts a game, from what I can see.

RIBBE – Overall, how would you define the experience in playing in one, if not the, elite baseball summer league in all of the US?  Given the history of players who have played in the Cape Cod League who went onto play professional baseball, it must be very satisfying for you and your family to have played in this league.

Caleb – I’ve had the time of my life here and have been blessed with an amazing host family for the summer with two sons who love baseball. The guys here are amazing and I’ve made life long friendships with many of them.

The Falmouth Commodores are at Bourne tonight, then at Hyannis, at Cotuit, and at Chatham before heading home to play two games at home vs Bourne and Brewster. The Commodores play their home games at Guv Field, Falmouth. In fact, the Falmouth Commodores are scheduled to play 14 games (one doubleheader) in the next 13 days. A taste of the professional baseball schedule, I would say. For more information on the Falmouth Commodores, go to www.falmouthcommodores.com.

And special thanks to Coventry, RI’s Caleb Wurster. A great story of perseverance, hard work, and truly listening to the baseball coaches and mentors in your life that are smarter than you, even the ones right in your very own home. Congrats Caleb on all your success and good luck this summer and next year at the University of Connecticut.

RIBBE Training Days – 21 Days to Run to Home Base Event

For the past several weeks, I have been training for the Red Sox: Run to Home Base Event in late July. I have been raising money via friends and fellow coaches in RI baseball in support of this important race and the awareness the event brings to Veterans. I am running in honor of my Dad, who was a Vietnam Veteran and a longtime sufferer of PTSD. When I mentioned the race and the cause to my Dad, he was literally speechless. That’s the impact this event has on Veterans.

You can learn more about the Red Sox: Run to Home Base event by logging onto their official website at www.runtohomebase.org.

In my training log for June and July, I have added cross training into my regimen to help build up my endurance and overall body strength. I still run about 2.5 miles every few days to stay on track for my ultimate goal of running the 5K, which is about 3.1 miles. I love to swim and bike, so these two physical fitness disciplines have really helped my conditioning. Biking especially, because it is helping to increase my leg strength, cardiovascular fitness, and mental toughness.

I find a lot of parallels between cycling and baseball, especially pitching. In cycling, you have flat ground roads, uphill climbs, and downhill cruising, so it is important to pace yourself throughout your ride so you have the energy to accomplish all three types of terrain. With pitching, you have easy innings, you have bases loaded jams to get out of, and you have the end of your pitch count/game. Just like in cycling on the easy roads, you need to maintain your composure, do your job, and stay focused even though the overall stress is moderate to low. When you have an uphill climb in cycling, you can downshift to make the trip uphill more efficient and most often, easier to accomplish. Same with pitching in a stressful situation – take a few extra moments on the mound to de-stress and breathe, focus on your immediate task (the batter at the plate), maybe take a little bit off your fastball to get outs. Your bicycle is a machine with gears and mechanisms to help you get from one place to another. Your team has fielders who will help you get outs and out of a stressful inning. You don’t have to strike everyone out and you don’t have to climb that hill in the hardest gear on your bike.

On the downhills, you can see the bottom of the hill and maybe the finish line of your ride or event or race. Maintain a good cadence on your pedaling and keep your eye on the prize. It gives me an extra boost mentally seeing the finish line and that my workout is just about over. Same thing on the mound. If you are going out to finish a game or your coach tells you that your pitch count limit is nearing, go out with the intensity and focus to finish strong. Mentally, get your body and arm ready to take on that challenge of finishing the game or getting to your pitch count limit with a positive inning.

With 3 weeks to go for the Red Sox: Run To Home Base Event, my legs and lungs feel great. I know I am 100% mentally ready to do this 5K and my body is working its way up to 100% as well. Cycling and swimming have added a great mix of strength and cardio to my running workouts. And I love the similarities between cycling and pitching. If you are on a long ride, you get to think a lot about a lot of stuff, so these are just some of my cycling/baseball thoughts for the day.

If you would like to donate to my page for the 2019 Red Sox: Run To Home Base event, thank you in advance. Here is the link if you would like to contribute to this fantastic cause – The RIBBE Runs To Home Base