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.