by Bill Haardt
Towards the end of last summer, I was working out in Willy’s Gym on the Cape as the locals say, in Orleans, MA, to be specific, and I noticed a team of guys coming in for their workout. T-shirts ranged from USF to UCSB colleges and other schools across the country. I knew it must have been a Cape Cod league team and I assumed it was the Orleans Firebirds.
The Cape Cod Baseball League is the oldest (1855) and most prestigious of the summer college baseball leagues. Scouts come from all of the MLB teams to see the college players hit with wooden bats and many are drafted the following Spring after their summer baseball league experience. Here is a great article written about SF Giants star Matt Duffy and how his Cape Cod league experience with the Orleans Firebirds changed his hitting for the better, which helped him make the transition to the MLB. Right next to him on the SF Giants field, Brandon Crawford, also played for the Orleans Firebirds. In fact, much of the SF Giants infield also played for the CCBL, including Buster Posey, Joe Panik and former Giants Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito.
I often tell my son, Liam, when we are watching our beloved Giants from our new home in Maryland, “Look there’s Crawford and Duffy playing next to each other, both played for the Orleans Firebirds.” My wife, Mary Switzer, who worked in the Language Department for SI for 10 years, spends part of the summer in Orleans, MA, where her father and mother built a home there over 20 years ago. It is an idyllic place in the summer and a great place to watch the best of college baseball.
I said hello to one of the players and asked what team they were from, he said, “Brewster Whitecaps.” I then asked, “I see many of you are from the West Coast, any chance you know any players from St Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco.” I thought it was a shot in the dark but it didn’t hurt to ask. I had already discovered what a small world it is after meeting the head coach of the Orleans Firebirds, Kelly Nicholson, who teaches math at Loyola High in LA. He worked with Paul Molinelli at Loyola and coached for many years there as well. Currently he is the Assistant Coach with LMU and still teaches at Loyola HS. The young man pointed across the room to Nico Giarratano ’13.
I taught Religion and coached tennis during my 11 years at St Ignatius, though I never taught Nico. We said hello and he remembered my name and face. He mentioned Matt Krook ’13 and Jack Klein ’13 were also on the Cape for the summer. I told him congratulations on making the CCBL and I would be out to see him when they play Orleans. (See photos at the top of this page.) Matt Krook was playing for the Wareham Gatemen and Jack Klein was playing for the Cotuit Kettleers. I taught Jack Klein as a sophomore at SI and also taught and coached Matt Krook’s sister Kelsey Krook. I planned my games so I could go see all SI alums playing in the CCBL. I was able to see both Jack Klein and Nico Giarratano play. I surprised Jack on the field as it had been 4 years since we saw each other, as I moved to MD to be closer to family after his sophomore year. I was so proud of these SI baseball players, and I thought I should write a story about these three SI alums playing in the famous CCBL, all from the 2013 class.
As we start the summer of 2016, many probably have heard that Matt Krook was drafted by his hometown SF Giants and Jack Klein was drafted by the Phillies. Both Nico and Jack are playing on the Cape this summer, Jack for Cotuit again and Nico will play for Wareham, Krook’s team last summer. I did not see Krook playing on the Cape after researching each roster.
It is amazing to see the connections back to SI, 3,000 miles away on the East Coast. I invite all SI Alumni and family to visit Cape Cod in the summer to explore some of the best beaches in the world and watch the best college summer baseball you can find. The real secret is the pace of life on the Cape during the summer. Everything resets to a Norman Rockwell painting; you pull up a chair/blanket and watch some great players, many future MLB stars, play the greatest game on earth. Last summer ended with my son meeting the SF Giants scout for the Cape Code League and my son got to hold the latest World Series ring. (See photo above.) I think I was more excited than he was!
Happy Summer to all and as former SI teachers of over 10 years; my wife and I hope to see you on the Cape one summer! Go Wildcats! Go Giants! Who knows what future SI Alums will join the Cape Code Baseball League and future MLB?
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