As the 2014 college baseball season gets underway and the Chatham Anglers roster release approaches, Chatham broadcaster Keith Zubrow takes one more look back at the summer of 2013 accompanied by the best photos of the summer.
The summer of 2013 will best be remembered for its magic, specifically in the late innings, as the Anglers walked off on five different occasions in route to a league best 26-17-1 record. For the 16th time, Chatham finished as the best regular season team on the Cape, thus claiming the Presidents Cup Trophy for the first time since 1999. The A's also took the Eastern Division regular season crown for an 18th time, the last division title coming in 2001.
Before the 2013 Anglers arrived in Chatham, a memorable summer was off to a roaring start. Twenty-four A's found their way onto the Major League opening day rosters, including New York Mets ace Matt Harvey ('08-09) who would go on to start the All-Star game for the National League. San Diego's Kris Bryant ('11) was selected by the Cubs with the second overall pick in the Major League draft. It was the 18th time in the last 21 seasons that a Chatham player had gone in the first round.
Manager John Schiffner returned to the Cape to lead the A's to the playoffs for a second straight season. Schiffner eclipsed the 450 win plateau and took home his second Manager of the Year award in his 21st as the Chatham headman. He welcomed a staff full of new faces including two former players, Nick Derba ('04-06) and Michael Surina ('07). This in addition to four players on the roster whose brothers had played under Schiff in previous summers.
Chatham Anglers on Flickr: The Best of 2013
While the 2013 summer was an all around success for the A's family, it was the players on the field that set the tone from the get-go.
Chatham welcomed Dante Flores (Southern Cal) back for a second summer in Angler blue. The Trojan infielder dominated Cape League pitching en route to a team leading .317 average, nearly .200 points higher than the season prior when Flores hit .124. Twice Dante sent Veterans Field into a frenzy with walk-off hits against Brewster. The Norwalk, California native was one of four Anglers to represent Chatham in the 2013 Cape League All-Star Game at Red Wilson Field, getting the start at second base.
The other All-Star starter was catcher Connor Joe (San Diego), whose raw athletic ability and baseball intuition helped to put his name into the lineup nearly every night. Twenty-one times Joe appeared behind the plate, learning a position that he played for less than an inning prior for the Toreros and skipper Rich Hill ('90-93).
On the mound, Lukas Schiraldi (Navarro College) stole the show, claiming the B.F.C. Whitehouse award as the Cape League's best pitcher. Schiraldi paced the CCBL with a 1.17 ERA and tied All-Star Matt Gage (Sienna) for a team-best four regular season wins. The righty won his final five starts (including the playoffs), yielding just a single earned run over 30 innings. In 2014 Lukas heads to Austin, Texas where he will suit up for the Longhorns.
While Schiraldi was blowing Cape League hitters away, the pitching staff behind him was no fluke. Tommy Lawrence (Maine) found his way back to Chatham for a second summer, and was nothing short of spectacular. Lawrence boasted a 3-0 record and 1.58 ERA seven games (four starts), taking home the John Claffey Award as the top New England prospect.
In the late frames John Schiffer had a bullpen that was lights out for much of the summer. Mitch Merten (UC Irvine), yielded just a single run in 17.1 innings, while striking out 20. The right hander was one of seven A's to pick up a save in 2013. Freshman Kyle Funkhouser (Louisville) led the team with four, while Jake Dorris (Texas A&M Corpus Christi) added three.
Perhaps the biggest advantage the Anglers pitching staff had in 2013 was the ability to be called upon with the lead. Much of the run support came from the middle of the order, which boasted Jimmy Pickens (Michigan State) and J.D. Davis (Cal State Fullerton). Pickens led the team with seven home runs and 23 RBI, while Davis, a two-way player, finished with three homers and 19 runs knocked in. However, both Davis and Pickens saved their best for when it counted the most.
For much of the summer the Anglers paced the Cape, and were considered by Perfect Game the best summer ball team in the nation. It was for good reason too, as the A's started the summer off with a six game winning streak, including a pair of victories coming in walk-off fashion. In fact, Chatham would walk off on back-to-back nights twice this summer, but it was the final time the Anglers claimed victory in their last at bat that was most memorable.
It was a typical summer night on Cape Cod, with humid air and a crowd north of 2,500 that sat and stood at Veterans Field, hoping to see the A's clinch a division crown. But things were not going according to plan. Chatham trailed by four runs headed into the bottom of the ninth inning, and after quick outs, the hope for a celebration seemed dim. Then J.D. Davis singled and Jimmy Pickens hit a moon shot onto Depot Road, and while no one could believe what was about to unfold, the A's were still alive.
Chatham loaded the bases that inning. Then knocked home one, then another, and despite being down to the final strike on three different occasions, the ball game was tied and headed to extras. While the comeback was one that you would see in a movie, the fairytale ending was not yet complete. Once more the A's loaded the bases with a hit batter, base knock and intentional walk. In stepped Jimmy Pickens, the same guy who started the rally with a towering shot to right just an inning earlier, and with the A's needing just a sac fly, the team leader in home runs was the man you would want up. But Jimmy had a different idea on his mind, dropping down a run-scoring safety squeeze that caught everyone in attendance by surprise, including Manager John Schiffner.
Chatham swept Y-D in the opening round of the playoffs behind a pair of grand slams from Dante Flores and J.D. Davis. All the momentum was leaning toward the Anglers, but a couple of days off, one expected, the other due to rain came in-between a series opener against rival Orleans.
The Firebirds played fundamental baseball winning Game 1 at Veterans Field in front of a crowd of over 4,000. A night later, Orleans eliminated Chatham at Eldredge Park, coming from behind to score the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.
When the lights flickered off for a final time at Veterans Field in 2013, it was a somber yet positive moment. The bitterness of playoff elimination lingered, but there was an ever-present sense of accomplishment. A group of young ballplayers from all over America flocked to the eastern most tip of the country, banded together, played for each other and put on a show for all to see. It was baseball at its purest, baseball at its best.
Keith Zubrow, a student at Syracuse University, is one of Chatham's play-by-play broadcasters on the Cape Cod Baseball Network.