Speedy Dracut native signs pro contract
The Harwich Mariners were playing the Falmouth Commodores July 14 when Aaron Barbosa hit his first “home run.”
The ball never cleared the outfield fence. It barely left the infield.
In the top of the ninth inning with his team on its way to an 8-3 win, Barbosa beat out a three-hopper to the shortstop for an infield single. On the next pitch he stole second, and when the catcher’s throw sailed into center field, Barbosa advanced to third. Three pitches later, he scored on a wild pitch.
His teammates dubbed the sequence “The Barbosa Home Run.”
With an unmatched tenacity on the basepaths, the Dracut native was a terror for opposing pitchers and catchers. After 27 games in the prestigious Cape Cod League, he led all base stealers with 19 (22 attempts), while hitting .344 in the leadoff slot.
The pitchers and catchers of the Cape League can breathe a sigh of relief. Last Wednesday, the Seattle Mariners signed the speedy center fielder to a professional contract. He arrived in Pulaski, Va., on Monday to join the Pulaski Mariners, the MLB club’s advanced rookie affiliate of the Appalachian League.
“I knew it was a possibility because my coach had been talking to me about it,” Barbosa said. “But definitely, the offer was surprising. I called a bunch of people and asked their opinions and tried to make my own decision. It was tough, but I made the right decision.”
Barbosa weighed the decision heavily as he set his sights on his upcoming senior season at Northeastern. Last year, as a junior, he started all 57 games in right field and stole 26 bases. In three years he has swiped 69 bags, which is the most in program history.
Last season, he helped Northeastern to a 31-26 record — its first wining season since 2009 — and a trip to the Colonial Athletic Association semifinals. As a freshman, he set the Northeastern single-season record with 29 steals, and as a sophomore, set the single-season mark with 76 hits.
“It was tough to leave school,” said Barbosa, who studied civil engineering. “That definitely played a big factor. We have a great team coming back. We worked hard to get the team to the point we got to.”
There is the old sports adage that speed cannot be taught. It is one of the most invaluable assets an athlete can possess. Barbosa, who starred on the soccer, basketball, and baseball teams at Dracut High, cannot explain his speed.
But it is more than raw, physical talent that helps him steal bases seemingly at will. In the Cape League, where the talent is plentiful and catchers are equipped with strong arms, a keen attention to detail has led to his success.
Sometimes, it is a pitcher’s dip of the shoulder or a twitch of the foot that tips the start of a delivery. Or it’s guessing when a pitcher will deliver an off-speed offering. But the end result is the same — the catcher is often the victim, Barbosa getting a jump so early that the throw is rarely on time.
“Something at school I’ve learned is to pay attention to the game and more what pitchers are doing,” Barbosa said. “It changes with every pitcher. Down here where competition is better, you have to try to pick good situations. There’s not one catcher you look at and say, ‘Wow, I’m going to steal on him.’ The base-stealing is off the pitcher.”
Harwich head coach Steve Englert , who also is an assistant coach at Boston College, has had the luxury of coaching Barbosa in the Cape this summer — a relief after having to help defend against him during the collegiate season.
“His speed is his biggest asset and he knows it’s his biggest asset, and he knows how to use it to help the team win,” Englert said early last week, before Barbosa was signed. “He sets the tone for us offensively. When he gets on and is doing his thing, we have a good shot to win a ball game.”
During the collegiate season, Northeastern and BC squared off twice. In a 10-1 Northeastern victory, Barbosa went 2 for 3 with two runs scored, an RBI, and a stolen base.
“We try to pull our infield way the heck in and charge every time it hits the ground,” Englert said. “If you don’t field it quick, he’ll get a base hit. If he hits the ball on the ground in the middle of the field, he’s got a good shot to beat it out.”
The strategy to defend against Barbosa seems simple enough. But even so, Englert said it rarely works.
Barbosa, who was once focused on returning to Northeastern for a strong senior season, is now focused on helping the Pulaski Mariners win the Appalachian League East.
It was two years ago when Barbosa debuted in the Cape, playing just four games with Harwich before being replaced by another player.
His season has been cut short again. But this time, it is for all the right reasons.
Field hockey clinic honors daughter
For the fifth straight year, Frank Ciampa and his wife, Sheila, along with Andover field hockey coach Maureen Noone , will host a field hockey clinic Aug. 5-6 in memory of their daughter, Lauren.
Lauren Ciampa died May 13, 2009, at age 21 after a battle with sarcoma, and the clinic is held as a way to give back to the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
In four years, the Ciampas have raised more than $20,000 through the clinic. They also host a golf tournament, a comedy night, a bike ride, and a Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund walk to raise funds.
“We feel strongly about helping and giving back to the Jimmy Fund for all they did for Lauren and my family when she was going through her illness,” Frank said. “They did so much for Lauren. It’s something you just don’t forget.”
The clinic is open to girls from grades 4 through 12, and runs from 8 a.m. to noon at Lovely Field. Athletes interested in participating can register at lcclinic.info.
Here and there
Masconomet football coach Jim Pugh is a highly regarded leader both on and off the field. Last weekend, he was among a select group invited to the NFL Foundations-USA Football Youth Summit in Canton, Ohio. The gathering is focused on improving the health and safety of youth football, including concussion prevention and treatment. . . . North Reading native and Austin Prep hockey star Nolan Vesey committed to the University of Maine July 15. Vesey tallied 22 goals and 18 assists at Austin Prep as a senior and led his team to the Super 8 final. In April, he helped the Neponset River Rats capture the USA Hockey Tier 1 18-and-under national title. . . . Central Catholic running back and defensive back D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie received a full scholarship offer from the University of New Hampshire Monday, according to Central coach Chuck Adamopoulos . He has also received offers from Lafayette, Colgate, and Bryant.Anthony Gulizia can be reached at gulizia.ant@ gmail.com