They all have a room with a view of the big leagues.
Red Sox manager John Farrell didn’t sleep well when he was a 19-year-old pitcher for Hyannis in the Cape Cod Baseball League in 1982. Farrell spent the nights on a rollaway cot in a backyard tool shed apartment in Osterville with skunks as neighbors.
“It was pretty common to be woken up in the middle of the night because the scent was so strong it would pull you out of a full sleep,” he says.
Farrell worked for a general contractor by day, got hit hard by night, and still made it to The Show. He calls the Cape experience “awesome,” even living in the shed.
“To me there wasn’t anything wrong with it. It was a roof, a place to sleep, to cook a meal on a hot plate. It had a shower, it serves as a great memory of the Cape League,” says Farrell, whose three sons also played in the Cape League and stayed with host families.
“You can’t beat the experience,” says Farrell. “It’s a fantastic part of the country and you’re going to have great memories.”
The Globe visited 10 host families to check out the digs of one player on each of the Cape’s 10 teams. We found no skunks, but a whole lot of love for baseball.
We also found relics of former Cape players that became Major League All-Stars. Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (Orleans 2006) signed the replica Green Monster painted on the wall of his Orleans bedroom. Oakland’s Josh Donaldson (Harwich 2006) lived on a Harwichport farm and penned an X-rated letter to incoming Cape players with advice on teasing host parents, and finding local women.
Last year, more than 250 Cape League alumni played in the major leagues, including Tim Lincecum, Jacoby Ellsbury, Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun, Buster Posey, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mark Teixeira.
Imagine having a college kid living in your house for the summer, and then becoming a big star.
Cathy Uhl, a host mom from East Falmouth, said that players quickly become family. For the second year in a row they’ve hosted pitcher Garrett Cleavinger from Lawrence, Kan.
“He was a stranger for maybe five minutes,” says Uhl. “It’s just so much fun to see him kind of touch the edge of his dream.”
Chatham Anglers (Georgia Tech)
Lives with the Thompsons in Chatham
“The pink room. This reminds me of my sister’s room. They moved their daughter to give me my own room. It’s a good thing.
“I’m from a big family with four brothers and a sister, so coming here, it’s just like being home. It’s more comforting than having a house all to myself. They let me use the washing machine.
“I didn’t bring much here. I packed my bag, said hi to my family, and came right up here.
Harwich Mariners (Cincinnati)
Lives on the Crafts Farm in Harwichport with two teammates
“The farm is great. We’ve been hunting a fox. It’s been hunting the chickens and the ducks. So we’ve got a pellet gun and we’ve been having some target practice waiting for the fox to come back. When the crows start yelling, that’s when we start running for the gun.
“It’s nice and relaxing to come back to the farm and have something to come back to every day. My roommate Seth [McGarry] snores, but you just hit him with the pillow and wake him up.”
Orleans Firebirds (Southern Cal)
Lives with the Wilcox family in Eastham
“This is my host kid Owen Wilcox’s room. He’s 14 and a junior intern. Matt Wieters stayed here and all the players that have stayed here have signed the wall. The Wilcox family is a pretty great family so it’s easy to adapt. I thought it was a great idea to put up a replica of the Green Monster on the wall. I don’t mind [Dustin] Pedroia on the wall. He’s such a great competitor. I miss my family, of course, and all my teammates at school, but I know this will pay off.
“Usually I wake up at 10 a.m. and make myself breakfast and hang out with the dogs. The family is usually gone at school and work and I’ll head to the field at 12 for a 7 p.m. game. My work ethic comes from everybody throughout my whole life saying there’s a bunch of people with talent but it’s the ones that work hardest that make it in the long run.”
Cotuit Kettleers (Duke)
Lives with the Hanson family in Mashpee
“You try to do exactly what you do on the mound except you just watch yourself in the mirror. It’s the best of both worlds, you can see and feel what you’re doing. It helps you to be repeatable and fix whatever mechanical issues you have. I have to be careful here. I hit my hand once on that fan.
“My No. 1 option was the Cape. It's more true baseball so it’s more fun. I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a little more old-school up here. Compared to school it’s more relaxing, you kind of show up and play.
“I’m really only in this room when I go to bed. My favorite spot is the couch, it’s big and it’s long.”
Hyannis Harbor Hawks (UConn)
Lives with his family in Centerville
“I’ve lived here my whole life. There’s no adjustment. I’m staying in my own bed and I know the area. It’s worth a lot to go out and play in front of my friends and family. I like helping my teammates out. I kind of feel responsible for them. I just try to bring them to the right beaches and fishing spots.
“I was a Hyannis bat boy. I remember guys like [Minnesota Twins outfielder] Sam Fuld [in 2003]. I don’t really like to talk about the chances [of making the majors], I just like to go out there every day and go about my business and see wherever it takes me. Staying healthy is the most important thing and staying the course.”
Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox (Cal State Fullerton)
Lives with a teammate in Yarmouthport
Bickford was a first-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013. He declined a reported $2.9 million bonus to go to college.
“California is California, but living here in this house, it’s been an experience that has helped me grow up. It’s relaxing, I love it. It’s actually beautiful, if you take time and look out the windows.
“The Cape [League] is also a blessing, the best summer league, according to everybody. Each and every day we want to get better. I really like the culture shock, everything here is a lot more traditional. It’s a whole new environment.
“I’ve always been a down-to-earth guy and I actually care about conversation. I look someone in the eye and actually listen to what they’re saying. I’m very confident I won’t become [a jerk] if I play in the major leagues.”
Falmouth Commodores, (Oregon)
Lives with the Uhl family in East Falmouth
He has a pillow fight with bat boy Anderson Uhl, 9.
“My brother is 10, so it’s like having my brother here, it’s been good hanging out with him. The best part is that you can just relax and go for it and play. I never lived close to the ocean before, so it’s a lot of fun. I’m from Lawrence, Kan., so I try to go to the beach as often as possible.
“This room here is bigger than my room at home and I’ve got my own bathroom here, which is nice.
“I was here last year. [Host mom Cathy Uhl] has obviously been like a second mom to me. I really like that pineapple chicken she makes. She loves to go out and do stuff so we never get bored. My mom can get a little bossy, she definitely doesn’t.”
A pillow fight between Cleavinger and Anderson Uhl is declared a draw.
“It’s fun hanging around with him,” says Anderson. “He’s the greatest baseball player ever.”
Wareham Gatemen (LSU)
Lives with the Lavoie family in Wareham
“I’ve been living here for two summers. I was a little nervous at first but they welcomed me pretty well. There’s a home-cooked meal every night. Robin [host mom] has one main rule, be safe, don’t do anything dumb, and come back before 12. That’s pretty much the only rule. Anything I need, she always helps me out. If I’m lost I call her and she tells me where to go.
“There’s a 42-inch TV and my housemate [teammate Kramer Robertson] brought PlayStation 4, MLB The Show. We play exhibition games against each other. That’s every kid’s dream. Here, the crickets don’t bother me at night. When I fall asleep, I’m knocked out.”
Bourne Braves, (LSU) |
Lives with the Norkevicius family in Plymouth
Here he does pushups with Braves batboy Mitchell Norkevicius 9, on his back.
“It’s fun to come here and have younger siblings. Today is an off day and we were playing Wiffle Ball. Can’t get enough baseball so I’ve got to fit that in. I take everything seriously; I try to win every game. I see the scouts but I don’t think about them.
“Being from the South I say ‘yes ma’am, no ma’am.’ They [host family mom Nicole Norkevicius] just think you’re referring to them as being old, but it’s a habit I was raised to do.”
Brewster Whitecaps (Southern New Hampshire)
Lives at the Eggers/Kenney home in Brewster
“It’s amazing, definitely a dream come true. I’m from Division 2 and it’s definitely a rarity to see a D2 kid in the Cape League but I believe I belong here.
“My mom passed away at 12. My host parents are always there to support me good or bad, they care about you more than the rest. Every kid has that dream and being in the Cape League is one step closer to achieving my dream. I faced the best of the best and held my own. It’s definitely a grind, I work every morning at Latham School with [developmentally delayed] kids. It’s nice to try and help out the community. It’s fun and a good time. ‘’