David MacKinnon, Johnny Adams making impressive debuts in Cape League
HARWICH — "Come on MacKinnon," Wareham Gatemen manager Cooper Farris shouted to the batter Tuesday night. "Whadda you say, David, now come on!"
In his first season in the Cape Cod Baseball League, playing against some of the nation's best collegians, 20-year-old David MacKinnon was named to the all-star team — an impressive achievement for the Oliver Ames graduate, who dreams of someday playing in the major leagues.
"To play pro, I've always wanted to do that," said MacKinnon, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-handed hitting first baseman. "It used to be a farfetched dream, 'Oh it would be cool to be a pro,' like any kid used to say."
But now, with MacKinnon enjoying success in the Cape league, that dream is inching closer.
The scouts in attendance peered up from their binders of information, watching MacKinnon take his cuts at the plate, and returned to their notes.
"Let's go MacKinnon," yelled one supporter.
MacKinnon made solid contact on his first-inning at-bat, but Harwich shortstop Johnny Adams made the play. A rising junior at Boston College, the 20-year-old Walpole High graduate has been making a favorable impression with his glove.
"He reminds me of Mike Bordick," said Harwich coach Steve Englert, referring to the University of Maine product who went on to a 14-year major league career.
"Not a flashy guy, just makes plays and doesn't care how he looks," Englert said. "I knew he could always defend. He's a tremendous defender. He struggled early, offensively, but he's made a few adjustments and now he's becoming a bright spot in our lineup."
That low-key, fundamentally sound style of play has helped Adams shine during his first season on the Cape. Like MacKinnon, he earned a trip to the all-star game.
The Cape Cod League "is one of the best summer leagues out there," said Adams, who played for the Plymouth Pilgrims in the New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer after his freshman season at BC. "It's an honor to be here and play among the best in the country. I'm just trying to improve every day."
For both, earning a spot in the league all-star game was quite an honor.
"Every night now, pitchers are throwing between 92 and 95 [miles an hour]. You have to be better," said MacKinnon, who is hitting .265 with a homer and nine RBIs in a team-high 117 at-bats.
"There are a lot of temporary players at the beginning of the summer who are only here for a couple of weeks," MacKinnon said. "I started off as one of those."
MacKinnon was originally recruited to the University of Hartford for baseball. But after earning All-America honors for a prowess as a goalie on the pitch, he was granted permission to play soccer as well. He was slated to be a reserve. But then he went out and played his way into the starting position.
"I was supposed to be the third option at goalie, which is why the baseball coach (Justin Blood) let me go play soccer, too," said MacKinnon. "But after I got a chance back in freshman year, they haven't let me out [of goal] since."
As a sophomore last fall, MacKinnon played 18 games, registered seven shutouts and a 0.97 goals against average, and logged a whopping 1,663 minutes. He was a second team All-America East selection and an All-Academic team pick.
Yet he continues to put up the numbers on the diamond, too.
"He does a good job, and he's worked so hard," said coach Farris. "I think he'll be drafted, because he won't settle for where he's at now."
On Tuesday night, nothing was settled between the Gatemen and the Mariners. The game ended in a 4-4 deadlock after 12 innings. Neither team stopped battling.
That's the kind of determination necessary for any player to make a run at majors.
"You have to stay locked in. You have to stay mentally tough," said Adams, who is hitting .223 with three homers and 13 RBIs. "You never know when you're going to have your last at bat, or your last game."
He believes it's that mindset, making the most of every at-bat and every situation, that has helped sustain his journey. And it has put Adams in place to take the next major step.
"I try not to think about [being drafted] too much," Adams said with a laugh. But in the opinion of his coach, Adams will be thinking a lot about the draft for the foreseeable future.
"I do believe Johnny is going to play pro ball," said Englert, who lauds the dedication of Adams and his respect for the game and his teammates. "There's always a chance you can play in the major leagues when you get drafted, which Johnny will. He's one of those throwback kids from the 1950s with his work ethic."
For now, with the regular season winding down and Cape league playoffs fast approaching, the focus will soon shift.
For Adams, staying in shape during the offseason will become a top priority. And for MacKinnon, the focus will turn to the soccer season, when he will undoubtedly see plenty of time in net.
"Seeing all the stones fall into place is really cool," said MacKinnon. "Being drafted is definitely something that's attainable . . . The Cape league is definitely a great place to be."
Around the bases
Five players making their mark in summer baseball leagues:
► Mike Bruemmel , Bridgewater: A lefthanded pitcher at Wheaton College, he has posted a 2.31 ERA for the Worcester Bravehearts of the Futures League.
► Jake Fishman , Sharon: The 6-3 southpaw, a junior at Union College, has registered a 3-1 mark with a 2.67 ERA for the Brockton Rox of the Futures League.
► Joe Freiday Jr. , Raynham: The Virginia Tech catcher is averaging a home run every 16.8 at-bats for the Plymouth Pilgrims of the NECBL.
► Cam Hanley , Walpole: The Northeastern third baseman is hitting .319 with eight doubles for the Laconia Muskrats of the NECBL.
► John Nicklas , Foxborough: The Boston College righthander is 3-0 with a 2.66 ERA for the Edenton Steamers of the Coastal Plain League, with 30 strikeouts in 20⅓ innings.