story by Steve McCarthy
July 23, 2009
BOSTON – The 2009 Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star Game at Fenway Park was shortened to four and a half innings due to rain, but the Cotuit Kettleers players on the Western Division team made an early impact and took home some hardware.
Third baseman Zack Cox (Arkansas) was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, tripling in his first at bat and adding a line drive base hit his next time up. Catcher Cameron Rupp (Texas) filled in for teammate Kevin Patterson (Auburn) in the Home Run Hitting Contest and finished second behind Harwich’s Connor Powers. Patterson could not attend due to illness.
Cotuit manager Mike Roberts led the Western Division team, and was joined by assistants Scott Gurss and Noah Scott. The coaching staff had plenty to be proud of.
Outfielder Zach Cone (Georgia) singled in his final at bat, and Cody Stanley (UNC-Wilmington) was the West’s starting catcher before being replaced by Rupp in the final inning. Closer Daniel Tillman (Florida Southern) was scheduled to pitch the ninth inning.
Cox downplayed the MVP chants by his West teammates during the third inning. “That would be a great honor, but I just want to focus on the rest of the game, have another good at bat, and have fun playing at Fenway.”
Cox played third base in steady rain the entire night, but said he didn’t care about the weather. “It could be my only chance to ever play here,” Cox said. “So I don’t really care if it becomes a flood or a tornado, I want to stay out here as long as I can.”
The storied ballpark didn’t sway his usual approach to the plate, that has Cox hitting .364 this summer. “I’m always nervous. Then when I step in the box it all goes away,” Cox said. “You just do what you did your whole life.”
The right-handed Rupp asked the southpaw Gurss to throw to him for the Derby, and Gurss did not have to be asked twice. Less than a week after winning his first Cape League game as a coach, Gurss didn’t think much could top throwing in front of a Fenway Park crowd. Even as a Cubs fan. “I was pretty nervous out there,” Gurss said. “I just told myself not to hit Rupp first pitch.”
Rupp was confident going into the contest. He had never before lost a Home Run Derby in three tries. According to Cotuit teammate Zach Cone, when the press asked Rupp how many home runs he would hit, Rupp answered, “How many balls do you have in the bucket?”
Rupp was the final competitor to step to the plate in the first round, so he knew what number he had to hit. “It didn’t really matter what I got,” Rupp said ‘I just wanted to hit one or two, didn’t want to put up a goose egg. That was pretty neat being able to be in the finals.”
The top two of six competitors qualified for the finals. In the first round, Rupp hit the longest home run of the night, reaching the seats just right of the camera well in straight away center field. “I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure, but I knew I hit it well,” Rupp said, “When it went out, that was pretty neat to be able to hit the ball over there.”
As for Gurss’ pitching – “He was good,” Rupp said. “He threw the ball well. He threw it in the right spot. I just didn’t hit the ball like I should have.”