By Roy Reiss
August 25, 2015
It’s always a sad time when the Kettleers season ends. The time seems to pass so quickly we hardly have a moment to catch our breath and file away the lasting memories that’ll live with us forever. So many things occur over the two month stretch. So many relationships develop. Here’s one man’s memories of sights, scenes, and things that I’ll always remember from 2015.
Passion is a word we use quite often in my family and something that is evident daily if you follow the Kettleers over the summer. Coach Mike Roberts is a living definition of what it means to be passionate about a job. If you watch him during games, he’s coaching and teaching on almost every pitch. He moves players into position depending on the situation, he talks to pitchers about location and pitch selection, he strategizes regardless of the score. After 30 plus games he moved his infielders into a shift to minimize some deficiencies. He tries different players at various positions to make them more versatile. He’s constantly changing the batting order to find the right combination. He’ll have endless bullpen sessions with his pitchers to try and teach them new pitches. He’ll try anything to benefit the team, even calling an 8 AM batting practice because he could sense the team needed it. Passion and Mike Roberts, they go together like apple pie and ice cream.
Trey McCall is a special kind of coach who connects with today’s modern day baseball players. Watching him say goodbye to players and friends at Lowell Park was simply a reminder of how effective someone can be in a supporting role. And his message to the young Kettleers hopefuls as told to intern Jon Mettus resonates, “I hope what I bring is (the knowledge that) you have to be in love with the game to succeed. You’ve got to be in love with it when you’re 0-for-4, when you’re the goat, when the press writes bad things about you. At the end of the day — whether you make it or whether you don’t — you’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror and the only way you can look in the mirror and say, ‘Man, I gave it my all’ is if you were in love with it. That’s what I hope they learned from me. It should be fun.”
No one enjoys watching the Kettleers play at Lowell Park more than Arnold Mycock, and it was so nice to see him behind the first base fence so many times in 2015. The man most responsible for creating and building the Kettleers tradition always has the right words for every instance along the season long journey. His presence alone makes every game that much more meaningful.
One of my most enjoyable assignments was catching up with former Kettleers who would talk about their memories of playing in Cotuit. We called it “Cotuit Replay” and many fans over the summer would comment on how much they enjoyed hearing from the former players. It took over 3 months of hard work to contact, gather, and edit the copy but the end result was so meaningful. Some were now college professors, lawyers or businessmen, others were starting in the minor leagues, yet they all recalled so vividly what it meant to them to spend a summer in Cotuit and play at Lowell Park for the Kettleers. It was an exercise and promotion that makes the Kettleers unique amongst the Cape League teams.
Patience is a rare quality in today’s world where we expect instant gratification and success. But patience best describes what we saw from Will Haynie (Alabama) this summer. The lanky catcher was one of the top defensive receivers in the league. His quick release and strong arm certainly caught the attention of many scouts. However, Haynie struggled mightily at the plate the first half of the season. His batting average hovered near the .120 mark and he had some 30 strikeouts in his first 60 at bats. Suddenly something clicked and Haynie became one of the most dangerous hitters on the Ketteers roster and in the league. He displayed power, finishing with 8 home runs which was 2nd in the league. More impressively he knocked in a run in 10 straight games and was 3rd overall in the league in RBI’s. By the end of the season the Roll Tide kid raised his average to .235 and was batting at the top of the Kettleers order rather than ninth. Patience. Will Haynie. Lesson learned.
Over the years there have been many players who’ve displayed their talents before the Kettleers faithful at Lowell Park. Some have gone on to the major leagues where they’ve even become All Stars. In 2015 we saw a young talent who seems destined for greater things in the future. Jeren Kendall (Vanderbilt) is entering his sophomore year and should be a high draft choice in two years. The youngster is so graceful covering ground in centerfield. He makes every play look so easy and effortless. He can hit for average and power. And Kendall can certainly run as he probably had the most speed of any Kettleers. Watching him go from first to third was a treat and how many players can score from first on a single to the outfield? It’ll be interesting to follow Kendall’s career path in the next few years which hopefully will include some time in Cotuit next summer. We certainly can be hopeful!
A couple of personal moments that stand out….. It’s the middle of a game in mid July and a middle aged woman in the private box of the press box says she likes it when I announce Jackson Klein instead of Jack Klein. I asked her why? She says Jackson was her mother’s name and her son was named after her, so every time she hears the name, it reminds her of her mother. …..It’s a hot July afternoon several hours before the game, standing near the fence chatting with another fan during batting practice. All of a sudden shortstop Mike Paez (Coastal Carolina) approaches and starts talking about the Cape, his family, and his wonderful experience playing in Cotuit. How many times have you been standing around and a player approaches and initiates the conversation? A moment to file away and remember……Two clutch at bats were turned in by Spencer Gaa (Bradley). Who can forget that 2 out base hit at Bourne in the top of the 9th that led the Kettleers to a come from behind win? And then against Orleans on a brilliant Sunday at Lowell Park, Gaa singled to right to knock in the go ahead run against the Firebirds in what seemed like a playoff game.
Some other random thoughts after another memorable season. Really going to miss Rich, Doug, and all the youngsters at the Kettleers Kitchen. Those early afternoon visits and pre game meals are simply special….…. Don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone have more fun in a summer than 9 year old Mathew Flaherty who hung out at Lowell Park daily. His smile and charm touched everyone he came into contact with……The Kettleers interns seemed to have a camaraderie and spirit that became infectious as the season stretched out…..Have a hunch the song “Hey Cotuit” is going to be as popular as “Have a Hit!” ….Finally let’s start counting down the days until the 2016 Kettleers take the field!
Kettleers Korner will be anything and everything that might interest fans, past and present, about the Kettleers. Roy Reiss, who started his career working for Curt Gowdy Broadcasting, was a former sportscaster on Channel 7 and several radio stations in Boston. His son Mike now covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.