Hear play-by-play broadcaster Aodhan Doyle talk with Matt Feldman and Jon Perez prior to the 2016 Cape League All Star Game
By Matt Feldman
July 23, 2016
For much of the day at Saturday’s 2016 Cape League All Star Game, I was on a mission. It was a mission that, one year ago today, I never thought I would find myself in. A mission that hundreds of baseball fans on Cape Cod take part in every year. It was a mission that few come out of victorious.
I was on a mission for a 2016 Cape League All Star Game home run derby baseball.
I arrived at Veterans Field around 2 p.m. with my backpack and a baseball glove. As I hiked up the hill to grab my media credentials, I noticed a few stern looks from fans. A media member with a baseball glove? Get a grip, kid. I just shrugged my shoulders and kept on walking; they didn’t know about my mission.
For the first couple of hours Saturday, I wandered around the field, talking to Kettleers Eddie Muhl (George Washington) and Quinn Brodey (Stanford), the only two All Star representatives from Cotuit.
After a few pregame interviews, the Western Division all stars headed in to home plate to take batting practice, as Cotuit manager Mike Roberts began warming up to throw batting practice— because of course Roberts would be pitching BP. It was my chance to warm up, too, so I hiked out to deep right field with fellow intern Aodhan Doyle to see if I could snag a batting practice ball in preparation for the derby.
Catching a ball at Chatham is unique for a litany of reasons. First of all, the right field ‘porch’ is just 314 feet from home plate, so it’s home run heaven for left handed batters. That means a constant barrage of balls sailing over the fence, right? A lot of homers means it’s easier to get a ball, right?
Not at Chatham.
Complimenting the short porch in right is a steep, 45-degree hill with less traction than a hockey rink. As balls fell past the fence and onto the hill, fans tumbled over each other, sliding down the hill and kicking up dust as the grappled for a baseball. This was a no-go for me, because I was wearing my brand new Roshe Runs, and the thought of a dirt mark on them scared the daylights out of me.
So I hung towards the top of the hill, watching as children tackled each other for a priceless souvenir. But as Brodey took his place in the order, I moved up onto Depot Road. The same road that, less than a week ago against Chatham, Brodey had crushed a 400-foot bomb onto. And it was the same road he was about to barrage again.
Brodey launched at least three balls onto Depot Road, but none were close to me. Nevertheless, the Kettleer proved that he had one of the best BP bats in the league, sending over ten balls over the right field fence in his rounds of batting practice. After the All Star Game, Brodey joked, “I would have won the home run derby.”
When Brodey left the field, I thought my warm up session would be over. But the last group of Western Division all stars readied to hit, and I realized I had one more chance. I noticed there was only one left handed batter in the group— Michael Giggliotti (Lipscomb)— so I kept my eyes on him as I moved back onto the dusty hill. Sure enough, in Giggliotti’s first round, the lefty smashed a shot over the right field fence. It bounced past a kid in front of me and rolled right up to my glove.
It was mine, and it was too easy.
The first ball of the day, a BP homer from Michael Giggliotti (Falmouth). Snapped a pic then gave it to a young fan. pic.twitter.com/ahdWPXnbVf
— Matthew Feldman (@Feldy_Fresh) July 23, 2016
After I snapped a quick picture, I tossed it to a small boy who was cowering behind his dad on the hill, hiding from the constant battery of balls from Giggliotti and his fellow rleft handers. The kid was happy, smiling at his dad as he examined the ball. I wasn’t. I wanted an official home run derby ball. The real deal.
As the field workers tore down the batting cage and the players scrambled to the big white tent to go sign autographs, Aodhan and I knew we had to cool off. It was a blistering real feel of 92 degrees, and I was sweating through my all black Livestrong t-shirt.
We walked over to the Cumberland Farms beside the stadium and took in the cool, air conditioned gas station. I grabbed a liter of bottled water and an overpriced protein bar and checked out, wolfing them both down as we headed back to the field. It was game time
The first two batters of the derby were right handers, so I headed over to left field to try to play the field to our advantage.
Now, Chatham is not a righty’s ballpark. With a left field fence that sits 340-feet from home plate and increases to almost 400 in center, I wasn’t expecting much, and the righties proved me right.
Just one ball came near me in the first two batters— a shot from Colton Shaver (BYU) that landed in deep left-center— but it was way out of my range. I figured the best move would be to move to left field and wait for the lefties. Apparently, everybody else though that, too.
I hopped the blue mesh fence that separated the outfield hill and Depot Road, hoping to maybe catch a long shot onto the road. It was a smart move.
The final batter in the Eastern Division lineup, Kameron Esthay (Baylor), launched a deep shot into right center on one of his first swings. It sailed over the hill and caromed off of a tree planted beside the road. I charged the ball, and after it took a quick hop on the asphalt, snagged it in my glove. A mob of kids stormed at me, grabbing for the ball, but I had it safely secured in my glove.
I had done it.
Official HR derby ball count: 1 pic.twitter.com/oJeg0D7zZk
— Matthew Feldman (@Feldy_Fresh) July 23, 2016
For the record, I didn’t catch it on the fly. That was the primary mission, to catch a ball on the fly. But I still got a ball. An official 2016 All Star Game home run derby ball.
A little kid tugged on my shorts as I took a picture of it and asked if he could have it. I obliged and flipped it to him. Another kid ran up behind him, asking for ‘the next ball you get’. Sorry kid, but that wasn’t going to happen.
For the remainder of the derby, a multitude of balls found their way onto Depot Road, bouncing every which way while a hoard of fans chased each ball with increased enthusiasm. Two more balls came my way, but I dropped the ball— literally— on both, fumbling both off of my glove.
But errors or not, it didn’t matter to me. I had gotten my ball, and I was proud of it. In the end, one BP ball and one Home Run Derby ball were my final tallies, along with a pair of scuffed Roshe Runs and two balls that I should have caught. Esthay went on to win the derby, hitting eleven total home runs and seven in the final round.
As I sat typing this post, my back on the fence of the little league field behind Veterans Field, Esthay stood just feet from me. The All Star game had just started, but Esthay hadn’t made the game as an All Star. So he stood hidden away behind a food truck, conversing on his cell phone with what I assumed was a family member, excitedly telling them about his win.
He kept telling them how “unreal” this whole experience had been for him. You’re telling me, Kameron.