HARWICH ─ After a whirlwind summer in which the mantra was pretty much eat, sleep and breathe baseball, the players that comprised the 2016 Harwich Mariners have headed home. Save for a handful of local club team games, Whitehouse Field is quiet, the lights that glowed almost nightly now dimmed. But the whispers of another standout summer still echo in the dugouts, the outfield, and in the countless memories made.
The first of the Mariners arrived in June, a slew of temporary players mixed in with those signed for a full summer in Harwich, including Logan Farrar, Tyler Kirkpatrick, and Ryan Brown. Determined to make an impression on coaches and fans alike, the inaugural teammates truly came out swinging, opening the season with a convincing 8-3 victory against Cotuit that seemed to set the tone for the season.
From that first game, the Mariners battled fiercely throughout the summer, clinging to the top spot in the East Division for most of the summer before ultimately winning the East Division championship prior to the start of playoffs.
Overall, the Mariners won 27 of their 44 regular season games to become the No. 2 team in the League in regular season play. Though they fell in the playoffs to Chatham, they tucked a number of awards under their hats, from the team and the League.
Earning the Marty McDonough MVP award were Ernie Clement and Joe Dunand, while Packy Naughton and BJ Myers shared the Al Graeber Pitching Award. The Fred Thacher Unsung Hero Award went to Teddy Rodliff for his prowess on the mound as a team closer and also for his tireless enthusiasm. Pitcher Peter Solomon was presented with the Fred Ebbett 10th Player Award for his stalwart efforts, and first baseman Pavin Smith earned the George Lane Sportsmanship Award for his contributions to the team on and off the field.
Along with the team MVP award, Clement was also presented with the Cape League MVP Award, with Adams earning the Daniel J. Silva Sportsmanship Award, and Austin Filiere taking home the league's Manny Robello 10th Player Award.
While a total immersion in the game of baseball was what each player eagerly sought, many with the dream of one day being drafted into the Major Leagues, it was what took place away from the ballfield that made the summer so unforgettable.
“Definitely just...the friendships,” said shortstop Johnny Adams. “Those are lifelong friendships that you built over the course of a couple of months.”
“The relationships that we built here were pretty incredible,” said third baseman Joe Dunand. “I'll never forget [them].”
Center fielder Ernie Clement said that while the baseball was incomparable to that of other college leagues, the friendships were key.
“The relationships you make with all the guys on the team and the coaches, it's just unbelievable,” he said. “Every single guy on that team, we were like a family. You don't find that over the summer. That was just a special group. I was lucky to be a part of that.”
Indeed, although the rosters of most Cape League teams are constantly in flux as players arrive and depart for various reasons, there is a core group of full-time players that becomes the team. In Harwich, those full-timers included Adams, Dunand, pitchers BJ Myers and Packy Naughton, catchers Cal Raleigh and Nick Feight, and Clement, among many more.
At the helm of the team was longtime field manager Steve Englert, calling out encouragement from his spot in the dugout just behind the ball kids. Beneath what could be perceived as Englert's gruff exterior lies a coach with an unwavering passion for baseball who wants nothing more than to see his team succeed.
Englert also spoke about the relationships that enriched the summer.
“You develop relationships and get to know these kids,” he said. “Especially with this group of guys. They were one of the best groups I've ever had. Their makeup and character and the way they went about their business. I'm really going to miss them.”
What Englert appreciated about his 2016 squad was not only their dedication to the game and to improving themselves as players, but also their endearing personalities.
“You could joke around with them,” Englert said. “And they got better, they strived to get better every single day, and they had fun doing it.”
Englert, like his players, looked back on the summer of 2016 fondly.
“The whole summer was a blast and I'll never forget it,” he said. “The relationships that were made this summer, they're life lasting. That's the trophy. That's the ring.”