HARWICH – Some players travel great lengths to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League, while others don’t have to go far from home to capture a taste of the nation’s most prestigious collegiate summer league.
Billy Seidl became familiar with the league while growing up in Wellesley. And although he only attended games sparingly throughout his youth, he always hoped that he would one day take the mound in the Cape League.
That’s one reason this summer has been so special for Seidl, a 6-foot, 215-pound right-handed pitcher from Duke University who is auditioning for Major League Baseball scouts while pitching for the Harwich Mariners.
“I grew up staying at people’s houses and coming down here when I could,” Seidl said when asked about his Cape Cod experiences prior to joining the Mariners. “I was always playing summer ball, so I couldn’t come to that many Cape League games, but definitely got out to a few. Obviously, I’ve wanted to play here my whole life, so this is an awesome experience.”
This summer has checked off a couple boxes for the hard-throwing righty. Not only is he getting the chance to fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the Cape League, he’s also feeling stronger each day as he continues to recover from the successful Tommy John surgery he received Nov. 7, 2019 to repair his ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm.
The road to recovery has been windy for the St. Sebastian’s School alum. He made 17 appearances as a sophomore at Duke this year, finishing with a 4-0 record after allowing 22 hits and 17 runs (all 17 earned) while striking out 34 and walking six in 25 innings of work.
“It’s been tough,” Seidl said when asked about returning from his surgery, which was completed by world-renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews — the same doc who patched up Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s ankle so he could toe the rubber in Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series while donning his now-famous bloody sock. “There’s been ups and downs, but I feel like I’m coming off on the backend of it. Obviously, it was a successful surgery.”
“That’s something to work through, the arm just feels a little different each day,” Harwich pitching coach Steve Gruenberg said. “He’s got his plan and that’s just another thing that he’s learning to work through now that’s new.”
As if coming back from Tommy John surgery wasn’t enough of a learning curve, the Bay State native has also been stretching out his appearances on the mound.
Seidl pitched just one inning or less in his first seven outings at Duke this spring, a trend that changed a bit as the season progressed, however, as Seidl started for the Blue Devils in his penultimate appearance of the season. He tossed 3.1 innings and earned a victory over Florida State before he closed out his college campaign by throwing three innings of relief in Duke’s season-ending loss to Liberty during the NCAA tournament.
All three of Seidl’s Cape appearances have come in a starting role. He struck out five, walked one and allowed three hits and two runs (both unearned) during his debut, a 5-2 victory over Hyannis on June 23 at Whitehouse Field. A week later, Seidl fanned four Bourne batters and walked three in his second start, a four-inning effort in a 1-1 tie with the Braves in Buzzards Bay.
The righty’s rehab from Tommy John progressed even more Saturday when he pitched 5.1 innings in Harwich’s 7-5 victory over visiting Chatham. If you only look at the box score, it was Seidl’s worst performance of the summer. He finally gave up his first earned run of the season — the Anglers got to him for five runs, four of which were earned — and his five walks were more than the four he had combined to throw through his first two starts.
“They were definitely barreling me up a little bit,” Seidl said Saturday. “I tried to command the zone the best I could, but I made a couple mistakes and obviously paid for it at the end there. Obviously, the walks were tough, too.”
Even if he wasn’t entirely pleased with his performance, there were positive aspects Seidl will take away from the start. It was a benchmark day for his recovery as he threw 86 pitches and landed 55 for strikes.
“Today was the most amount of pitches I have ever thrown after surgery, so it was great to build off the previous starts,” he said.
Gruenberg said he’s most impressed with Seidl’s dedication to his craft, noting that the talented pitcher works relentlessly to prepare between starts.
“He does a really good job of preparing,” the coach said. “That’s really set him up for the starts that he has had because he knows what he wants to do.”
“You get seven days, so it’s about being able to manage that as effectively as possible,” said the Wellesley native, whose off-speed pitch selection includes a changeup and slider to go along with his fastball, which has enough velocity to whip radar guns into the mid-90s.
“Getting your work in and being ready for that seventh day because obviously, if things don’t go as planned on the seventh day, you have a full week to think about it,” Seidl said when asked about the most important aspects of pitching on the Cape.
Although he’s only had roughly half of the season to gauge his time in the Cape League, so far it has lived up to Seidl’s expectations. He said it helps to have his family close by, especially his parents, Randall and Janet, who he said attends most Mariners games.
“It’s definitely helped me a little bit,” Seidl said of being a local kid. “Being able to have family here has been awesome. I try to play for them and do what I can to make them happy.”
Email Brad Joyal at email@example.com
Recent/Upcoming Games for the Harwich Mariners (8-7-2)
July 11: Brewster 4, Harwich 0
July 12: Harwich 8, Chatham 2
July 14: Orleans at Harwich, 6:30 p.m.
July 16: Harwich at Hyannis, 6 p.m.