CHATHAM – It’s not always easy for Cape Cod Baseball League teams to come together. With an ever-changing carousel of teammates coming and going as players are added and subtracted to and from rosters, each week can feel like a new round of the name game for players and coaches.
For the players, the process of meeting and learning about their new teammates can be similar to arriving at college as a freshman. They ask each other what school they play for, how their team did in the spring and where their hometown is.
Some introductions are more awkward than others — just ask Matt Hogan, a Vanderbilt outfielder from Melville, N.Y. who recently joined the Chatham Anglers. Hogan quickly got acquainted with another new arrival, Mississippi State pitcher Dylan Carmouche, when the pair were assigned to work together at the team’s kids’ camp last week.
Their encounter was a bit difficult, at least for Hogan, because it came less than two weeks after Carmouche’s Bulldogs defeated Hogan’s Commodores in the College World Series, capturing the national championship with a 9-0 victory in the third and final game of the best-of-three series held June 30 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
“Me and him were of course working together,” said Hogan with a smile. “At first I was like, ‘Yo man, I go to Vanderbilt,’ and he goes, ‘Yeah … I go to Mississippi State’ and it’s one of those things where it’s like ‘Ahh, cool.’”
Hogan does have some backup in Vanderbilt teammate Maxwell Romero Jr., a Miramar, Fla. native who joined Chatham as a catcher.
“He’s a great guy,” Hogan said of Romero. “I can always lean on him when I need to and he knows he can always lean on me. It’s always nice to have a brother to turn to. I love playing with him, too.”
So, has Carmouche, a 6-foot-6 lefty from Denham Springs, La., given his Southeastern Conference rivals a hard time about how the series went down in Omaha?
“No, not really,” said the soft-spoken Carmouche. “They suffered enough.”
His battery mate sees it a little differently.
“He messes around and will say he’s got a ring,” Romero said. “We’ll mess around here and there.”
It’s all in good fun for the trio of players, who said they have enjoyed bonding with each other in Chatham. As far as on-field adjustments are concerned, however, the three players have experienced different levels of success in their new league thus far.
Both Vanderbilt players raved about Carmouche after he earned the win in Sunday’s 5-2 victory over Bourne after allowing one run (earned) and five hits while striking out two and walking one in three innings of relief.
“Crazy stuff,” Romero said of the lefty’s pitch selection. “He’s got the slider, he’s got the fastball command really well and a good changeup, so [he’s] unhittable.”
“He’s a great guy and a great pitcher, too,” added Hogan about Carmouche, who tossed two innings of 1-run ball in his Cape debut, an 8-3 loss at Orleans on the Fourth of July. “He’s got a great future as well.”
Chatham manager Tom Holliday said Carmouche gives the Anglers’ pitching staff something different.
“We don’t have a guy like him,” Holliday said. “He pitches off the changeup and it’s pretty good. This ballpark is really good for a left-handed pitcher because it’s good to left field. It’s not good to let anyone go [the opposite way]. He’s a good addition.”
He’s only had two outings, but Carmouche said he’s been happy with his stuff on the Cape.
“Everything is moving like I want it to, I just have got to keep the rotation right,” he said. “The competition here is great — you get to play against the best there is. You can’t mess up at all. As soon as you do, they’re going to make you pay for it.”
Hogan and Romero both experienced slow starts at the plate but have had some success in recent games. After going a combined 1 for 12 in his first five games, Hogan brought his batting average up to .238 after he went 4 for 9 in the Anglers’ past three contests.
Romero started out 1 for 14 but is 3 for 9 in the team’s past three games. The catcher is hitting .174 with a pair of doubles and an RBI after 23 at-bats through eight games.
Some Cape League hitters struggle adjusting from aluminum to wood bats, but both Vanderbilt players said their early-summer struggles had more to do with seeing a steady flow of new pitchers.
“I think it was just new pitching,” Romero said. “The way they started attacking me here, I just had to find a way to adjust and to figure out the soft stuff and do what I do on the hard ones.”
“I’d say the one adjustment is you see more pitchers every day,” added Hogan. “Instead of seeing one power guy going maybe five to seven [innings], you kind of see guys go three each and they split up the games.”
Even though Chatham’s national champion and two runner-ups have fully immersed themselves in the Cape League experience, the College World Series outcome remains fresh on their minds.
“It’s unbelievable,” reflected Carmouche. “We came out there every day and worked as hard as we could and we did what we did.”
Romero noted Vanderbilt will be ready next spring. “I feel like we’ll find ourselves there again if we do what we’ve been doing,” he said. Hogan said the Commodores should hang onto the feelings they had while watching Carmouche and his Bulldogs teammates storm the field in celebration.
“It’s all about putting to bed what happened this year — remembering it, getting used to it and making sure you have it in your memory bank moving forward,” he said. “You never just want to let all of that stuff go. You definitely want to remember it, let it sting for a while and then move forward.”
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org
Recent/Upcoming Games for the Chatham Anglers (6-10-3)
July 11: Chatham 5, Bourne 2
July 12: Harwich 8, Chatham 2
July 14: Brewster at Chatham, 7 p.m.
July 15: Chatham at Yarmouth-Dennis, 5 p.m.
July 16: Chatham at Cotuit, 5 p.m.