HARWICH – The speculative whispers seemed to follow the Harwich Mariners wherever they played during the last week of the season.
The folks hanging around the Cape League ballparks began wondering who might be named the league’s Most Valuable Player, and Harwich third baseman Brock Wilken’s name was among the few that seemed to enter every conversation.
In the end, Wilken took home the prestigious hardware — an impressive feat for a player who arrived on the Cape after just one year of playing collegiate baseball at Wake Forest University. The Valrico, Fla. native batted .302 during the regular season with six home runs and 26 RBIs before collecting the award ahead of Saturday’s Game 2 in the East Division championship series.
“That was something special. I honestly did not expect that,” Wilken said after the game, a 5-4 victory for Brewster that clinched the series. “I had some success, but being a freshman, I definitely thought for sure there was no way I was going to get that.”
Perhaps the most impressive number included in Wilken’s season stats is 38 — the number of games he played. He appeared in every game for Harwich, which finished second in the East Division standings after posting a 19-12-5 regular-season record before suffering a 2-0 series sweep at the hands of first-place Brewster (24-11-3).
“For Brock to do what he did as a freshman — I mean, you are expecting him to hit a wall like all freshman do up here, but he never did,” Harwich manager Steve Englert said. “That kid is tough as nails and he’s a grinder. That kid has a big future in front of him.”
Wilken continued to rake like a runaway tractor once the postseason began. The 6-foot-4 right-handed hitter went 3 for 7 with a walk and a run scored in the team’s two playoff games, which included a 2-0 loss in Game 1 at Brewster on Friday before Saturday’s finale.
As pleased as he was to be recognized for his production the past couple months, Wilken said receiving the MVP award pales in comparison to the team goals he and the Mariners were hoping to achieve.
“That award was pretty cool, but it doesn’t solidify what we had as a team,” he said. “That’s just a personal award and I wish we could’ve come out with the win today. That would’ve been way better.”
Still, even if Wilken was disappointed his debut Cape League season didn’t end with a title, the 19-year-old said he’ll always cherish the relationships he cultivated with a new batch of teammates and coaches from around the nation.
“I’ve made some connections here that I’ll have for life,” he said. “When you spend eight to 10 hours a day with certain people, you’ll feel really close. These are my brothers.”
The rising Wake Forest sophomore said he’ll take a quick breather before getting back to work.
“Even if you have a good year, there’s always room to improve somewhere,” Wilken noted. “So, I’m going to go home and get back to work.”
Wilken will likely be one of the players Mariners fans will keep tabs on next spring when he resumes his collegiate career with the Demon Deacons. Although he has a full slate of Atlantic Coast Conference action awaiting him, Wilken was already thinking about 2022 after Harwich was eliminated from the postseason.
“I plan on coming back with Coach E next year,” he said, referencing Englert. “He said he already wants me back, so that’s a huge pleasure as well. I think it will be fun next summer as well.”
As he prepared to leave Whitehouse Field for the last time this season, Wilken offered some succinct parting thoughts about what the summer meant to him.
“It was the best summer I’ve ever had playing baseball,” the MVP said. “It’s something special and I’ll never forget it.”
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BradJoyal