The Yale baseball team made big strides this past spring, finishing the season with an 11–9 Ivy record and coming one tiebreaker game away from winning the Red Rolfe division for the first time since 1995.
This summer, some of the Bulldogs are continuing to take their game to the next level against some of the premier talent in college baseball. Eli pitcher Chris Lanham ’16 and catcher Robert Baldwin ’15 have taken their talents to the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League in Massachusetts, the summer college baseball league that has produced over 1,000 Major League Baseball players including Bobby Valentine, Nomar Garciaparra and even Dartmouth’s Red Rolfe himself.
Lanham and Baldwin are the first Yale players to play on the Cape since Ben Johnstone ’00, who played Cape League baseball in 1998 and was drafted by the Cubs the next year.
The only other Ivy Leaguer on full contract in the CCBL this year is Ronnie Glenn, a southpaw from Penn who plays for the Harwich Mariners. “It’s a real pleasure to be able to play with these outstanding players,” Lanham said. “This is the pinnacle of college baseball.”
Baldwin, who enjoyed a successful spring in New Haven this past year with a .304 batting average and three home runs, has taken that momentum into the summer for the Chatham Anglers (14–17–1), the CCBL alma mater of current Major Leaguers such as Evan Longoria and Chris Coghlan.
Splitting time behind the plate with Georgetown’s Nick Collins, Baldwin is batting .302 this summer, good for fourth on his team among players with at least 40 at-bats heading into Monday’s games.
“I’ve been trying to use all fields [when hitting],” Baldwin said. “There are really good outfielders and pitchers in the League, so I’ve been trying to hit liners and groundballs, not too much in the air. Everybody in the league has aspirations to play professionally one day, and every pitcher you face is some [college] team’s ace pitcher… You don’t get any breaks when you’re up at the plate.”
Baldwin and Lanham played each other for the first time last Monday. The Anglers defeated Lanham’s Hyannis Harbor Hawks (13–19) by an 8-1 margin.
Lanham, who was stellar for Yale this season with just one earned run allowed in his five regular season conference starts, said that pitching against hitters from other Division-I conferences has helped him grow on the mound.
“As a pitcher, facing this kind of competition, you really learn to focus on every pitch because any mistake you make is going to get hit pretty hard,” Lanham said. “I think that [this] experience will help next year in the Ivy League, for sure.”Baldwin added that he has learned to be more selective at the plate, because pitchers on the Cape offer few if any good pitches to hit during the course of any one at bat.
Recruiting for CCBL teams is normally done during the fall, with college coaches recommending players to the general managers of summer teams, Baldwin said. But neither he nor Lanham joined the League through that channel.
Following Baldwin’s dominant season, Yale assistant coach Tucker Frawley sent emails to teams in top summer leagues, and the Anglers, who needed a catcher, eventually offered Baldwin a full contract.
Lanham, meanwhile, headed up to Hyannis in the middle of the season after the Harbor Hawks lost several pitchers.
Baldwin said that the life of a CCBL player is exactly like it is depicted in “Summer Catch,” a 2001 romantic comedy about a Cape League player who played in Chatham.
“I have a host parent who’s great. I get all my meals cooked. I go to the beach on off days, sometimes before games, and there’s a gym,” Baldwin said. “I’ve got everything. It’s been a pretty relaxing summer.”