Out of the 33 varsity sports at Yale, no team plays more games than Yale Baseball. In 2018 alone, the Bulldogs took the field on 43 occasions, as the Elis earned a second consecutive regular-season title before falling short against Columbia in the Championship Series.
But for roughly a dozen members of the Yale baseball team, suiting up to participate in America’s pastime became a weekly ritual that extended well past May, as they played in several different collegiate baseball leagues across the Atlantic Seaboard over the summer. Two Bulldogs, utility player Benny Wanger ’19 and infielder Simon Whiteman ’19, added more hardware, propelling the Valley Blue Sox to a New England Collegiate Baseball League Championship with a two-game sweep over the Ocean State Waves to cap off an undefeated postseason record.
“We encourage all of players to play summer baseball,” head coach John Stuper said. “We believe it is essential to their development. This summer, I believe, has been our best group effort ever. Players who play in the summer get better. It’s as simple as that. Those who don’t either stay the same or regress. It always shows up in the fall. It’ll make them better, and as a result, make us better.”
After garnering first-team All-Ivy accolades in the spring, Wanger helped the Blue Sox finish with a league-best 30–12 regular season mark by posting a 1.92 ERA and a 2–0 record on the mound, while posting an .831 OPS at the plate. In the NECBL Championship Series, his pitching prowess was on full display as he recorded the final five outs to get the save in the series opener. Wanger also made a relief appearance in the Blue Sox’s 19–6 victory over the Waves to clinch the league championship.
Meanwhile, Whiteman batted .625 in the postseason to pace the Blue Sox to a 4–0 record in the playoffs while also turning a trio of double plays. An All-Ivy shortstop a season ago, Whiteman did not make an error during the playoffs and tallied 14 RBIs during his time in the NECBL.
Established in 1993 and sanctioned by the NCAA and Major League Baseball, the NECBL is one of the top summer leagues across New England. Participating collegiate baseball players play in upwards of 40 games against other amateurs in June and July before concluding the season with the playoffs in August. In addition to valuable game experience and continual development, players from Yale also have the chance to get noticed by professional scouts by participating in summer ball.
“This summer in the Cape gave me many opportunities to work on specific pitches and pitch sequences against very good competition,” said pitcher Scott Politz ’19, who played for Falmouth in the Cape Cod League. “It’s also nice having extra hours in the day to work out and focus on getting 100 percent healthy for the fall.”
Politz, Wanger and Whiteman were not the only Bulldogs who found success playing in the NECBL. Pitcher Kumar Nambiar ’19 posted a 1.84 ERA and 4–1 record throwing for the Mystic Schooners en route to a first-team All-League selection.
Yale infielder Alex Stiegler ’20 took a more unorthodox route to a summer league championship title after spending most of the summer in Anchorage playing in the Alaska Baseball League. Once he concluded his time there, Stiegler returned to the Northeast for a brief stint with the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League, where he allowed just one unearned run in four innings of a relief appearance during the Western Conference Finals, as the Gatemen eventually went on to capture the Cape Cod title.
“When the Cape [Cod League] came calling I couldn’t say no,” Stiegler said. “The opportunity to pitch against the top guys in college baseball this year was a chance I wanted to take to measure myself and my potential to bring to Yale this upcoming season.”
Heading into the 2019 season, the Bulldogs bring back a swath of senior starters who played significantly in summer ball leagues, including a pair of pitchers and almost their entire infield and outfield. Overall, Yale brings back 22 players from last year’s regular season championship squad as the Elis will look to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.
Joey Kamm | email@example.com