Dan Tritle of WCAI (Cape & Islands NPR) caught up with us again this season. This time, Greg mainly talked about his experience being one of the owners of the Walla Walla Sweets, who just completed their inaugural season as a ball club in the West Coast League. The West Coast League is a wood bat summer league similar to the CCBL, and currently features nine teams from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.
Dan Tritle (WCAI-FM) caught up with CodBall’s Greg Shaw for a 2009 end of season interview on Monday, August 10th.
If you follow college baseball, chances are you are either a regular reader of The College Baseball Blog or you’ve stumbled across it in your online searches. The blog’s creator is Brian Foley, and he sat down with us for a CodBall Conversation after the recent rain-shortened Cape League All-star game at Fenway Park.
Whether you find Brian online or in person, he conveys the weary sense of a man never too far from his computer. The number of games and announcements he juggles is staggering. Claims of size and depth on the Internet are often exaggerated but Brian’s claim to be the “ultimate source for college baseball news and notes” is pretty accurate.
Sitting in Fenway Park’s press box on a rainy summer evening, I was curious to learn how he does it and why.
I’ve commented in the past that the bookshelf is beginning to sag beneath the weight of books about the Cape Cod Baseball League. There are narrative accounts of a season, historical accounts reaching back over 100 years, picture books and guides.
What has been missing has been a novel, a SABR-like encyclopedia and a children’s book.
Well, wait no longer for the children’s book. This summer Cape Cod’s own Diane Troy has written along with illustrator Charr Flloyd a delightful children’s book for Mascot Books.
Summer Ball (with a Cape League logo on the cover) is a simple overview of the CCBL that begins with a player arriving at a host family’s house. Young readers then get a tour of the league, visiting each team and learning something about the league. We learn about scouts, the teams, reporters, the fog, the playoffs, etc. (Why don’t we learn about the blogs?)
Floyd’s anime-inspired illustrations are fun and distinctive. I like the Anglers cartoon where the outfielder looks like a ghost from Scooby-Doo in the fog.
I emailed author Diane Troy to ask her a few questions.
What interested you in writing a children’s book about the Cape League?
I’ve been a player host mom for 20 years and am also merchandise coordinator for the Chatham Anglers. I spotted the publisher’s books on Wally the Gren Monster and Patriots football and felt a story about the CCBL would also be marketable, as printed by Mascot Books.
What ages would you say this is best geared to?
Being illustrated, it would appeal to children between 3 and 10, but it would also serve as a souvenir from one of the Cape League games, especially if it’s autographed by players from various teams!
Where can someone get a copy of the book?
Books are available at : Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Hyannis; the Cape Cod League Hall of Fame, Hyannis; 9 franchise locations in the CCBL, a dozen private bookstores on the Cape; and from me, personally via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does the league benefit from sales?
Every dollar benefits the team selling it. There is no compensation to me as author. The book is just another merchandise item that can be sold to support the Chatham Athletic Association/Chatham Anglers. Surprisingly, the book now needs to be reordered …a mere seven weeks after delivery.
EDITOR’S NOTE: CodBall continues its partnership with WCAI/WGBH NPR for the Cape and Islands. Broadcasted on Monday morning June 8th, Dan Tritle and I previewed the 2009 Cape season, and we interviewed Tom Simon for the latest CodBall Conversation.
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Its history reaches back as far as baseball itself, and this Thursday the Cape Cod Baseball League begins its 124th season.
Over the past several years WCAI has teamed up with CodBall to bring forward voices and stories from the league. This week our CodBall Conversation is with Tom Simon, who has created a novel game based on statistics emanating from top players in the Cape League over the past decade.
For many baseball enthusiasts, the dice game known as Strat-o-matic is an enduring memory from their childhood, one that precedes today’s fantasy baseball and video games. In Strat-o-matic your team’s players are printed on cards with batting and fielding probabilities which are then played out in a game with the role of a dice. NPR four years ago ran a memorable story on the influence of Strat-o-matic.
Mr. Simon, an award-winning baseball writer, has created his own Cape Cod version of Strat-o-matic and was interviewed last week from his law offices in Vermont.
CB: Tell us how you play the game.
Simon: You’ve got one four-sided die, which looks like a little pyramid, and two ten-sided dice that generate numbers from double-zero to ninety-nine. If you roll one or two on the four-sided die, you look at the batter’s card for the result; if you roll three or four, you look at the pitcher’s card. If you roll a low number like double-zero, especially on the batter’s card, you’ve got a pretty good chance of an extra-base hit; if you roll in the 90s, it’s probably a strikeout. There are some nuances — if you roll doubles, for example, there could be an error — but that’s the game in a nutshell. It’s pretty simple.
CB: So who are some of the players contained in the game?
Simon: The Cape League’s website has statistics for the past ten seasons, so I made what amount to all-decade teams for each of the League’s ten franchises. Some of the players are established Major League stars, like Mark Teixeira, Chase Utley, Evan Longoria, Kevin Youkilis, and Tim Lincecum; a lot are guys you’ve never heard of unless you’re a scout or a serious Cape League follower; and some, like Matt Wieters Aaron Crow, and Grant Green, are guys you may not have heard of yet, but soon will be stars. All told, I made cards for over 270 players.
In Field of Dreams, Shoeless Joe tells Ray that if he builds it (the field) they will come. The Cape Cod Baseball League might as well have a parallel quip, “if the scouts don’t come, neither will the top talent.”
I had the great privilege recently of spending a little time with one of the great scouts, Mel Didier. Mel is currently with the Texas Rangers but also played important roles with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks.
“I don’t know of anyone who has been in more baseball parks throughout the world,” Fred Claire, one-time GM of the Dodgers, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
I ran into Mr. Didier recently in Yakima, Washington, where his son, former major leaguer Bob Didier, was managing the Single-A Yakima Bears of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. Over dinner late one night after a Bears game and then the next day at lunch, I listened to Didier tell captivating story after story about players and games I remembered from television or from books.
One story is how he stood in the Dodgers locker room prior to the 1988 World Series game with the Oakland A’s. He looked over at the left-handed hitters who happened to be sitting together, and told them that if they are facing Dennis Eckersley with a 3-2 count they were guaranteed to see a back-door slider. We all know the legend that follows. The injured Kirk Gibson stepped in to pinch-hit. Sure enough, he faced Eckersley with a 3-2 count. Suddenly he backed out of the batters box and told Didier later that he could hear the old southerner’s twang in his head, “look for the back-door slider.”
In a new memoire, “Podnuh, Let Me Tell You a Story,” Didiere tells the story of his rise to prominence in baseball, which began as part-time scout. Didier signed and developed some of the top talent in the game: Andre Dawson, Larry Parish, Steve Rogers, Dave Henderson, Ralph Garr and others.
I especially enjoyed Didier’s account of his unlawful scouting mission to Cuba, where he was only able to escape with the assistance of none other than Fidel Castro.
We have some audio of Didier’s story: