Even though rain cut the night short in the fifth inning, players had a ball Thursday at the Cape Cod Baseball League’s all-star game at Fenway Park. The wood-bat collegiate league counts current Red Sox players Jason Bay, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek and Kevin Youkilis among its alumni, but it had not staged an all-star game here since 1987, when the best of the Cape beat a squad of Atlantic Collegiate Baseball Leaguers.
On this day, routine was anything but. Standing near the first-base dugout at Fenway Park a little before 6 p.m. Thursday, Mark Gormley was asked what had given him his biggest thrill of the afternoon.
“Just shagging flies during batting practice was unbelievable,” said Gormley, a southpaw from Milton. “Most days it’s boring. Tomorrow it’ll be boring and it’ll be work.”
On Thursday it was joy.
After all, there’s no such thing as drudgery when you’re a 20-year-old kid patrolling left field in the shadow of the Green Monster.
“Honestly,” said Gormley, a rising junior at Brown University, “it’s been like a dream come true.”
Ditto for fellow Milton resident Alex Hassan of Duke and former Hanover High star John Leonard, now at Boston College, who joined Gormley at the Under Armour Cape League All-Star Game.
All three are Red Sox fans who have seen Fenway up close numerous times. Just never quite like this.
“Growing up I was here all the time,” said Hassan, an ex-BC High star who was drafted by the Sox in the 20th round this summer. “I know this place very well. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. But it’s definitely a little different perspective.
“This is the first time I’ve been on the field with a lot of people here. I came here for some workouts, but it was empty. This is the first time with fans in the stands. It’s been really neat.”
The weather didn’t cooperate – the game was called after 4 1/2 innings due to rain, giving Gormley’s West squad a 3-0 victory over the East team, which scratched out only one hit. Hassan was the lone Ledgerland player to see action, drawing a walk in the top of the fifth.
No complaints, though, for the Cape League’s first summer classic at Fenway in 22 years.
“We got here early, we had a lunch in the EMC Club and then took a tour of the field,” said Gormley, a Noble and Greenough School grad who plays for the Hyannis Mets.
“We changed in what is the security locker room. That was a little tight. We didn’t see the home clubhouse. But being in the dugout is really cool. Honestly, just being on the field is worth it. That’s enough.”
Gormley was proud that he cleanly fielded some caroms off the Wall during BP. Hassan, who played American Legion ball with Gormley for Milton Post 114, agreed that shagging flies was “a blast.” An outfielder for this game (although he also pitches for the Orleans Cardinals), Hassan got to take some hacks in the cage as well.
“I hit one over the Monster,” he noted proudly. “Pretty sweet.”
Any chance of talking yourself into the pre-game Home Run Derby with that clout on your résumé?
“No, I wish,” he said with a laugh. “There are some guys that can hit the ball pretty far in the derby. I’ll let them do the hitting.”
Leonard, a pitcher for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, also was content to let the derby pass him by. “I probably wouldn’t get one out of the infield,” he said with a grin.
Even though he has yet to sign with the Sox, Hassan acknowledged that being a draft pick of the team made the day extra special for him. “Hopefully, some day I’ll get an opportunity to play here again,” he said.
Hassan hit .342 as a Duke junior this season and also chipped in eight saves as the Blue Devils’ closer. This summer he’s at .287 in the Cape League with 17 RBI (tied for third in the league), plus two saves.
“He’s just a really, really good baseball player,” Orleans manager Kelly Nicholson said. “He’s a Hall of Fame kid.”
Fresh off helping BC to its first NCAA Div. 1 tournament berth in 42 years, Leonard (2-0, 2.25 ERA) has been sharp for Eastern Division-leading Yarmouth-Dennis.
Meanwhile, Gormley (0-2, 2.87) has been effective for Hyannis after being cut by Brewster. “It was a great pickup for us,” Hyannis manager Chad Gassman said. “He’s just been rock-solid in the bullpen. He comes in for an inning or two and he’s just lights out. Then he can come back the next day if he has to.”
Gormley, Leonard and Hassan will be back at it today as the Cape Cod Baseball League kicks off its two-week regular-season stretch run leading into the start of the playoffs on Aug. 7. There will be big games to come, although not on nearly as big a stage.
“If you can’t get excited about this,” Gassman said of the Fenway interlude, “you probably shouldn’t be playing this sport, or coaching this sport. I have to admit, I don’t giddy about too much stuff anymore, but this is pretty neat.”
Eric McHugh may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.