Amateur league showcases talented players before they make it big — both behind the plate and behind the mic
There is an iconic simplicity to the Cape Cod Baseball League: Fans bring folding chairs and coolers, ballpark tickets are free, food selections are limited, and they don’t sell beer.
The more seasoned spectators relax as they watch the young men play, and scouts hidden in the stands or near the press box diligently take notes and check stopwatches. Both groups hope to glimpse a future star before he becomes famous.
More than 1,000 league veterans have gone on to Major League Baseball, and you may have heard of some of them: Tim Lincecum, Jacoby Ellsbury, Buster Posey, Barry Zito and Nomar Garciaparra, just to name a few.
For the student broadcasters at the Massachusetts league, this is also their time to hone their skills on their way to making it big. Five students from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication scored internships with the league this year, the most of any university represented at the Cape for the second year in a row. Just like the players on the field, they had to prove themselves to earn their spot.
André Simms is the on-field reporter for the Wareham Gatemen. He also steps in as the play-by-play announcer and sometimes does color commentary, filling in the gap between plays with interesting information about teams and players, the overwhelming majority of whom are NCAA student-athletes keeping sharp over the summer.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s so rewarding,” he said of his time at the Cape League. Since he landed the internship in January, he has been preparing for the job by doing research and keeping tabs on the players.
Simms is a rising junior who attended St. Mary’s College High School in Berkeley, California, and was attracted to Cronkite by the professionalism, state-of-the-art equipment and myriad opportunities to put his training to good use.
The students gave props to the Cronkite School for helping them prepare to be competitive and successful in sports journalism.
“In two years, I’ve been able to grow so much as a journalist and improve tenfold since I got on campus,” Simms said. “I’m getting these real-world opportunities, like coming out here on the Cape. I’ve worked for ESPN, the Pac-12 Networks, and that’s not something other schools are going to offer right away.”
He also credited ASU’s emphasis on inter- and multi-disciplinary learning as helping him grow. Simms is pursuing a theater minor, which he says helps him in sports journalism because of the need to think quickly and be flexible doing live reporting.
Jake Garcia, the play-by-play announcer for the Wareham Gatemen, is back on the Cape for his second season. He is a rising senior in the accelerated master’s program at the Cronkite School.
Garcia is also from California and was “dead-set” on attending UCLA until he received a flier in the mail about the sports journalism program at ASU. When a high school baseball tournament was rained out, he and his dad took a road trip to ASU, he took a tour and the rest is history, he said.
The deciding factor for him was the Cronkite News studio and anchor desk. He said that seeing the Cronkite School’s commitment to giving students the best, most realistic experience possible made him decide to attend ASU.
He said it was a smart decision because “I’m getting exactly what I need,” including the professional training experience both in Arizona’s largest city, but also in the support for internships including this one at the Cape Cod Baseball League.
“It’s a fantastic experience, because it’s 44 games in about 50 days,” he said about his summer job. “You can’t duplicate those reps anywhere else. It’s a grind.”
Like Simms, he has had a number of opportunities that he doesn’t think he would get at other schools, including keeping spring training stats with Time Warner, ESPNU, or FOX, calling ASU baseball games through the Pac-12 network, and an internship with Scout Media covering ASU football.
“I kind of feel like a player,” he said. “They’re trying to improve their draft stock, and I’m trying to improve my resume reel. We’re both going to end up finding ourselves in minor league baseball eventually. I’m ready for the ride.”
Top photo: The Cape Cod Baseball League is a place where young ballplayers hone their skills, but emerging broadcasters such as Andre Simms (left) and Jake Garcia get practice, too. Photo by Logan Clark/ASU