By Dylan Vazzano, Hyannis Harbor Hawks Intern
The village of Hyannis entered into a new baseball era for the 2010 Cape Cod Baseball League season as the team changed its name from the Mets to the Harbor Hawks. Although the Hyannis faithful were sad to see the Mets era end, one which had been a mainstay in the community for 34 years since its inception in 1976, the new look Harbor Hawks helped ease some of the pain with a hot start. In fact the Hawks era opened up with a bang in the team’s very first inning of play on a much anticipated opening night at McKeon Park against the Orleans Firebirds. Designated hitter Jason Nappi from Harding University launched a two run home run on his very first swing of the season, which had everyone in the ballpark saying “Mets who?”
The Harbor Hawks would go onto capture a thrilling opening night victory in extra innings on a walk off sacrifice fly by first basemen Cody Stubbs from the University of Tennessee, but that would only serve as an appetizer for what took place on the following night at McKeon Park. In the second and probably most exciting game of the season against the Wareham Gatemen it seemed certain that Hyannis would suffer its first loss in the Harbor Hawks brief new era. The team trailed 3-0 going into the bottom of the 9th but for the second consecutive night the Hawks refused to be denied. Hyannis put together an impressive three run rally which was capped off by a two run two out game tieing home run by shortstop Casey McElroy from Auburn University, and just like that the game went into extra innings where once again the Hawks came out on top.
Hyannis’ hot start led them to an early 4-2 record which at the time put them in a tie for first in the West Division. Offensively, Casey McElroy and Jason Nappi carried the Hawks over the early part of the season as they started the campaign on an absolute tear. McElroy led the team with a .421 batting average over the first six games and Nappi wasn’t too shabby himself with a .391 clip. The dynamic duo which sat in the heart of the Harbor Hawks’ batting order for a good part of the season also combined to hit the team’s only two home runs and collectively drove in eight runs during the fast start.
Unfortunately for the Hawks and their fans the quick start soon became a distant memory. The turning point of the season came in mid July after the Harbor Hawks had just defeated the first place Bourne Braves behind a stellar pitching performance by newcomer Cole Cook. In making his first start of the season, the righty from Pepperdine gave the Hawks exactly what they needed in picking up a win and snapping a two-game losing streak in the process. After the win the Harbor Hawks had a record of 12-16 but were very much alive in the playoff hunt as they were tied with the Falmouth Commodores for the final playoff spot in the West Division. But the Hawks dropped 14 of their final 16 games, including a devastating eight-game losing streak during the most crucial time of the year.
Although the 2010 season ended in disappointing fashion, there were a number of bright spots which helped make the year a memorable one. In fact one of the best stories of the entire league came from Hyannis’ own John Ruettiger. The outfielder from Arizona State took home the Thurman Munson Award for the Cape League's batting title with a remarkable .369 average. “It’s an honor to win such a prestigious title,” said Ruettiger on his impressive accomplishment. “I expected good things coming into the season but this is pretty special.” Ruettiger is the sixth Hyannis player to receive the award and the first since Matt Mangini took home the honors in 2006. The list of Hyannis batting champions also includes Cape League Hall of Famers Jason Varitek (1993) and Nat (Buck) Showalter (1976).
Ruettiger’s phenomenal season earned him an All-Star selection, one of four for the Harbor Hawks in 2010. Ruettiger along with infielder Casey McElroy, first basemen Cam Seitzer from Oklahoma University, and starting pitcher Tyler Ray from Troy University were all selected to play for the West Division. McElroy was one of the team’s most productive players, putting together a solid season offensively. The sophomore from Auburn was second on the team with a .269 batting average but it was his impressive power numbers and ability to hit in the clutch that made him a Cape League standout. McElroy hit three home runs, tied for tops on the team with outfielder Charley Thurber from the University of Tennessee, and McElroy's 25 RBIs gave him a tie for third in the league.
From a pitching standpoint it was the Harbor Hawks bullpen that made a name for itself as the team’s greatest strength. The back end of the bullpen, anchored by closer Dallas Gallant from Sam Houston State and set up men Tyler Mizenko from Winthrop University and Drew Verhagen from Oklahoma University was as good as any in the league. Gallant finished the season with eight saves which was tied for third in the league while Mizenko and Verhagen posted miniscule ERAs of 1.62 and 1.66, respectively. The bullpen also featured the Hawks’ only two players to sign with Major League ball clubs, which is always an exciting part of the Cape League. In the beginning of the summer Barnstable native Kevin Moran from Boston College signed with the Chicago White Sox, and towards the end of the summer Dallas Gallant signed with the Minnesota Twins.
The Harbor Hawks era didn’t necessarily begin on an upbeat note because of a tough record on the field, but that didn’t stop the fans from coming out in full force. Fans flocked to McKeon Park all summer as the team averaged one of the best attendance turnouts in the entire league. Hopes should be high for next year as the team’s manager Chad Gassman will be looking to build off some of the positives of this season in trying to put together a winning team in his third year at the helm. According to Gassman, “It was a year of ups and downs and the losing streak toward the end was unfortunate, but we played very hard our last six or seven games and I couldn’t be prouder. We battled to the end and next year we will try to get back on a roll.”