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Chris Niesel Checks In From The Cape Cod League

Aug. 7, 2002

Dear Irish Fans,

This is Chris Niesel reporting from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I currently am wrapping up the summer season for the Falmouth Commodores in the Cape Cod Baseball League. I played on the same team as Martin “The Frog” Vergara. The Commodores sadly missed the playoffs by one point with a 20-21 record. We were in a close race with the Wareham Gateman, who just barely beat us out for a berth in the playoffs.

The town of Falmouth is a unique place with excellent participation from the community. The average attendance of a night game is nearly 2,000. Many tourists as well as residents come to the games on a regular basis. Martin and I had a chance to meet many of the children in the community through the daily baseball camps held at Fuller Field. It was a great experience to work with the kids and get to know them. The kids look up to us as if we were major leaguers. I feel it is important to make a positive impact on kids’ lives at such a young age.

Here in Falmouth, Martin and I both stayed with host families that we knew prior to coming to Falmouth. I had a chance to stay with Sandra Couto, who is my next door neighbor in Plantation, Florida, and lives in Falmouth for the summer. “Mi Mi” as I call her is a great lady and made my summer very enjoyable. Her house is located on a pond and she has a rowboat that I used to go fishing from time to time.

I also had a chance to do some fishing for striped bass and giant shark with a very good friend of the family Mike Lynch. Mike is an expert fisherman with a beautiful boat. The best trip we took was shark fishing, 35 miles off the coast off of the famous Martha’s Vineyard. I was able to boat three Mako sharks and eight blue sharks, ranging in size from 100-300 pounds. That was a fishing trip that I will never forget.

Martin and I also had the opportunity to take a road trip to Fenway Park in Boston for a Red Sox game. This was the first time for both Martin and myself in Fenway Park. Martin, a Yankee fan, was ridiculed the entire game for sporting his N.Y. Yankees hat to a Red Sox game. I, on the other hand, took it upon myself to sign up for a credit card and get a free Red Sox shirt!

We went to the park just a few days after the ceremony for Ted Williams and we took pictures of the #9 still etched out in the outfield. We also have pictures of the famous seat where Williams farthest home run landed in right field. We were not allowed to sit in the seat, because in Boston this seat is almost as sacred as the Grotto in South Bend. With all joking aside, our first trip to Fenway Park was just a great experience and gave us exciting memories.

Teammates John Axford and Steve Sollmann also spent the summer on Cape Cod. John pitched for the Hyannis Mets, and Steve played for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. I had a chance to go out to dinner with John one night and talk about our different experiences on Cape Cod. We had a great time sharing stories about the people we have met and the different adventures we have had. Steve was a good distance away in Dennis, but we still kept in touch throughout the summer. Just the other day, in fact, Martin and I went to Steve’s house to go swimming and eat pizza before the game. Steve was very fortunate to live in a very nice house with a great host family. He also was excited to make the playoffs and play for the Cape League Championship.

Well that pretty much sums up my summer on Cape Cod. I was pitching pretty well until last Sunday, when I pitched against the Chatam A’s. I suffered my first collegiate loss and my first loss in a while. But I have learned a lot about pitching. The competition in the Cape League is the best in the country for college baseball. And it makes you focus a lot on the smaller aspects of the game when pitching against the nation’s best.

I finished the summer season with a record of 3-1 with a 3.42 ERE. I was 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA going into the last game I pitched. But every player has to deal with failure sometimes and how you deal with failure tells a lot about your nature as a ball player. I feel this summer was a huge success for all the Notre Dame players in the Cape. We also missed Grant Johnson and Matt Macri, who were originally supposed to play for the Brewster Whitecaps. I know they would have enjoyed the Cape just as much as the rest of us.

I would like to take a moment to say thanks to all my teammates, but especially the seniors from this past season. I cannot say enough about the group of guys I had the chance to play baseball with everyday and put on the same uniform. But the senior class last year was just a great group of guys. Without the comfort, tutelage and wisdom from the seniors I do not know if we would have made it to the College Word Series.

As I mentioned to the entire team on the last day we were all together, from a freshman’s point of view this was the best support group any rookie could ask for. They showed us not only how to play college baseball, but more important lessons in life. From how to act in airports, and how to respect your teammates, they demonstrated to the best of their ability. I have the utmost respect for everyone of those guys and I wish them the best of luck in their pro careers.

Thank you all for your support and look forward to seeing you back at Notre Dame,

Chris Niesel