Summer Collegiate : : Story
Wednesday, June 05, 2013

2013 Summer Collegiate Coverage

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Perfect Game

Cape League Shows Way Again
As Summer Leagues Begin Play

In contrast to the stable environment of the Cape Cod League, the granddaddy of all summer-collegiate leagues, the summer baseball landscape continues to undergo its usual annual makeover.

The Cape begins its 129
th season of operation on June 12 with the same 10-team alignment that has been in place for 25 years, making the Massachusetts-based, not-for-profit entity one of the longest-standing, fully-intact leagues in the United States—any sport, not just baseball.

Back in 1988, when Bourne and Brewster were added to the Cape League membership to give the league its current 10-team structure, the only acknowledged summer leagues at the time were the Alaska, Atlantic Collegiate, Central Illinois, Great Lakes, Jayhawk and Valley leagues. With the exception of the CICL, which was re-formed in 2009 as the Prospect League, all those leagues still exist, though not without significant change in their basic membership.

Led the by the Cape, the popularity of the game at the summer-league level has grown like wildfire over the last 25 years—assimilating, to a degree, the exponential growth of the game at the minor-league level in the last quarter century.

Today, there are upwards of 30 recognized summer leagues in the U.S. and Canada, encompassing some 300 teams, that are stocked solely with college talent—or players with college eligibility. In contrast to the Cape, the leagues come in all shapes and sizes, and are governed, often loosely, by a variation of rules and philosophies. They have one thing in common, though, in that they all use wood bats.

On one extreme is the 16-team Northwoods League, formed in 1994, which stands apart from most summer leagues in terms of basic philosophy. It patterns itself largely along the lines of a conventional minor league—complete with owners bent on drawing large crowds and making a profit, to a lengthy schedule, to rugged travel conditions typically found in the minor leagues.

On the other end is the Southern Collegiate League, a seven-team operation based in the heart of the Carolinas and one of 10 not-for-profit summer leagues (including the Cape) that rely on a financial handout from Major League Baseball for its very survival. While the Northwoods League recruits its players nationally, often going head-to-head with the Cape for talent, the Southern League is much more low-key, typically drawing its players from its immediate geographical area.

This year, new summer leagues have sprung up in North Carolina (the All-American Collegiate Baseball League) and California (Golden State Collegiate Baseball League), while numerous established leagues have taken on a different look by adding clubs. The New England Collegiate League has jumped to 13 franchises by adding three new teams (including one in New York for the first time), while three of the more-progressive summer leagues, the Cal Ripken, California Collegiate and West Coast, have added two teams apiece.

Befitting the constant upheaval and often-unpredictable nature of summer ball, the Hawaii Collegiate League has suspended operations after 10 years while the Atlantic Collegiate League, the biggest summer league a year ago, has downsized from 17 teams to seven—largely because teams in the former Hamptons Division on Long Island have split off to form their own seven-team alignment, the Hamptons Collegiate League.

Moreover, competing first-year entities that operated in and around Myrtle Beach, S.C., the Beach Collegiate League and Myrtle Beach Summer Collegiate League, have amalgamated to form one 12-team league, which will be known as the Beach Collegiate League.

With no formal starting date for summer leagues, some like the Coastal Plain and Prospect leagues (both May 28) and Northwoods (May 29) have been underway for a week, while many others open play this week, including the Perfect Game Collegiate League, which begins its third season tonight. The Cape is traditionally the last league to kick off its season because of the large number of players that are typically still with the top NCAA Division I programs in post-season play, and would otherwise be unavailable.

Against the backdrop of the explosion of leagues and teams in summer baseball is USA Baseball, which continues to skim off the cream of the crop of the available college talent for its annual national-team program. This year’s club will congregate at USA Baseball’s national-training facility in Cary, N.C., on June 21 and play an assortment of exhibition games against local summer leagues before renewing its long-standing series on the road against Japan, before returning home to play an international series against Cuba’s national team.

USA Baseball’s college-national team has played an abbreviated, more-scaled back version of a summer schedule in recent years—a stark contrast to 1988, when a U.S. team of college all-stars, led by future major leaguers like Jim Abbott and Robin Ventura, won gold at the Seoul Olympics—when baseball was an Olympic sport.

How the summer-baseball landscape has changed over the last 25 years—the Cape Cod League not withstanding.

Perfect Game Plans Extensive Summer Coverage

In keeping with its extensive coverage of the summer college league ranks in recent years, Perfect Game plans on providing significant coverage again this summer—and not just about its own 10-team league based in upstate New York.

Beginning in the week of June 17, we’ll resume our weekly ranking of the nation’s top 30 summer-league teams, and we’ll close out the 2013 season by ranking the top professional prospects in some 25 leagues. We also plan to unveil summer-league notebooks, compiled by our cast of college- and summer-league experts, though those details have yet to be finalized.

Our final 2012 summer-league team rankings, along with comprehensive scouting reports on the top prospects in numerous leagues, are available for review.

Also available is a lengthy story on Perfect Game’s No. 1-ranked team from a year ago, the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate League. Appropriately PG’s Allan Simpson, author of the story, will be in Newport Thursday for the Gulls’ 2013 season opener, to formally present the championship trophy to the Gulls.

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