Founded in 1885 and modernized in 1963, the Cape Cod Baseball League houses some of college baseball’s best players year after year, hundreds of whom eventually become Major Leaguers. Producing five different Baseball Hall of Famers, players in the Cape League hail from some of the top baseball programs in all three NCAA divisions across the country, including UConn.
This past spring, the UConn baseball team made their fifth straight NCAA regional appearance, bowing out in Gainesville, Florida, against fourth-overall pick Wyatt Langford and the national runners-up Florida Gators. Despite coming up short in their bid for a second-straight Super Regional appearance, the Hook C had several talented players refine their skills on the Cape during the summer months.
Like Major League Baseball, the best players from each of the 10 Cape League teams display their league-best talents at the All-Star Game. Second-year Falmouth Commodore Garrett Coe picked up where he left off following a strong spring, earning a spot on the West Division All-Star team’s pitching staff. Going 1-0 with a 3.93 ERA as a Commodore in 2022, the rising senior southpaw became one of the league’s best arms with a microscopic 0.91 ERA in nine relief appearances.
Amidst a shutdown summer in a middle relief role, Coe did not have much company from Storrs until Falmouth made their push for a West Division playoff spot. Not selected in the 2023 MLB Draft, First Team All-Big East selection Stephen Quigley spent the last two weeks of the regular season playing for the Commodores, the Cape League team he made one appearance with in 2021. Quigley earned a decision in his first three outings, ultimately going 2-1 with a 3.85 ERA and eight strikeouts in 9.1 innings.
Falmouth’s postseason ended with a thud as the second-place Hyannis Harbor Hawks swept them in the first round. Those Harbor Hawks pushed the Bourne Braves to the brink of elimination two days later, missing out on the Cape League championship series as two consecutive blowout losses ended their campaign. Rising junior Jack Sullivan pitched in the series-clinching game three for the Braves, surrendering all three of Hyannis’ runs on a bases-loaded walk and a two-run double. Sullivan’s 7.61 ERA and an 0-2 record do not tell the whole story of his durable regular season; the righty allowed no more than three earned runs outside of a disastrous outing against the Harbor Hawks on July 10.
Brady Afthim also pitched in the final two rounds of Bourne’s postseason run, appearing out of the bullpen in a one-run loss versus the Orleans Firebirds during the championship series. Like Sullivan, the rising junior also served as one of the Braves’ most reliable bullpen arms during the regular season. In nine appearances, Afthim posted a 2-0 record with a 1.80 ERA, 15 strikeouts and a two-inning save against the Chatham Anglers. Both he and Sullivan became Cape League champions with Bourne this summer as dependable bullpen arms.
Paul Tammaro also played games with the Braves after batting .410 in 25 games during his first graduate season in Storrs. When his bat could not walk his talk—the graduate student hit a mere .120 in 25 at-bats in Bourne—Tammaro’s four stolen bases in eight contests further showcased his Major League potential. Even though T.C. Simmons will most likely take David Smith’s leadoff spot in the batting order, the New York native could be a dangerous hitter batting second who does damage in more ways than one.
Korey Morton did not make an appearance in June because he too tested the draft waters, ending up in the same boat as Quigley when he did not hear his name called. Coming back for a senior year, Morton entered the mix in mid-July with the Wareham Gatemen. The 2022 All-Big East First Team selection batted .074 in 11 games, but his best performance came against the Braves when he smoked a three-run shot in a 7-0 victory over the eventual Arnold Mycock Trophy champions.
While Morton contributed toward the end of Wareham’s disappointing 2023 summer, fellow Fairfield County native Matt Garbowski made his Cape League cameo in the Anglers’ season opener. Radford University’s Cameron Pittman pinch-ran for Garbowski in the eighth after the starting catcher went 0-3 with a hit by pitch against the Brewster Whitecaps on June 10.
Summer marks a period of change from one college athletics season to the next, a concept that applies perfectly to baseball players in the transfer portal. Connecticut has found numerous gems via the portal in recent years, especially 2023 Big East Player of the Year Dominic Freeberger, 2023 First Team All-Big East selection Ben Huber and 10th round draft pick Andrew Sears. Gabe Van Emon, a left-handed pitcher, is one of those incoming transfers who kept the Hook C’s pipeline alive on the Cape.
The Cape League did not provide an ideal sample of Van Emon’s potential; he made one appearance and allowed two runs on four hits in 2.2 innings. Because of that, the best breakdown of what the southpaw brings to the Huskies’ pitching staff comes from his tenure at Endicott College, where UConn men’s basketball fan favorite Matt Garry exercised his final year of eligibility. Gradually becoming a rotation regular, Van Emon went 18-3 in 43 games (21 starts) with 214 strikeouts in 174 innings, earning Commonwealth Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year honors and All-American recognition in 2023.
Not every Hook C member who spent time on Cape Cod stayed on the roster the entire summer because they either filled in for players from teams that went deeper in the Division I Tournament or joined halfway through the year. Regardless of how long each athlete developed their skills in the Cape League, the numbers they posted helped improve their talents and created some expectations for the Huskies heading into the 2024 season.