Cooperstown camraderie

Photo courtesy Cooperstown Hawkeyes
From Perfect Game USA

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The Cooperstown Hawkeyes won 12 of the 44 games they played in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League this summer. But that doesn’t mean they regret the experience.

Third baseman Quinn Pippin wasn’t even planning on playing summer ball this year until his high school buddy, Denis Buckley, invited Pippin to join him in Cooperstown.

“I’m glad I went,” Pippin said. “The biggest thing is that we had so much team chemistry. I love every single kid on this team. We didn’t hate going to the ballpark every day. We knew we weren’t always going to win, but we all loved each other, so it was fine.

Pippin was one of four PGCBL All-Stars on the Cooperstown roster. He led the team in games played (42) and home runs (four).

James Norwood (Saint Louis), Raleigh Rushing (Cypress) and Jacob Hubert (Laredo CC) also represented the Hawkeyes in the PGCBL All-Star Game on July 24. Hubert, who is transferring to Texas A&M Corpus Christi this fall, finished the summer second on the team with a .313 batting average and first in stolen bases (18). Teammate Tyler Mautner (Buffalo) won the all-star game home run derby, blasting five homers in the final round.

Steven Kandborg (Wenatchee Valley CC) led Cooperstown with a .315 batting average in 73 at-bats. He tied for the team lead in hit-by-pitches (five) with three others.

“It was a fun atmosphere,” Head Coach Eric Coleman said of the PGCBL All-Star game. “It was a good game and I think there were 12-15 scouts there. The league is starting to get noticed, it’s a sleeping giant. I see a lot of top schools sending their guys to this league.”

Not only is the talent on the field improving, but the marketing department is too.

“We’re expanding our sponsorship base by leaps and bounds,” team President Tom Hickey said.

The Hawkeyes — who made the playoffs last season — also have a relationship with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the support of President Jeff Idelson. They distribute tickets at the Hall of Fame and take Hall of Fame players to Doubleday Field to watch the Hawkeyes’ games. As an added bonus, Cooperstown players get free admission into the Hall, a perk that many, including Pippin, took advantage of.

“Everything is so up-to-date there, it’s very awesome,” Pippin said. “It’s cool seeing the World Series rings and how they’ve progressed. They used to be pins.”

Pippin also recalled a plaque dedicated to the accomplishment of Ron Necciai, who in 1952 threw a no-hitter with 27 strikeouts in a minor league game.

“My grandpa was actually at the game and told me about it, but I didn’t believe it,” Pippin said.

Pippin, who is transferring from Tulane to the University of Tampa this fall, experienced an incredible streak of his own this summer. After starting 0-for-30 at the plate, he finished 39-for-115 (.339). Pippin attributes the turnaround to extra work in the batting cage and getting his front foot down sooner. To improve further, he’s working on his two-strike approach, hoping to cut down on his strikeouts.

The soon-to-be 22-year-old redshirt junior has come a long way since playing in the 2008 PG/WWBA 18u National Championship. After his freshman season at Tulane, Pippin played summer ball in Alaska. Doing so allowed him the opportunity to enjoy his favorite non-baseball activity: fishing.

“We ended up winning the league up there, it was a great experience,” he said. And I caught a lot of salmon, so it was a blast.”

Pippin had Tommy John surgery last June, which kept him from playing summer ball in 2011. Now fully recovered, the St. Petersburg, Fla. Native is looking forward to his first year at Tampa.

The Cooperstown staff, on the other hand, is looking forward to the summer of 2013. Hickey plans to recruit more experienced players next year, a stark contrast to this season’s approach.

“I think the league is going to do extremely well in the future,” Coleman said. “It would not surprise me to see it become one of the top leagues in the country within the next five years.”

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