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They are called the boys of summer for a reason.
While many Harvard athletes simply try to stay in shape while toiling away at I-Banking internships, the Crimson’s baseball stars go to work every day, too—on the diamond.
Soon-to-be juniors Zak Farkes and Lance Salsgiver, teammates on the Wareham Gatemen of the prestigious Cape Cod Summer Baseball League, headline the group of current Harvard players in summer ball, but a variety of other players—past and present—are playing amateur and professional baseball around the country, from Yakima, Wash. to Keene, N.H.
After Farkes was selected by his hometown Boston Red Sox as a draft-eligible sophomore in the 39th round in June—far lower than many baseball insiders has projected—Harvard’s single-season and career home run king opted to honor his contract with the Gatemen in hopes of raising his stock.
Like it is for so many hitters, however, the Cape League has been humbling for Farkes. Though Farkes has shown an aptitude for hitting with wooden bats during off-season practices, according to teammates, he has struggled using wood in the historically pitcher-dominant league this summer, batting only .211 with five doubles and one home run. Farkes leads the last-place Gatemen in runs scored, however, and has been hot of late, raising his average 15 points over the past few games heading into the all-star break this weekend.
Until he attends his first class in September, he is still eligible to sign with the Sox, but his difficulties with the wood bat coupled with his lower-than-expected draft position will likely combine to bring the All-Ivy first teamer back to Harvard for his junior season.
He would, however, have another chance to sign with the Red Sox following his last exam in the spring, assuming Harvard’s season has ended before the 2005 Amateur Draft commences.
If he does not sign before then, Boston will lose his rights and he will reenter the draft.
Salsgiver, meanwhile, is more concerned with the upcoming draft than the previous one. After turning down a six-figure signing bonus out of high school, the Crimson’s right fielder and former high school All-American is attempting to use the Cape League to propel him up teams’ draft boards.
Though he hasn’t shown much power, posting only one extra-base hit in 24 games played, Salsgiver has shown a knack for getting on base for the Gatemen. Despite hitting at only a .221 clip, the Crimson right fielder has an on-base percentage of .346, second on the team only to the .354 mark of Houston outfielder Travis Tully.
SCHUYLER MANN ’05
Like Farkes and Salsgiver, Mann stayed close to Cambridge over the summer, playing for the Keene Swamp Bats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL). Two summers ago, reigning Ivy Pitcher of the Year Trey Hendricks ’03, first emerged as a major hitting prospect while playing for the Swamp Bats, and now the soon-to-be senior Mann is attempting the same thing.
Harvard’s captain for the upcoming season has followed up a unanimous All-Ivy first-team campaign for the Crimson with a .273-5-13 first half for Keene, one of the premiere wooden bat summer leagues in the country. He has also posted an impressive 23 walks compared to 22 strikeouts.
The solid numbers should come as no surprise considering how well Mann swung a wood bat last summer in the Alaskan Summer Baseball League before his season was cut short due to a broken clavicle.
TREY HENDRICKS ’04
Hendricks, the lone player from the Crimson’s 2003 campaign currently in the minors, was assigned to the Diamondbacks short-season A ball affiliate Yakima Bears of the Northwest League after being selected in the 24th round by Arizona.
Hendricks is hitting a respectable .252-4-13 in 111 at-bats for the Bears, but struggling defensively with nine errors in 29 games while splitting time between first and third base.
Joining Hendricks on Yakima’s roster is former Princeton fireballer Ross Ohlendorf, the fourth-round selection of the Diamondbacks. Ohlendorf, however, joined the team late after signing just this week and has yet to pitch.
BEN CROCKETT ’02
The most high-profile of Harvard’s prospects, Crockett was assigned to the Visalia Oaks, the high-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies to open his third season of professional baseball. But after a very impressive showing at low-A Asheville (10-9, 2.49 ERA) that could have earned him a spot on the Rockies’ AA squad this spring, Crockett has struggled in the California League, posting a 2-9 record and a professional worst 6.26 ERA.
He has, however, once again proved his durability and usefulness as an inning eater, leading the staff with 109 1/3 innings pitched in 18 starts this season for the last place Oaks.
His best start of the season may have been his most recent. The 2002 Ivy Co-Pitcher of the Year allowed only four hits in the first six innings of Monday night’s game against Stockton, prompting Visalia manager Stu Cole to say he was “very pleased” with Crockett’s performance, despite the 24-year-old eventually being tagged with the loss.
Crockett was a third-round selection of the Rockies in the 2002 Amateur Draft, and in two years of minor league ball entering this season was a combined 14-16 with a 3.42 ERA over three levels while.
JOHN BIRTWELL ’01
Though not as well-known in baseball circles as Crockett, Birtwell is the former Harvard ace putting up the best numbers in the minor leagues.
In his first three minor league seasons in the Detroit Tigers organization, Birtwell was 12-8 with a 2.25 ERA while being used almost exclusively out of the bullpen. After earning recognition as the organization’s co-Pitcher of the Year in 2002, however, Birtwell pitched much of last season in pain with a frayed labrum that forced him to undergo corrective surgery last fall.
Birtwell, 25, was forced to sit out the beginning of the season, before making his debut for the high-A Lakeland Tigers of the Florida State League in mid April.
Birtwell has been as consistent as always, going 1-2 with a 2.67 ERA while striking out 21 batters in 27 innings of relief work.
AROUND THE HORN
Brian Lentz ’02-’03 is hitting .246-2-12 with 25 strikeouts in 69 at-bats for the Mariners high-A affiliate Inland Empire of the California League. He has spent most of the season backing up the more highly-rated 20-year old catching prospect Rene Rivera, prompting Lentz to tell the Press-Enterprise, “It’s tough. You’re not getting to play every day so you can’t see where you’re at as a player”….Kenon Ronz ’03, a first-team All-Ivy pitcher two seasons ago, is struggling in the Detroit Tigers farm system, posting a 1-5 record and 5.68 ERA despite a trademark stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 4-to-1….rising junior Frank Herrmann is playing both ways for the NECBL’s Berkshire Dukes, posting a 2-1 record and a 2.38 ERA while also hitting .260-4-11 in 50 at-bats…The Ivy League’s top draft pick this season, Princeton outfielder B.J. Szymanski, is hitting .295-3-12 in just 45 at-bats for the rookie-level Billings Mustangs since signing with the Cincinnati Reds earlier this month. After about five weeks of negotiating, the Reds inked their second-round selection for a $750,000 signing bonus. Szymanski celebrated the signing by buying a new truck and then hitting a home run in his first professional game.
—Staff writer Lande A. Spottswood can be reached at email@example.com.
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