Area players impacting Cape Cod league
Former central Ohio high school standouts are making an impact in what many consider to be the country's premier wooden-bat amateur summer baseball league.
Playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League are Drew Dosch (Canal Winchester), Michael O'Neill (Olentangy Liberty) and Jared King (Dublin Jerome) for the Falmouth Commodores and Josh Dezse (Liberty) and Mike Mayers (Grove City) for the Bourne Braves.
All five graduated in 2010 and are competing at the Division I college level.
"It's been really cool," said Dosch, who plays third base at Youngstown State. "I played with Jared and Michael growing up for the Columbus Cobras, and I played with Jared again in high school (summer ball).
"It's been a great experience seeing people you played with or against all throughout your career as a little kid through high school. Now, to be here in one of the best leagues in the country is really cool knowing we all came from the same team when we were 12 or 13."
O'Neill, an outfielder at Michigan, and Dosch are rooming together with the same host family.
"I knew that Jared was coming out here," O'Neill said. "I didn't know that Drew was. Jared and I were sitting at our lockers and Drew walked through the door, and then I came to find out that Drew would be my roommate and Jared lives down the street. We always see each other and hit in the same (batting practice) group."
Through July 16, Falmouth was in second place in the league's Western Division, thanks in part to its three central Ohioans. Through 27 games, Dosch was hitting .330 with four home runs, 14 RBI and 18 runs. O'Neill had played in 26 games, batting .248 with four homers, 13 RBI and 20 runs.
King, an outfielder at Kansas State, was hitting .308 with three homers, seven RBI and 18 runs in 25 games for Falmouth. Dosch and King were tied for the team lead with 33 hits.
Bourne was fifth in the five-team Western Division through July 16. Dezse was 0-1 with a 3.18 ERA and two saves, and he had two homers and eight RBI in 39 at-bats. In 19 innings, Mayers was 0-2 with a 4.26 ERA. He had 29 strikeouts and five walks.
Having this kind of talent from one area competing in the same summer league is impressive, according to Dosch.
"I would say it's rare, but at the same time Ohio, especially Columbus, is such a great place for sports growing up," he said. "That's one of the things we benefited from was playing against great competition."
That level of competition goes back to travel baseball before the players were in high school and wasn't limited to central Ohio, said Mayers, a right-handed pitcher at Mississippi.
"I just think that our class was really strong in baseball," he said. "We have us five from central Ohio and a couple kids (from around the state) throughout the league. I think our class as a whole in the state of Ohio was maybe one of the better ones.
"It's awesome that we all grew up playing against each other and it's cool to be in one of the best places to play baseball and still competing."
Going up against talent not even collectively found in the Big Ten Conference can be beneficial, according to Dezse, a right-handed pitcher and first baseman at Ohio State.
"If you want to get drafted (by a major league team), you need to come play at the Cape," he said. "These guys, every one of them, will probably have a chance to go play pro ball. That's what's crazy. Every night you see a pitcher who throws hard and you see hitters who can hit a home run every game.
"It's the best of the best here and to make yourself better you have to face them. Every time I toe the rubber or step in the batter's box, I know I'm facing the best. It's very challenging, but at the same time, it's fun. The fans are always there and the scouts pack the stands."
O'Neill has the benefit of being able to lean from time to time on his uncle, former Reds and Yankees outfielder Paul O'Neill.
"Any time you have a resource like him, you have to use it, and I have," Michael O'Neill said. "Whether it's talking about a bad game or driving down to Cincinnati to hit for a few days, that's what I do.
"I don't want to get any opportunities that someone else wouldn't get just because he's my uncle, but I'd be crazy not to draw from his experiences."
The experience of playing in the Cape Cod League will be invaluable because it's similar to what professional players experience, Dosch said.
"In school you go through a daily grind of class, maybe lifting and then the field, whereas up here you're playing every day. You can wake up and do whatever, but you have to be at the field by about 3 o'clock for BP," he said. "You're living what it would be like to be a professional baseball player. It's a really great experience to go through the daily grind, finding out what it takes to be a baseball player at a higher level. We're trying to make it to the next level and that's a great experience."
The regular season is scheduled to end Aug. 7 with playoffs to follow, including a championship best-of-three series beginning Aug. 15.