NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
By Bethany Bradsher
Ex-mentor: Roller college
All rights reserved.
(Photo: ECU SID)
(Photo: Auburn SID)
Summer collegiate baseball leagues are pretty far off the radar for all but
the most ardent fans, overshadowed by preseason football and the major
leagues. But this week a Pirate earned an honor that makes him, according to
his former coach, the top college baseball player in the nation.
For his contributions to the Bourne Braves that included leading the league
in home runs (10), RBI's (33), doubles (13), slugging percentage (.644),
extra-base hits (24) and runs scored (33), East Carolina slugger Kyle Roller
was named MVP of the Cape Cod League on Saturday.
Roller also helped lead
the team, which includes ECU pitcher Seth Maness, to the league championship
series, where the Braves
thumped the Cotuit Kettleers 15-5
Tuesday night in the fog-shortened six-inning opener of the best of three
For the soon-to-be
senior, it’s the highest achievement in the most prestigious of the summer
wooden-bat leagues. Since 1885, top collegians have traveled north to
develop their game in Massachusetts towns like Hyannis and Orleans.
More than 200 former Cape
Cod players were listed on major league rosters in 2008, and Roller shares
his MVP distinction with former Cape Cod standouts like Evan Longoria (2005)
and Jason Varitek (1993).
“If you had to have a
vote, he’s the best amateur player in baseball right now,” said Link
Jarrett, Roller’s hitting coach for the past three years at East Carolina.
“Anyone will tell you that the CC League is the best of the best. And he was
the best player in that group. That’s really a rare achievement. That’s like
the Heisman trophy of what’s going on in college baseball right now.”
Jarrett is no longer part
of the ECU staff — he left last month to become the director of player
development at Auburn — but that doesn’t diminish his pride in Roller’s
accomplishments or his expectation of future greatness in the young man from
For his outstanding play
in the Pirates’ 2009 Conference USA Championship season, Roller was named
first-team All-America and first-team All-Conference USA. He batted .336
with 63 runs and 16 home runs and led the Pirates with a .429 batting
average in the NCAA tournament.
On June 11, Roller was
selected in the 47th round of the MLB draft by the Oakland A's, becoming the
fifth Pirate to be drafted. But Roller is still unsigned, fanning hope
amidst the Pirate nation that he will return to a squad that Jarrett thinks
could be even deeper than the 2009 Pirates.
Leaving ECU was tough for
Jarrett for many reasons, he said, but missing a front-row seat to Roller’s
senior season is certainly high on the list.
““He’s always been a very
dedicated player, and I think he took his game to a new level this year,”
Jarrett said. “I am so proud of Kyle and what he’s done, and he’s got a
great future ahead of him.”
The recipe for Roller’s
weighty success in the Cape Cod League is equal parts mental toughness and
physical strength, Jarrett said. Roller is a thinking player who keeps track
of opposing pitchers and their patterns — “one of the smartest players I’ve
ever coached,” according to Jarrett.
He has the mental
fortitude to get behind in the count and wait for the ideal pitch without
collapsing under pressure.
“He thinks at a very high
level, and the game within the game is something that he just really has a
grasp of," said Jattett.
He’s also big and strong
and so dedicated that he regularly reported to the field five hours before
the first pitch to go through drills that the coaches developed to help him
hit with more power and consistency, Jarrett said. Roller’s strength was
probably an advantage when he made the transition from aluminum bats at ECU
to the heavier wooden bats in the Cape Cod League.
As the summer season
comes to a close, Jarrett is expecting more honors to come Roller’s way,
including a watch list mention for the Golden Spikes Award — given to the
nation’s top amateur player — and the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year.
“He’s everything you can
ask for in a college student,” Jarrett said. “He’s dedicated, and he does
things the right way.”
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08/12/2009 03:46:59 AM