The Cape Cod League continues to be a summer hot spot for the top college baseball players in the country.
Founded in 1885 and featuring teams located mainly on the coast of Massachusetts, the current 10-team league has been a pipeline to Major League Baseball.
During the 2018 season, 303 Cape Cod alumni were playing in the majors, including current Milwaukee Brewers Yasmani Grandal and Brandon Woodruff.
Jacob Campbell hopes to someday make that list.
The University of Illinois sophomore and 2018 Janesville Craig graduate is spending his summer playing for the Bourne Braves, a team in the West Division of the Cape Cod League.
Campbell shares the catching duties for a Bourne team that is currently 10-15 and in fourth place.
With four catchers on the roster, consistent playing time has been hard to come by. Campbell has appeared in only nine of Bourne’s 25 games but said the experience alone has made it worthwhile.
“I’m kind of in a Catch-22 situation, but it’s a good situation to be in,” Campbell said. “I get to not only face the best college arms in the country, but what’s even better is that I get to catch some of the best arms in the country, too.
“I caught and played against some of the best pitchers with our Big Ten and nonconference schedule this season, but the arms in this league are a little bit better. It’s the best of the best.”
Campbell lives in Bourne, a city of 20,000 located on the northeast corner of Buzzards Bay that is considered the “first” town of the Cape.
Along with Bourne, the West Division also includes Falmouth, Coluit and Hyannis—which are all located along the Atlantic coast, and Wareham.
Each player in the Cape Cod League stays with a host family, whose only requirement is to provide housing.
Campbell lives with Marc and Melissa Ferriera, who he said have gone above and beyond in helping make his experience even more enjoyable.
“Technically, they don’t have to feed me or do my laundry or anything like that, but they’ve been great,” Campbell said. “We have dinner together pretty much every night, and when they go to the grocery store, they always ask me to write down what I want.”
The Cape Cod League is a wooden bat league, but Campbell said the adjustment from (college) aluminum to wood hasn’t been that difficult. He played for Hitters Baseball Academy out of Caledonia in high school, and that traveling team played in several wooden bat tournaments in the summer. He also played for the Lombard Orioles last summer, who were a part of the Chicago Suburban League—an all wood-bat league.
“It’s actually kind of nice to get away from the aluminum bats once in awhile,” Campbell said. “You get a little bit of a different feel with a wooden bat.
“I got off to a little bit of a slow start this summer, but it had a lot more to do with the pitching than the bat.”
Campbell’s high school teammate, Jack Blomgren, played his first game for the Wareham Gatemen on Friday. The University of Michigan junior-to-be, who helped lead the Wolverines to the College World Series championship game, missed part of the Cape Cod season recovering from a broken finger.
With the Cape Cod season winding down, Campbell is looking forward to his sophomore season at Illinois. Bourne will likely make the playoffs, so Campbell won’t have a lot of time before coming home and heading back to Champaign in early August.
“It’s been an incredible learning experience playing out here in this league,” Campbell said. “Other than weather and what seemed like a lot of rain at times, I have no complaints.
“I’m going to take so much back with me—both as a hitter and as a catcher. And I’d love to come back here next year.”