Boston is considerably more than a pop fly away from the University of Arizona campus at Tucson. But it’s where a couple of the key elements to next year’s Wildcat baseball team are honing their skills over the summer.
Kyle Simon, a right-handed pitcher who won eight games last season for the Cats (most on the club), and outfielder Steve Selsky, the team’s leading hitter, are both playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Many of the best college players from around the country and among all the college divisions, are recruited to play in the time-honored Cape Cod League, which is concluding its 126th regular-season schedule with tomorrow’s games.
The league, which was officially sanctioned by the NCAA in 1963, went to aluminum bats for a 10-year period and then returned to using wooden bats in 1985. Which helps players like Selsky who will be playing in the Major Leagues after their college careers. Selsky was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 34th round.
Selsky and Simon both play for the Orleans Firebirds, based in Orleans, Mass. Both are enjoying a productive summer.
Selsky was named the league’s Player of the week ending July 24, when he went 7-for-16 at the plate (.438) and hit two home runs and double. Through 35 games, he is third in the team in hitting (.261), second in hits (30), and has four home runs.
Simon, who boasts an impressive 0.87 ERA in the league, was tapped to play in the league’s All-Star game.
Arizona finished last season with a 34-24 record and saw the 2010 season come to an abrupt end when the Cats lost an elimination game to No. 2 seed Baylor in the Fort Worth Regional. It was their sixth post-season appearance in the last eight years.
Selsky and Simon will both be juniors for the 2011 season and will play significant roles in the team’s attempt to get back to post-season play.
Selsky, from Manhattan Beach, Calif., started all 58 games in right field for the Cats last year. He led the team at the plate and finished the season with a .383 batting average, the second-best in the Pac-10. His .622 slugging percentage was No. 4 in the conference and best on the team.
AT 6’5″, Simon is an imposing presence on the mound and will be an important part of the Cats’ pitching staff next season, since he will be one of the most experienced on the mound. He pitched in 19 games as a freshman and again as a sophomore. Last year’s record was 8-6, with a 4.27 ERA. He threw 62 strikeouts, the third highest on the team.
Playoffs, which are being held on the Boston Red Sox’ home field at Fenway Park, begin Wednesday.
That opportunity to play at Fenway has to be worth the long plane ride to Bean Town all by itself.