Fenway honors for Cape League bombers

July 24, 2009 - 5:52 am

Summer after summer of his own elite baseball training camps have led up to a summer job teaching 10-year olds how to field ground balls. Not exactly what Zack Cox had in mind for this summer, but then again that's only his side job. Cox, an All-Star third baseman for the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod Baseball League, achieved the childhood dream of many on Thursday night by playing at Fenway Park in the Cape Cod League All-Star Game. "This is definitely burned in there," Cox said of his Cape League memories. "Playing at Fenway Park, I don't anything will top this, I don't think anything can top getting to play at Fenway Park. Even if it was just for four-and-a-half minutes." Those four-and-a-half minutes were important for the West as Cox, Co-MVP of the game, led the West Division to a 3-0 win over the East. The University of Arkansas product started and batted second for the West, helping to score the first run of the game with a triple off the center field wall to drive in Falmouth's Todd Cunningham in the bottom of the  first. Cox came in to score later that inning and added his second RBI of the game with a single to left field in the bottom of the second. Cox's Co-MVP Chris Sale, of the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, pitched six pitches of scorless relief for the East. Sale, from Florida Gulf Coast, was similarly awestruck at the opportunity to pitch at Fenway, noting that pitching in front of his family in a major-league park was nervewracking. "First off it was a great experience coming to Fenway Park," Sale said. "That's a once in a lifetime thing unless you make it to the major leagues. As far as coming out here and shagging B.P. in the outfield and watching balls go in and out in the Home Run Derby, it was awesome. Almost like it didn't happen. Like it didn't happen like I'm going to wake up soon from this." Sale reached 95 MPH on the radar gun and is expected to go high in the draft next spring along with Cox. Cox' success with the wooden bat was perhaps most impressive. He leads the Kettleers with a .364 average through 16 games and is tied for third on the team with nine RBI since arriving late to the team because of Arkansas' competition in the College World Series. He credits his dad for making him use wood when he was younger during practice. The importance of practice for youngsters rubbed off on Cox who, in between morning workouts and night games, helps coach six to 12-year olds at the Cape Cod League camps. Cox works in the ground ball station teaching the kids the basic fundamentals of the game in hopes they, too, can make it Fenway for a Cape League All-Star game someday. While Cox's preference for the wood was engrained (no pun intended) in him as a child, some of his fellow Cape Leaguers didn't have the same advantage. Those who participated in the Home Run Derby were stymied by the heavier, denser bats with the lack of pop for which the aluminum bats are known. Harwich's Connor Powers won the derby with two blasts in the final round to edge out Cotuit's Stanley Rupp after they each had three in the first round. "Having a Home Run Derby with aluminum bats is amazing," Derby participant Harold Martinez of the Brewster Whitecaps said. "That would be crazy [at Fenway]. Wood bats, though, that's real baseball, but it's always fun to have real wood." Either way Cox, Martinez and the rest of the All-Stars last night saw a glimpse of what their futures could be like roaming the field and dugouts at Fenway. "This is obviously a big step towards professional baseball for me," Cox said. "It's a league where you come in with the best college players and play with a wood bat and it's been awfully fun making that adjustment and playing with these guys." DJ Bean contributed to this report.