Baseball ’16s forego 14X to play ball

For baseball players at Dartmouth, the summer season matters — though the college baseball season ends in the spring, players often look to get behind the plate and continue playing ball over the summer through one of dozens of collegiate summer leagues across the country. For the baseball players of the Class of 2016, the decision between staying on campus for sophomore summer and playing on a summer league team was simple.

“Baseball is a year-round sport,” said Nick Ruppert ’16.  “And you have to play all the time if you want to be competitive. It’s just the way it works.”

Hanover’s sunny summer pastures might make a particularly inviting landscape for a baseball player, but nearly all of Dartmouth baseball’s sophomores chose to spend the term off campus. Instead, collegiate baseball players are encouraged to play collegiate summer league baseball, rather than return home or stay on campus.

Excluding those nursing injuries, all members of the baseball team in the class of 2016 have been playing baseball in these leagues since the end of spring term.

Center fielder Nick Ruppert ’16 is playing for the Mystic Schooners in Mystic, Connecticut. Ruppert is taking the field with Big Green teammates Louis Concato ’14 and Michael Concato ’17, all of whom will join three other Dartmouth teammates playing in the New England Collegiate Baseball League: Thomas Roulis ’15, Matt Parisi ’15 and Adam Frank ’15.

Pitcher Duncan Robinson ’16 has played in Newark, Ohio for the Licking County Settlers. Catcher Adam Gauthier ’16 is also playing summer ball in Ohio, donning the Chillicothe Paints’ jersey.

In contrast, infielder and designated hitter Joe Purritano ’16 began the summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League but switched teams, now suiting up for the Amsterdam Mohawks in New York.

Playoffs will begin in early August.

Purritano’s team currently has a record of 30-9 and clinched a spot in the playoffs, while Gauthier’s Paints are currently sitting in first place in the Prospect League with 32 wins and 15 losses. The Mystic Schooners, currently in fourth place in their division with an 18-14 record, also may rank among the four to emerge from their division.

But playing over the summer is no vacation.

The Schooners play five to six games per week with one or two off-days.  For Robinson, off-time comes “few and far between,” he said.

While Gauthier said he has enjoyed his experience playing across the Midwest, he noted the amount of traveling required for each game — between two to nine hours.

Playing summer ball has meant missing sophomore summer, for several other players.

Gauthier said he does miss being   at Dartmouth with his friends, but he knew that missing sophomore summer came with the nature of the game.

“I’ve always heard that sophomore summer is a such a cool time and a time for the class to bond, but you don’t really have a choice with baseball,” Purritano said.

Ruppert noted that baseball players must practice year-round to remain competitive. He emphasized, however, that playing summer baseball in particular justified the experience.

“Summer ball is so much fun,” Ruppert said. “It’s not like you’re going to work everyday instead of being on for sophomore summer.”

Chillicothe packs 2,000 fans into the stadium at every game, said Gauthier, who has been enjoying the extra playing time after the college season. He noted that because the spring baseball season is relatively short, summer ball helps prepare players for the next year’s games.

After the summer season ends, the athletes will be free until the beginning of fall term. For some Dartmouth players, that means returning home for the first time since winter break.

Gauthier, Ruppert and Purritano live with host families during the summer. Robinson is staying with an aunt and uncle in the area.

Ruppert has enjoyed living with his host family.

“I’m like a superstar to them,” Ruppert said. “Even when I have a bad day, after the game, they’re still so fired up to see me.”

Other players took the term off to recuperate from injuries.

For pitchers Beau Sulser ’16 and Michael Danielak ’16, this summer has been set aside for injury rehab back home.

Sulser, who had Tommy John surgery in June, said he has focused on strengthening his arm and returning it to full range of motion, in addition to working at a sporting goods store and enjoying his hunting and fishing at home in San Diego.

Danielak, a Chicago native, has recovered from knee surgery for patellar tendinitis. He is going through a three- to four-month process of rehab, aiming to be fully recovered when he returns to campus.

For Danielak, even though he could not play this summer, the choice not to stay on campus for 14X was easy.

“My goal this summer was strictly to get healthy,” Danielak said. “I wasn’t thinking about playing ball.”

Pitcher Adam Charnin-Aker ’16 is the lone sophomore to have stayed on campus this summer, as he has taken time off from baseball to recover from labrum surgery.

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