The Cape Cod Baseball League — the top collegiate summer baseball league in the country — has had many household names play in its ballparks throughout its 131-year history. Kris Bryant, Brandon Crawford, Josh Donaldson and Todd Frazier all played in the league in their college years. This summer, Georgetown senior pitcher Simon Mathews joined the ranks of these stars when he made his way up north to the small peninsula in Massachusetts to play for the Chatham Anglers.
The 10-team league brings together the top collegiate baseball players from across the nation every summer, and is a hotspot for Major League Baseball scouts and front office executives to watch prospects because the Cape League is the only summer league that uses wooden bats. Mathews, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound right-handed pitcher from West Haven, Conn., was the lone Hoya to play in the Cape League this summer.
Last season, Mathews was the ace of the Georgetown pitching staff, leading the team in ERA at 2.45, wins, complete games and innings pitched at 95.1. Mathews started most games in Cape Cod but also came out of the bullpen at times as a relief pitcher. He finished the season with a 4.30 ERA and was third on the team in strikeouts with 23.
“The Cape was my third summer league, and it’s the pinnacle of everything and you don’t really understand why until you’re there,” Mathews said. “Just the whole vibe of the place, the whole town of Chatham would come out to our games. It was a blast.”
Mathews got the ball in game one of the Anglers’ first-round series against the top-seeded Harwich Mariners and put on a dazzling performance against the top offense in the Cape League, setting a CCBL record for strikeouts in a game in the 2016 season with 11 strikeouts. Mathews tossed eight innings of shutout baseball, giving up just five hits and allowing only one runner to reach scoring position.
“That’s one of the best pitched games in that situation that I’ve seen for a Chatham A,” Chatham manager John Schiffner said. “When you stare down one of the best teams in the league and you get the win at their place, that’s special.”
Schiffner has been with Chatham for 24 years.
Mathews said he experienced a steep learning curve at the beginning of the season, however, and was forced to change his approach to the game in order to succeed. “The Cape is a different animal. It’s the very, very best players from every single team all around the country. The difference is one through nine, every single hitter in every lineup, every single pitcher on every staff is an absolute stud,” Mathews said. “As the summer went on it became clear to me I had to become a better pitcher to actually do it. So I changed the style of pitching a little bit, I mixed in more off-speed pitches, I developed all my off-speed pitches up there, and I think I got a lot better for having to do that.” About a month into the season, things started to click for the right-handed pitcher, and he entered the starting rotation for Chatham and impressed.
“Going into the season, I just wanted to pitch well, because coming from a mid-major school, baseball-wise, there’s not a ton of us up there. It’s mostly guys from Texas, Florida State, and Louisville, schools like that. And so I just wanted to prove that I can compete with those guys,” Mathews said. After Chatham’s game-one upset over the Mariners with Mathews on the mound, the Anglers took the series and went on to face the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Eastern Division Finals. After dropping a close 9-8 decision in game one to Yarmouth-Dennis, the Anglers were eliminated the next day, losing 4-1. The Red Sox would go on to win the CCBL championship while the Anglers were left to head back to their respective schools.
Looking ahead to the coming season for Georgetown baseball, Mathews expects big things from himself and from his team and thinks that his time with the Anglers will help him become more of a complete pitcher. “I think we’ve got a shot to be really good and personally I’d like to be a part of leading this. Georgetown baseball is on the come-up right now,” Mathews said. Two of our best seasons in history have been our last two seasons and we’re looking to build on that this season and make some noise and make a run at a Big East championship.”
The Georgetown coaching staff see Mathews as an integral part of the team and the leader of its pitching staff.
In the 2015-16, Mathews was arguably already the team’s ace, throwing a team-high five complete games and throwing 95.1 innings, by far the most on the team.
During the team’s rough stretches, Mathews was often times its rock and one of its few reliable players.
“He’s one of the best guys in the league last year,” Head Coach Pete Wilk said of his ace. “There’s no reason to think he won’t be one of the best guys in the league this year.”