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Baseball: Juniors Jagielo and Slania return to same team

Vicky Jacobsen | Thursday, February 14, 2013

 

When Eric Jagielo agreed to play for the Harwich Mariners last summer, he knew he was signing up to be one of the Cape Cod League’s iconic “Boys of Summer.” What he didn’t realize was that he would be getting an introduction to livestock management to go along with batting tips and exposure in front of major-league scouts.

The junior third baseman spent the summer living on a farm with host parents and four of his teammates, an experience completely alien to the native of the Chicago suburbs.

“We spent a lot of time with our host mom, helping her out on the farm, whether it was getting eggs from the chickens or wetting down the pigs when they got too hot,” Jagielo said.  “We definitely did mess around with the animals a little bit more than she probably would’ve liked us to, but it was also fun to learn some new things.”

While Jagielo and his teammates were busy playing pranks on the farm, his Notre Dame teammate, junior right-handed pitcher Dan Slania, was enjoying time with his own host family and their two young grandchildren when he wasn’t closing for the Cotuit Kettleers.

“The Riccis were unbelievable people,” Slania said. “They had a couple of jet skis and a boat, and we would go down to the lake and hang out and have fun all day. Especially on off-days, it was a great way to have fun and relax.”

But Slania and Jagielo didn’t get too many of those days. Each Cape Cod League team played seven days a week, with just six days off during the 44-game season.

Slania, for one, wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“The competition is so much fun,” Slania said. “I would do camps in the morning, get a quick bite to eat, and then go right back to the field. So I would spend six hours a day at the field, trying to get better, learning from all the coaches and everybody.”

The Cape Cod League has been one of the premier amateur leagues in the country since its inception in 1885, and both Slania and Jagielo relished the opportunity to compete with some of the nation’s best college players.

“It’s definitely more competitive [than college baseball], but it’s also more fun,” Slania said. 

“It was kind of crazy to be playing with kids who will be going in the first round [of the major league draft] next spring and then becoming really good friends with them,” Jagielo said. “There’s an outfielder who goes to Stanford by the name Austin Wilson, and he was just a different type of athlete. You’ll be hearing his name in the top five to 10 picks overall. I’m glad that he was on my team, and it was fun to play with him.”

Not that the two Irish players were too shabby themselves. Slania’s Kettleers went 30-14, winning the Western Division, the President’s Cup and the Barnstable Patriot Cup. The right-hander played in the All-Star game and was named Relief Pitcher of the Year. Jagielo hit .291 with 13 homers and was named an All-Star himself, while the Mariners were Eastern Division champs.

But when it came to individual matchups, it was clear who came out the winner.

“I faced him twice, struck him out both times,” Slania said. “I don’t think he’ll admit to that.”

Jagielo, though, was willing to give his college teammate some credit.

“He got the best of me in those times in the Cape, but that’s how baseball works,” Jagielo said. “It’s always good to have a little friendly competition.”

The teammates were supposed to have another Notre Dame player join them on the Cape last summer, but junior first baseman Trey Mancini was injured a few weeks into the season while playing for the Mariners.

“He was going to live with me, but he only got to stay there for a couple weeks, which was disappointing because I wanted to have some fun with him, not only playing with him but going to the beach and all that kind of stuff,” Jagielo said. “At least he’s healthy now and this season should be fun to be back out on the field with him.”

But for both players, the experience of playing on the Cape will not be easily forgotten.

“The community knew that you were coming in for the summer to play baseball and what they did at night for fun was to come out and watch you play,” Jagielo said. “It was kind of fun to see how the whole community kind of revolved around the teams and the Cape.”

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu