What more could you ask for in a summer than baseball, sunshine and beaches.
It just so happens, one of the top summer collegiate baseball leagues in the country offers all three. And for Indiana pitchers Pauly Milto and Jonathan Stiever, they got that plus a Cape Cod League championship.
The league motto is ‘Where the Stars of Tomorrow Shine Tonight.’ That’s what it is. It’s the best of the best. For Milto and Stiever, they were just two of a handful of Hoosiers who were invited to spend the summer on the Cape. They also happened to be teammates for the Brewster Whitecaps.
For the IU starting pitching duo, day-to-day life on the Cape wasn’t all that bad.
Another 1-2-3 frame for Jonathan Stiever (@HoosierBaseball) in the bottom of the sixth but Brewster still trails 1-0.
— Brewster Whitecaps (@WhitecapsCCBL) July 23, 2017
“Wake up, get a work out in, get to the field around 2ish-2:30, BP, stretch, throw, game starts,” Milto said. “Depending on if you’re pitching that day or not, you go through your pregame routine. Let the game play out.”
Stiever also mentioned getting to the beach a little bit too.
Milto and Stiever experienced a good amount of success on the Cape this summer, as well. Stiever was 3-2 with a 4.75 ERA in 10 starts. What was maybe most impressive was he walked just two batters and struck out 25. As for Milto, he was 0-1 with a 6.05 ERA in 11 appearances with 22 strikeouts and 11 walks.
The Cape League is one of the most historic summer collegiate baseball leagues in the country. Founded in 1885, the league has produced countless major leaguers. One out of every seven players makes it to the pros. It’s the best of the best in college baseball.
Milto said you buy into the hype of the league heading in. Once you get there, you realize it’s just baseball.
“You go in knowing it’s one of the better summer leagues and you’re going to be playing with a lot of guys from Power 5 conferences and really good players from smaller conferences,” Stiever said. “It’s just getting to know everybody and seeing new people and learning while you’re up there. Then coming back from it, you realize you can fit in with those guys and gain confidence from that experience.”
— CodBall (@codball) July 15, 2017
“Once you get in there and you get settled in, it’s just the same as any other baseball,” Milto said. “All of the guys still are pitching from 60 feet, six inches and running the bases at 90 feet. It’s all the same.”
It’s hard to capture what the Cape League is all about. The Cape is bustling during the summer months. Days for fans are spent vacationing, eating ice cream, going to the beach and being with family. But to cap off a day on Cape Cod, there’s nothing more natural to do than to go take in a Cape League game.
Whether it’s any town from Falmouth to Cotuit to Orleans or Chatham, there’s that same feeling at every ballpark. It’s simplistic, it’s free and it’s high level. For Stiever and Milto, they were quick to chime in that Chatham was their favorite ballpark, and it’s hard to disagree.
A summer on the Cape for the players almost seems like it’s make it or break it. MLB team’s top scouts embark for the Cape hoping to find the next best thing. Milto said at first it was a bit weird to see the hoards of scouts at nearly every game.
“After you realize that they’re not there solely focused on you, you kind of go out there and do what you’re supposed to do,” Milto said. “You don’t really look at them that much, they’re just part of the crowd.”
It is often seen that pitchers can be put on inning limits to preserve their arms over the summer. IU coach Chris Lemonis said they didn’t work Stiever or Milto much in the fall because of the workload they had over the summer.
However, there is something he has seen in the duo since getting back to Bloomington.
“They’re just very mature kids, they go about their business,” Lemonis said. “They both made little jumps so we’re excited about that. Just their maturity, I think they’re confident in their roles now and ready for the season.”
Stiever and Milto weren’t the only Hoosiers who embarked on the Cape. Luke Miller, Cal Krueger, Cam Beauchamp and Tim Herrin were a few others who were there too.
For the players, playing close to 44 games is a grind. The season starts in early-to-mid June and lasts until August. It can be a grind. For Stiever and Milto, they were there until the bitter end.
However, it was worth it as they won a championship. It was the first for Brewster since 2000.
“You can kind of get lost day after day doing the exact same thing,” Stiever said. “It gets long, but it’s not that bad when you look back on it. You’re only there for two months out of your whole life.”
While the summer can be a grind for the players, it’s also a chance for them to learn a lot about themselves. Milto said the biggest thing he learned was to trust himself. When Stiever looks back on last summer, he thinks about the big picture.
“When you’re there, you don’t really think about what you’re gaining from that experience,” Stiever said. “But once you get back, and decompress from the summer and get back here, that’s when you really sort of realize the strides you’ve made.”
But now last summer is in the past and what lies in front of Indiana are some high expectations. Indiana catcher Ryan Fineman mentioned he wanted to be able to dog pile this season. That was something Milto and Stiever were able to do when they won the Cape Cod League championship.
Brewster was up against elimination in four games during their playoff run. Stiever said the confidence of the team was something he can take out of that experience. The championship for the Whitecaps was great, but they want one for Indiana.
“The championship feel, just being able to strive and get that feeling again,” Milto said. “Obviously it’d be a little more important than it is in the summer just because you committed here, you’re playing with all of the guys who you play with year around. It’d be a little more exciting, more meaningful feel to it.”