The College World Series may be set and some Tar Heels will be anxiously awaiting their names being called next week at the 2023 MLB Draft, but for most players in college, the bags have been packed and the clubhouses emptied for the summer.
You know what that means: summer league baseball!
There really is nothing else like it in any other team sport at the NCAA level. During the summer, hundreds of collegiate baseball players scatter across the country to play for various teams in order to showcase their skills for MLB scouts and pick up experience against different pitching, as well as get coaching from different voices than they do the other nine months out of the year. In the past few years, the number of opportunities have swelled, thanks to MLB itself getting involved and converting some former Minor League teams into their own summer league squads. Most have the same premise-teams are built in a league, players are divided up, play a full season with an All-Star Game and playoffs, and some go on to become champions. The ones you are most likely familiar with are the Cape Cod League in Massachusetts, and the Coastal Plain League with teams mostly here in North Carolina. There are several others as you are about to see.
Once players finish up their college season, whether it be from the regular season or NCAA Tournament, they take their assignments and decide whether or not they’ll play in one of these leagues. It’s still pure amateurism—no salary for playing, and in some cases players actually stay with host families in the various areas of the country where these leagues play. New NIL rules will likely allow players the opportunity to make some money on the side, but for the most part, the goal is for the players to both improve their playing and start to see what life would be like in the minor leagues should they get drafted.
Once the sting of the Terre Haute Regional defeat was behind them, UNC recently announced which players had been assigned to various leagues:
Casey Cook-Yardmouth Dennis Red Sox
Dalton Pence-Bourne Braves
Ben Petersen-Chatham Anglers
Coastal Plain League-NC, SC, VA, GA
Carter Frech-Asheboro Zookeepers
Jackson Rusiecki-Ashboro Zookeepers
Matthew Matthijs-HP Thomasville HiToms
Cameron Padgett-HP Thomasville HiToms
Kyle Percival-Lexington County Blowfish
Appalachian League-WV, VA, NC
Michael Colonna-Burlington Sock Puppets
Connor Tegan-Burlington Sock Puppets
Bryce Blaser-OC Riptide
New England Baseball League-ME, VT, NH, MA, CT, RI
Nelson Berkwich-Newport Gulls
Northwoods League-ND, MN, IA, WI, IL, MI, IN, Ontario
Will Simmons-Madison Mallards
Ohio Valley Summer League-KY, IN, TN
Reece Holbrook-Full Court Rhythm
Ripken League-DC, MD, VA
John Long-Bethesda Big train
Dylan King-Purcellville Cannons
As we do every summer, we’ll keep track of the stats for each of the Tar Heels during their various summer leagues. These are just the assignments, it’s possible some will decide not to go, some will start and then leave, and some will just not see the field. That said, the opportunity is there for several Tar Heels to make a name for themselves and advance themselves for next season.