Former South Troy teammates reunited in Stockton

Shortstop Branden Cogswell was walking away from the field at the University of Virginia when he got
Shenendehowa graduate Branden Cogswell
Shenendehowa graduate Branden Cogswell

Shortstop Branden Cogswell was walking away from the field at the University of Virginia when he got the news.

The Shenendehowa graduate was quick to shoot a text message to center fielder JP Sportman, a Schenectady native who had just been drafted by Oakland in the 27th round of the 2014 Major League Baseball amateur draft. The Athletics had drafted Cogswell 20 rounds earlier.

“I contacted him to congratulate him,” Cogswell said. “I was looking forward to seeing the path we could take together.”

Their paths diverged at the start, but they have spent this season together with the Stockton Ports in the advanced Class-A California League.

It isn’t the only pair of locals to end up on the same pro team this season. Pitchers Jeff Hoffman, a 2011 Shaker grad, and Murphy Smith, a 2006 Shenendehowa grad, are playing for Class-A Dunedin in the Florida State League.

Cogswell and Sportman, though, are close enough in age to have played together before. Last summer, they thought they might soon be teammates for the first time since their high school summers with the South Troy Dodgers.

“At that point, I thought we were going to play together in Vermont, but he got to go up an extra level,” Sportman said. “I knew, at some point, we were going to get to play together and continue what we left in high school, when we used to play up the middle together in South Troy. I was looking forward to it.”

Sportman, a LaSalle Institute graduate, did end up with the Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York-Penn League, a short-season Class-A league.He split the rest of his summer between Vermont and the rookie league in Arizona.

Cogswell, though, bumped right up to full-season Class-A ball with the Beloit Snappers of the Midwest League.

As Sportman hit .321 in Arizona and .301 with three home runs in Vermont, Cogswell followed along, wondering if a transaction might land them on the same squad before the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Cogswell ended up hitting .203 in 40 games with Beloit, a down year. It wasn’t something he expected, but it being his first year in pro ball, he said he didn’t let it bring him down.

“You get that first year under your belt,” he said, “then you move forward and work all offseason, at Instruct and at home, and you prepare for your first full season, which is really important.”

Sportman said he wanted to avoid trying to do too much.

“I just went out and took what the game gave me,” he said. “I played hard every single day, and everything panned out for me. Hopefully, I can keep it going.”

They worked out together on occasion over the winter. Cogswell sometimes left his Ballston Lake home to travel back to UVA, but the two were able to spend some time on what the Athletics wanted them working on.

“We can get a lot of stuff done, and ultimately, we’re both working on the same types of things, on what Oakland is expecting out of us, so having him around is perfect,” Sportman said.

Both played well enough through the last half of the summer and through Instructional League in the fall to earn promotion to the Ports.

Through Sunday’s game, Cogswell is hitting .227 in 44 games with a home run and 10 RBIs. Sportman is hitting .319 with three homers and 19 RBIs, but he has played in just 25 games because of a wrist injury that put him on the disabled list. He returned Monday night.

At shortstop, Cogswell has a fielding percentage of .975 this season, but consistency there and at the plate continue to be his focus as he tries to show the Oakland brass he’s ready for another step up the ladder. Sportman, too, has his eye on doing today what he did in his last game — submitting to the grind that is borne of that search for consistency.

If they keep improving at a similar pace, they could find themselves sharing a clubhouse at the next level, then maybe the next, each shared rung of the ladder putting them in rarer air.

“The fact we were both on the same team and playing with each other through high school in the summer, to be playing professionally together was kind of a rare thing,” Cogswell said. “You didn’t think it would happen with any of your teammates in the summer with South Troy, but you cherish those moments and stick together as you go through the ranks.”

Categories: Sports

Leave a Reply