Each summer, the Cape Cod Baseball League humbles its share of young players. The top summer league for college baseball players in the country chews up and spits out far more young athletes than it allows to shine
That reality brings about enough pressure for the league’s players. But for Justin Yurchak, a Clifton Park native who graduated from Shenendehowa in 2014, there was even more reason to be nervous when he joined the league’s Bourne Braves in early June.
“I hadn’t played in a game in probably eight, nine months,” said Yurchak, who sat out this past spring’s college season after transferring from Wake Forest University to Binghamton University. “I wasn’t exactly sure if I’d be in great game shape when I got here, but there was also a lot of excitement about being here. This is something I’ve dreamed about.”
Yurchak, 19, has made the most of his return to active playing. He showed no rust throughout the CCBL’s regular season, pairing a top-20 batting average (.295) with the second-most walks (25) during a summer in which he made the league’s all-star game while learning to play a new position. In the all-star game, Yurchak had a hit and scored a run in his West team’s win against an East squad which included former Columbia High School star Kevin Smith.
“It was extremely humbling to be named one of the all-stars out here,” said Yurchak, a high school shortstop and college third baseman who spent his time with the Braves playing first base. “There’s so much talent out here that really everyone is deserving of making the all-star game.”
Yurchak had shown his next-level talent during his 2015 freshman season with Wake Forest. In making that year’s Atlantic Coast Conference All-Freshman team, Yurchak hit .313 with 13 extra-base hits and 33 RBIs in 160 at-bats.
But the former Shenendehowa star made official his decision to transfer to Binghamton University while playing last summer with the Amsterdam Mohawks of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. An environmental economics major, Yurchak said his redshirt year of all-practice, no-play at Binghamton was not as tough as he’d expected.
“Really, I was just as involved in those games as everyone else,” said Yurchak, whose Binghamton squad will also add fellow Shenendehowa product Ben Anderson for next season. “Some of the wins we had this past year were some of the most exciting games I’ve been a part of.”
Yurchak is likely to become an everyday starter for Binghamton in 2017 at a corner infield spot. The chance to compete in the CCBL helped prepare him for that role, but it also gave Yurchak a summer filled with memories. A set of his grandparents live on Cape Cod and attended nearly all of his games; he spent ample down time at beaches; and, he got to take part in a practice at Boston’s Fenway Park, a highlight for the league’s batters who primarily used the opportunity to take aim at the stadium’s Green Monster in left field.
“But being a lefty, I was aiming more for the Pesky Pole,” said Yurchak, referring to the park’s foul pole in right field whose name references Johnny Pesky, a smallish infielder who played for the Red Sox in the 1940s and 1950s.
Yurchak’s Braves squad will open the league’s three-round postseason today against the Wareham Gatemen, the first game in a best-of-three series. Capping the summer season with a championship is the goal, but Yurchak said he’ll have no regrets regardless of the postseason’s outcome.
“This has been something I’ll never forget,” he said of his summer.