Peter Gammons has taken his Hall of Fame career well beyond New England, but he’s never lost track of his roots.
The advocate for all things New England Baseball has continued to promote local teams, coaches and players since he started writing about baseball 50 years ago. The Groton, Mass., native has covered baseball for outlets such as The Boston Globe, Sports Illustrated and ESPN. He is currently a contributor to The Athletic and the MLB Network.
In the most recent New England Baseball Journal Podcast, Gammons talks with host Dan Guttenplan about the top New England prospects heading into what should be a fruitful 2021 MLB Draft for locals. In fact, when MLB released its 2021 MLB Draft Top 100 Prospects list, six players with New England ties ranked among the top 45 players.
Gammons saw the region’s top high school prospect — Dexter School senior Josh Baez — at last summer’s Area Code Games tryouts. He believes Baez will be forced to decide this June between a scholarship offer at Vanderbilt or a potential seven-figure signing bonus from an MLB team.
“Here’s a kid who came over (from the Dominican Republic) in the sixth grade, and he went to a middle school in Mattapan that didn’t offer English as a Second Language classes,” Gammons said. “Basically, nobody was speaking English. He did it on his own. He went to The BASE and used all of the laptops they have to learn English. He’s a really smart kid and so driven.”
Gammons was also impressed with what he saw from Baez on the field.
“Wherever they play, he’s the first guy to show up to the ballpark,” Gammons said. “I don’t know where he goes in the draft. If he ends up a high second-rounder, when you consider the money they make, can he afford not to take it?”
Gammons also gives his thoughts on the local college prospects heading into the 2021 MLB Draft, including three Boston College players ranked in the top 45 on MLB’s top 100 — Sal Frelick (Lexington, Mass.), Cody Morissette (Exeter, N.H.) and Mason Pelio (San Diego, Calif.).
“Just the fact that Boston College has three guys who could be first-, second- or third-round picks is amazing,” Gammons said. “I saw quite a bit of Morissette a couple of summers ago when he played for the Bourne Braves on the Cape. He’s a really good player, and he really plays the game the right way.”
Wake Forest right-handed pitcher Ryan Cusick (Sudbury, Mass.), Michigan left-hander Steve Hajjar (North Andover, Mass.) and Virginia right-hander Mike Vasil — the coverboys for the Winter 2021 edition of NEBJ — also drew praise from Gammons, who believes Cusick could follow in the footsteps of fellow Massachusetts native and former Wake Forest teammate Jared Shuster (New Bedford, Mass.), who was a first-round selection in the 2020 MLB Draft.
“Ryan Cusick is probably going to be a first-rounder; it’s pretty remarkable,” Gammons said. “To have Shuster and Cusick go in the first round, I find it’s really fun.”
As far as the Red Sox are concerned, Gammons believes the organization would be wise to allow Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom to operate with a similar organizational philosophy to the Tampa Bay Rays. Gammons does feel Bloom made the right move in bringing back manager Alex Cora.
“Absolutely, there were so many different factors in Houston,” Gammons said. “I laugh when I hear Carlos Beltran and Alex set up the whole operation. They didn’t go up there and start installing special cameras. We understand that. I’ve known Alex pretty well since 2002. I spent three days in Dodger Town, and all of the players and coaches were telling me Alex Cora is the smartest guy.”
Gammons was a 2005 recipient of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for outstanding baseball writing. He believes former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling deserves to be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“There’s no question in my mind he’s a Hall of Famer,” Gammons said. “In 2015, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson were inducted. On the Monday after the induction, I do an annual round-table ion Cooperstown. I was sitting between Randy and Pedro, and I said, ‘Do you guys think Curt Schilling should be in the Hall of Fame? They both said, ‘Absolutely.'”
Listen to the pod with Gammons below.
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