When looking at this summer’s Cape Cod Baseball League rosters, Richard Brereton could have been considered an outlier.
The Darien, Conn., native spends his spring at Emory University. The Atlanta-based power has won 13 championships in the competitive University Athletic Association and made six Division 3 College World Series appearances.
It is clear that the Eagles play competitive baseball, but one of Brereton’s goals as a member of the Cape League champion Cotuit Kettleers this summer was to help shun the label placed on those from the D3 ranks once and for all.
“It may be harder for us Division 3 players to get a look or have the opportunity to play down on the Cape, but I was so lucky to be able to get that chance,” said Brereton, an All-UAA first-team selection in each of the past two seasons and also a former Rookie of the Year. “I met so many great guys from all over the country — the ACC, Pac-12, SEC, Ivy League, schools that I’d never heard of anybody going to. It was special seeing your name on that roster.”
That is what has made the Cape League so special for so long. D1 or D3? SEC or UAA? It doesn’t matter where a player comes from because the baseball is all the same. The league allows players from all collegiate levels to come together and prove themselves. Brereton relished that chance.
The numbers didn’t pop at the outset, but Brereton remained in the fold for 16th-year manager Mike Roberts throughout the summer after starting with a temporary contract. Despite striking out 24 batters over 23⅓ innings of regular-season work, he allowed runs in eight of his 11 appearances and finished with a 5.78 ERA.
The Kettleers were just 20-20-4 during the regular year before earning the No. 3 seed in the West Division playoffs, but everything surely turned out all right come Aug. 9. All of those outings and many conversations with teammates and Roberts helped Brereton improve and prepare for the summer’s biggest moment.
“I felt like it was a waste if you weren’t taking note of what other great players had to say, so I tried to take one piece of advice or learn from an experience from everyone I met,” he said. “Coach Roberts and I talked a lot about the importance of throwing all your pitches down (in the zone) and being able to command your secondary pitches better than your fastball.
“Hitters don’t make a lot of mistakes in that league, so you get punished if you leave a ball up or throw a pitch in a predictable count. I figured that out real quick. I just tried to learn from every outing and every pitch I filed away.”
The climax of Brereton’s summer came just a night before Cotuit won its record 17th Cape League title, ultimately raising the Arnold Mycock Trophy for the first time since 2013.
He joined a pair of native Cape Codders on the title-winning roster in Tulane pitcher Chris Holcomb (Osterville, Mass.) and Maine catcher Cody Pasic (Cotuit, Mass.). Not only did all three locals begin the season as “temps,” but they formed an immediate connection through Dean College pitcher Gio Fillipone, one of Brereton’s childhood friends and teammates who played with Holcomb and Pasic at Cheshire Academy.
Despite growing up across New England state borders, they came together as teammates after sharing longtime dreams of playing in the Cape League.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound righty did not make a playoff appearance in either of the first two playoff rounds as the Kettleers took down Wareham in three games and then swept Falmouth. Taking the mound in a Cape League Championship Series opener that lasted 15 innings, Brereton proceeded to pitch six scoreless, one-hit frames and earn the win against Harwich.
Many moments, of course, lead to lifting a trophy at season’s end, but this one sure made former Cotuit and current Emory assistant coach Sean West look good in recommending Brereton to Roberts. The heroic effort was a key reason the Kettleers found themselves in a great position at the end of the playoffs and needed just the minimum two games to clinch the title.
“He said, ‘He’s very mature. Even though we’re Division 3 at Emory, I’ve been a coach on the Cape and I believe this young man can handle it,’” Roberts said, recalling conversations with West as this summer’s roster was being built. “And, my goodness, he sure was correct.”
Brereton’s temporary contract turned into a full summer in Cotuit. Though there were growing pains spread throughout for the Connecticut native, he left Roberts — an American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer with more than 20 years of Division 1 head coaching experience on his résumé — impressed and singing high praises.
“This young man handled everything so extremely well. He’s probably in the top five pitchers I’ve ever worked with as far as his core mechanics; they’re major-league, Greg Maddux-type mechanics,” Roberts said. “He was so fundamentally sound that you sat there thinking Harwich was going to have to get a big mistake to get a run off this young man (in the playoff game) because everything was down, his breaking pitch was down, his changeup was good.”
Summer goals can take many forms for college players, ranging from just getting innings or at-bats to building off of the prior spring to developing new pitches and improving swings.
For Brereton, though, it was more than just fine-tuning his game on the field.
“After (playing for the Futures Collegiate League’s Bristol Blues) last summer, I told my coaches that my goals were to play on the Cape and get drafted,” Brereton said. “I also came to win and to learn how to become a better leader so I could bring a winning attitude and selfless mindset back to Emory.”
He also experienced something just as valuable.
“It was amazing to see how the 50 guys we had through all the changes on our roster could come together from all over the country and all over the world and be able to compete at such a high level,” Brereton said. “You don’t want to leave your teammates at the end of the year, but there was no better way to leave than as champions.”