Two standout sophomores for the Vassar College men’s baseball team recently signed contracts to continue their season into the summer. Brooks English, a 2013 First-Team Liberty League selection will suit up for the Worcester Bravehearts, and Nick Johnson, a 2013 Liberty League Honorable Mention outfielder, will play for the Brockton Rox. The Futures Collegiate Baseball League consists of a rigorous nine-week schedule around the areas of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
English, who hit .268 last year, already knew about the Worcester Bravehearts before coming to Vassar. In an emailed statement, he wrote, “Living in New England, I’ve always known of this league to be one of the premiere collegiate summer baseball leagues in the country. When the opportunity arose, I could not pass it up. I know this will be a huge challenge. My expectations coming in are that I will be facing some of the best competition I have ever played against.”
He continued, “Pitchers consistently throwing above 90 mph will be a cool thing to compete against. I expect to get a lot better this summer, and help the Vassar Brewers next year when I am a junior to go as far as we can…But of course, we have some really high expectations for this year first.”
For this summer’s team, Brooks added that “I expect our team will be very competitive in this league. We play in a real nice stadium that seats 3,000 people with plenty of professional scouts in the stand at every game. It is a very attractive opportunity, so I imagine there will be plenty of really good ballplayers on our roster.”
He continued, “With that in mind, I still expect to compete for a starting job. Typically, the teams in the futures league are composed of lots of Division One players from big programs, so it will definitely be a challenge coming from a small Division Three school. Nonetheless, all I can do is show up and grind like I do here at Vassar.”
Johnson, who started in all 39 games in the outfield last season and batted .315, wrote that “I want to continue to get better as a baseball player. That’s my main goal with summer ball, and this league provides me with the opportunity to play with and against some amazing players who will challenge my ability day in and day out.”
He continued, “My expectations for this summer are to get better on the field, meet kids from around the country, and have a great time playing baseball. Whenever playing in a competitive league, especially one like this, the goal is always to take the title. While summer league is about getting reps and playing everyday, when it comes down to it, the expectations are to win.”
Both Brooks and Johnson will be living with host families over the summer, as the college does not cover any of the costs. For English, the team plays its home games only an hour west of his hometown and will be able to come home on off days. “This summer will be a big-time as I am super excited to be staying in the same state as two of my best friends in Trent Berg and Mickey Adams,” he wrote.
Johnson on the other hand, won’t be home until mid-August, at the conclusion of the team’s summer season. In regards to this situation, Johnson wrote, “This is a huge time commitment, as we essentially play every night for two months. I believe the overall experience will be a worthwhile one. Being away from home, I’ll miss being with two of my best friends, Connor Cucalón and Johnny Mrlik, on a daily basis.”
Both Cucalón and Mrlik both had nothing but praise for their two teammates. Cucalón said, “Brooks has a relentless work ethic, and his demeanor and effort on the field and everywhere else is contagious and second to none. It forces me and all of our teammates to match those efforts.” Mrlik wrote that “Brooks does not waste an at-bat. Ridiculously patient at the plate, he wears opposing pitchers out. He is the first to practice and last to leave, fully committed to getting better and never wanting to take a day off.”
As for Johnson, Cucalón said, “[Johnson] does everything with his own dose of swag and fluidity. He embodies the mantra of Muhammad Ali: standing there in the batter’s box, with his hands gripping the bat softly, legs smoothly rocking a tad, calm look on his face, floating like a butterfly, and then the bat just flies the zone, extremely smooth and fluid, like the sting of a bee.”
Mrlik added, “[Johnson] is an incredible athlete with one of the sweetest swings in the league. His commitment and determination will carry him through whatever obstacles he has to face. He is a true team player and will do whatever it takes to win.”
As for the upcoming 2014 Vassar College men’s baseball season, Mrlik wrote, “Coming off a historic season, we have set the bar extremely high for ourselves. We believe our goal of winning the Liberty League is attainable if everyone buys in and puts the team before any individual goal.”
Cucalón also said that, “As a team we are looking to progress even further than we did last season, and Nick and Brooks will have a huge impact on our success. Their decisions to play this summer show their dedication to baseball and their desire to improve. Baseball is a game of dedication and practice; it’s all about reps. Need extra reps to get better and improve.”
Johnson echoed his teammates: “Our collective goal is to win the league. Last year we took a huge step in the right direction, as we made the playoffs for the first time in program history,” he wrote. “We definitely have the skill and depth necessary to go all the way, it’s just about working hard and executing throughout the season.”