by Andrew Mindeman, Sports Information Director
LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- While college students choose to spend their summer vacations relaxing, working or traveling the globe, a few Covenant baseball players chose to spend their summer playing the sport they love in the state of New York.
Juniors Micah Mabe, KC Simons and Scott Gillespie, along with sophomore Perry Rigby, showcased their talents up north as they competed in the New York Collegiate Baseball League (NYCBL). Simons played with the Rochester Ridgemen while the other three Scots played for the Niagara Power.
The wood bat NYCBL is comprised of 11 teams full of college players coming from all over the country. The season runs from the beginning of June through July, with playoffs taking place at the end. Rain in the northeast hampered some of the schedule this summer, but teams were still able to get roughly 40 games in.
"This summer was a great opportunity for me to play a lot more game and improve my skills for this upcoming season," said Simons, a shortstop and son of Scots head coach Doug Simons.
Gillespie and Rigby, in particular, had tremendous success as both were selected to the midseason All-Star game. Rigby earned Most Valuable Player honors at the game, even though his team fell 8-7, thanks to his 4-for-5 performance with an RBI and two runs scored.
"It was such an honor to be selected as an All-Star," said Rigby. "There was a lot of good talent in the league I just tried my best each at bat."
"Very humbling award to receive," added Gillespie on being selected to the All-Star game." There were many talented athletes in the NYCBL and to make the All-Star game felt good to know that all the hard work paid off. I'm very proud of my teammate Perry on his outstanding game and All-Star game MVP."
Simons and Mabe also saw success. Simons was second in the league in stolen bases with 19, while Mabe started four games and struck out 21 batters in 23.1 innings pitched.
The high level of competition was noted by all four players as they battled against talent from NCAA Division I programs all the way down to the junior college ranks.
"If you made a mistake they would capitalize a little more because, for the most part, hitters were a little bit above average," remarked Mabe.
"I feel like the competition was a little tougher, mainly from the pitching perspective," added Simons. "The pitchers we faced threw harder and came from some really good baseball programs."
Gillespie agreed with Simons on the pitching talent he faced. "We faced, on average, higher division competitors. The biggest aspect I noticed was faster pitching," said the junior from Milton, Ga.
Although developing their baseball skills further was important for these players, they also gained experience sharing the Gospel as they volunteered with various outreach programs in their temporary communities.
Both Rochester and Niagara are associated with Christian organizations. Rochester is an Athletes in Action program, while Niagara is with Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Because of these connections, players were able to volunteer within their summer communities while spreading the Gospel.
One of the outreach programs that both teams shared in common was a Miracle League charity game. The Miracle League is an organization in western New York that provides children with mental and physical challenges an opportunity to play baseball on a specially designed field that can accommodate wheelchairs, crutches and walkers.
"A very neat experience," remarked Gillespie on Niagara's Miracle League opportunity. "We got to serve others and had a good time helping out special needs kids. The kids were unbelievable and it really just put things in perspective."
Simons' Rochester team also did several baseball camps for kids, a pair of vacation Bible schools and a softball game at a prison with the inmates. The junior from Lookout Mountain, Ga., said the prison softball game was "one of the greatest experiences in my life."
"We volunteered with the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission which hosted men and women struggling with addictions and in need of jobs hosted them for meals, shelter, and fellowship," recalled Mabe. "It was very rewarding as well as helping with church services and giving testimonies."
Developing their talent on the field, the four players hope to see even more success on the field this spring at Covenant. But off the field experiences will stay with this group for the rest of their lives.
Simons continued, "These all were opportunities for us, as a team, to be able to spread the Gospel and our testimonies to those we helped. That was our first and most important goal."
For more information on the NYCBL, click here