Riley’s Travels Land Him in Cape League
On the night of Friday, July 13, Brock Riley was on the mound in Lynn closing out a game for the North Shore Navigators of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.
As soon as the game ended, he hopped in his car -- still in full uniform --and embarked on a near 100-mile drive to Chatham on Cape Cod. A shower or a fresh set a clothes didn’t matter to Riley. His only concern was chasing a childhood dream.
A while back, Riley had reached out to teams in the Cape Cod Baseball League, the most prestigious summer amateur league in the country, to see if a them would be interested in his services.
But after a strong junior season at Salem State University and a bright start to his summer with the Navigators, Riley again put out feelers to the Cape Cod League. This time, he got a bite from the Chatham Anglers.
Riley was asked to arrive at Chatham’s field by 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 14 for a tryout. On no more than five hours of sleep and 12 hours after he had just pitched, Riley made it. He threw a light bullpen session so that the team could inspect the 6-foot, 200-pounder’s windup and stuff.
As soon as the session was over, Chatham offered Riley a spot on the team as a relief pitcher.
“I was pretty jacked up, I couldn’t believe it,” said Riley, a Lowell native and former Lowell High School standout. “My mom brought some stuff down to me and we celebrated, she’s my biggest fan.
“It was definitely a dream come true. I watched those games since I was a little kid. I remember immediately falling in love with baseball and that league, and the quality of the baseball. Every time you watched, you knew you were seeing future first-round draft picks and stars.”
Riley helped Chatham advance all the way to the Cape Cod League Championship Series. However, the Anglers were swept by the Wareham Gatemen, courtesy of a 9-3 Game 2 win for Wareham on Monday.
Used as a late-inning reliever, the right-handed Riley made five appearances and struck out seven in seven innings pitched.
“It went well,” said Riley. “I competed against the best players in the country and I think I proved to Major League Baseball scouts that I can play with these guys.”
The 22-year-old Riley is a case study on how to handle rejection. Salem State is the third stop on his up-and-down college journey.
While at Lowell High, he originally committed to UMass Amherst, but a problem with his academic credits created an obstacle and he instead headed to Franklin Pierce University, a perennially strong Division 2 program. During his two years at Franklin Pierce, Riley made eight scoreless appearances. But due to the team’s depth, he just wasn’t getting as much work as he wanted.
Riley decided to explore his lifelong goal of playing Division 1 college baseball and put a call into then-University of Maine head coach Steve Trimper. While at Franklin Pierce, Riley tossed three perfect innings in an exhibition game against Maine and was hopeful Trimper would remember it. He did remember and told Riley he could have a spot on Maine’s roster.
Riley enrolled at Maine, but before he ever took the field for the Black Bears, Trimper left to become the head coach at Stetson University.
“The new coaching staff had different plans for me and weren’t going to honor my scholarship,” said Riley.
“My college career has been a roller coaster filled with rejection and change. I remember being aggravated and thinking my career was over. I just wanted to come closer to home and play out the remainder of my career. I loved the city of Salem and I knew Salem State had a great baseball program.”
He versatility and ability was on display in 2018 with the Vikings. Riley finished 7-2 with four saves and a 3.66 ERA, while striking out 56 in 51.2 innings.
Riley has a bit of a sidearm delivery and will release pitches at three different arm angles. The velocity of his fastball can touch 93 mph (up from 88 as a senior in high school) and he’s got a sharp sinker that he considers his best pitch.
The fireballer headed back up to Lowell on Tuesday and doesn’t plan to take too much time off before getting back to his workouts. Riley says the goal now is to have a big senior season and ultimately get drafted next June.
“I think this summer is going to give me a ton of momentum,” Riley said.
Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone