After members of the 2018 Bethesda Big Train departed from Shirley Povich Field as the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League co-champions, there were still awards to be handed out. Manager Sal Colangelo chose five players for this season’s awards: most valuable player, most-outstanding hitter, most-outstanding starting pitcher, most outstanding relief pitcher and most outstanding utility player.
“It was tough,” Colangelo said about choosing an MVP. “This [was] probably the toughest year ever to pick awards, because we had so many guys that shined.
Colangelo chose two-way player Alec Burleson (East Carolina) as the Big Train’s most-valuable player. Burleson joined Bethesda a week into the season, but by the end led the team in home runs (10) and RBIs (44) while ranking second in average (.385) and OPS (1.220). On the mound he worked a 0.34 ERA in his four games started, pitching a total of 26 1/3 innings, striking out 23 and giving up only one earned run. Burleson’s stats weren’t the only reason Colangelo chose him as MVP—to him, whether Burleson was in the field, pitching or batting leadoff, he was a leader on the team.
“[I am] definitely honored,” said Burleson, who was also chosen as the league playoff co-MVP. “I think that everybody did a part to deserve the trophy, and I’m just grateful and humble that [Colangelo] wanted to give [MVP] to me.”
Going into the summer season Burleson expected to have a more individually-focused experience, but said that he came out of the season having learned more about playing for his teammates.
“Playing and making friendships, hanging out with all the guys and playing for them, doing all that I did on the field for them is going to help me in college—both to be a better leader and a better teammate. [That’s] the biggest thing I’ve gotten from this summer,” said Burleson. “Just doing it for the other guys on the field.”
Outfielder Justin Wylie (Arizona) was awarded most-outstanding hitter, after finishing the season with team-and league-high .417 batting average, with 45 hits, 25 RBIs and one sacrifice fly. With his .417 mark he set a new record for highest batting average in the Bethesda Big Train franchise history.
“Outstanding human being,” Colangelo said of Wylie. “And it translated over to the field. Hardworking, always willing to learn and change and correct things he needed to correct at the plate—that’s the reason he led our team in hitting…he had an amazing summer as a hitter.”
Wylie said it felt pretty special to find out he had been chosen as the most-outstanding hitter. “There were so many great hitters on the team,” said Wylie. “It was nice that [Colangelo] was able to recognize me as one of the best ones.”
When asked what his most valuable lesson from the summer was, Wylie joked that it was to “try and win in two games if you’re playing a best two-out-of-three series so you’re not co-champions.” In the end, Wylie wanted to thank the coaching staff for bringing him to the team, stressing that he thoroughly enjoyed his time in Bethesda.
Starting pitcher Carlos Lomeli (St. Mary’s CA) got the call to start five times over the summer, working a 1.76 ERA and leading the team in strikeouts (37). Colangelo selected Lomeli as the most-outstanding starting pitcher because of his consistency.
“When [Lomeli] was on the bump, you knew you were going to get a good effort,” said Colangelo. “You were going to get five or six innings, low pitch count, and he was going to give you opportunity—a chance to win.”
Upon learning he was chosen as the most-outstanding starter, Lomeli was surprised. “I feel honored,” he said. “I mean, I don’t know what else to say.”
For Lomeli, his experience this summer taught him how to attach different types of hitters, being able to continue to use his fastball and pitchers counts and attack hitters. “I’m going to keep doing what I was doing in the summer this fall, just kind of grind it out, keep the same mentality like I’m pitching back out there.”
Ryan Metz (Virginia Tech), dubbed by Colangelo as the Big Train’s “silent reliever” on the mound, was chosen as the most-outstanding relief pitcher. During the regular season he worked a 0.00 ERA, the lowest among all pitchers, giving up only one unearned run.
“Metz came and met the test,” said Colangelo. “A go-to guy to give you an inning, give you an out or three innings. He was Mr. Consistent and Mr. Clutch out of the bullpen for us and his numbers showed.”
Metz, too, was surprised he was chosen. “I wasn’t sure who he was going to pick,” said Metz. “I know [Colangelo] called on me a lot and I did well, but there are a lot of good guys on that team.”
Finding a routine that works helped Metz stay consistent over the summer, and he hopes to carry that routine over into his work at Virginia Tech.
Junior Fox Semones (James Madison), a key player for the Big Train, settled at second base but took turns at shortstop, third base and in the outfield when he was needed. His ability to play any field position solidified him as the most-outstanding utility player. Semones ended the regular season batting .283, with 30 hits, 23 walks and 15 stolen bases.
“Fox is a jack of all trades,” Colangelo said. “If you need a catcher he could catch, if you need a pitcher he could pitch. He could play literally anywhere. The Big Train rolled as Fox rolled. He’s probably one of the most-athletic baseball players I’ve coached in 20 years at Bethesda Big Train.”
Semones was grateful that Colangelo chose him, saying that though he won’t go and tell anyone, it felt good to be chosen and recognized. For him, the connections he made over the summer taught him about friendship and teamwork.
“You go in there and don’t really know anyone on this team,” said Semones. “But then after a few weeks some of these guys are the closest friends you’ll ever have, and you don’t even get to see them much because they live on the opposite side of the U.S.”
Congrats to these five players and all the 2018 Big Train players on a tremendous seaosn!
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