Double Gatemen Feature: west coast sluggers and local ace
WAREHAM – Gateman slugger Bryson Stott rolls up his sleeve to reveal the ink that covers his left bicep. He has his family's surname around a cross as well as the Las Vegas sign. Born and raised in Las Vegas, Stott just finished his sophomore season at UNLV.
Then there's the ribbon tattoo.
"My best friend that passed away I've got right here," he said. "He passed away from cancer, so I got his ribbon and then these two flowers in the back are for my mom and sister.”
Fellow Gateman slugger Andrew Vaughn of Cal Berkeley, jumps in. “My favorite’s the rocket ship."
“Oh yeah, I got a rocket,” Stott said, glancing at his wrist. “We got them on Friday the 13th one year with a bunch of friends. I think that’s one of my favorites I would say.”
Bryson Stott (left) and Andrew Vaughn (right) are two of four Gatemen who will see time with Team USA the summer (via Caroline O'Connor).
Before arriving in Wareham a month ago, Stott and Vaughn had never met each other. Despite being two west coast kids just one state away, it took coming to Wareham, Mass. for two of the nation’s top collegiate baseball players to meet each other.
Now they act like they've known each other for years. They've become close friends already.
Vaughn just won the Golden Spikes Award for the nation's best collegiate player. The 5-foot-11, 208-pounder batted .402 with 23 homers, 63 RBIs and a .531 on-base percentage.
Stott led all of college baseball in doubles and batted .365 with 32 RBIs.
“I just knew this guy hit a bunch of doubles and he was from Vegas and had some cool tattoos,” Vaughn said.
“Being able to kick off a relationship right away was something that I wanted to start because I knew I’d have to spend the whole summer with him anyways,” Stott said. “So being able to kick off our relationship was pretty cool.”
Stott would have had to have been living under a rock not to hear about the season his Gatemen teammate had.
“Obviously the year he had is second to none I’d say. Seeing it all on Twitter, Instagram, I knew he was going to be something special coming in,” Stott said.
He was special. Vaughn was the first player from Cal Berkeley to win the award.
“This is one of the greatest honors in college baseball. Being on that list with those guys of that caliber, [Brady] Singer, [Casey] Mize, and Kody Clemens, I already feel like a winner to be honest,” Vaughn said prior to winning the award. “I love baseball so being able to put up the numbers that I did was humbling.”
Since meeting each other, Stott and Vaughn have gotten to study each other's approaches and what makes them really good ballplayers.
“I’d say for Bryson it’s every day he shows up, he’s consistent," Vaughn said. "He’s really good out there at shortstop. As a first baseman that’s a great thing knowing your guy is going to field some balls and throw them to your chest. Make the good plays, make the routine plays and make the spectacular plays which he has and it’s pretty cool to see that.
“And then up at the plate, he’s smooth," Vaughn added. He’s got that sweet lefty swing and I love to see that.”
To no one’s surprise, Stott has loved to watch Vaughn hit and has been impressed with his overall offense game and work ethic.
“Just seeing him go about his business, hitting every day is something I was looking forward to personally. You see his numbers from the spring like I said is second to none and seeing how hard he works in the cages and BP is something I was very looking forward to and he’s impressed for sure,” Stott said.
As a couple of west coast kids, being out on the other side of the country in Massachusetts is certainly different.
“Being here in the Cape is pretty awesome, coming from Berkeley a big city to being in Mattapoisett, Mass., for my host house has been a different experience,” Vaughn said.
While Vaughn has enjoyed his time out east, he certainly loves the thrill of the west coast and playing at home. Vaughn is from Santa Rosa, Calif. which is about an hour away from his campus at Berkeley.
“Playing at home, an hour from my house is great. Friends, family get to come watch me play and Cal is a dream school of mine,” Vaughn said. “Getting the opportunity to go there and play baseball, do what I love. Couldn’t be happier.”
Stott also grew up close to his campus at UNLV. Stott lives in Las Vegas and is about a 20-minute drive from home.
“Seeing my mom and my dad and my close friends and my relatives in the stands every day is something I’ll never take for granted. I just look up there and know I have the support system I need and want every single game. Being able to do that is pretty awesome.
Like Vaughn, Stott has also grown accustomed to the east coast despite one annoyance.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty different than the big city I’m from so being able to experience something different is pretty cool to me,” Stott said. “Being out on the east coast with these bugs is a little different for me.”
Some of the perks of the Cape? The best competition of any collegiate summer league.
In a league known for its pitching, Vaughn and Stott have come in done just fine against some of the best collegiate pitchers in the country. The two went a combined 27-92 (.293 average) with five homers, 17 RBIs, and 16 runs scored during 26 combined games played.
“Even the opponents are top line. In college, we go to D1 so everyone around you is good but you’re playing some competition that might not be as good as the competition you face here,” Stott said.
“Day in and day out you’re seeing the Friday guys, the first relievers out of the ‘pen. It kind of humbles you a little bit and gets you better as well.”
As for Vaughn, he sees a different bonus of spending a few weeks in the Cape.
“The lobster rolls for me,” Vaughn said with a smile. “I had my first lobster roll so if I had to come back I’d definitely go get another one.”
In their next challenge, the competition might be even better. Both Stott and Vaughn have completed their time with the Gatemen as they now have the prestigious honor of playing for the Team USA collegiate national team.
Team USA has a short season this summer as they play games for three weeks. So far, they are 7-1 and have three games remaining with their series against Japan. Then they will wrap up with a series against the Cuban International team from July 10 to July 14.
Vaughn is already a seasoned vet for Team USA after spending last summer representing our country. Vaughn was named team MVP in a series win last summer over Japan. As for Stott, this will be his first time wearing the red, white, and blue.
“It was one of the greatest experiences of my life getting to play that international competition with guys of such high caliber like Casey Mize, first overall pick, [Travis] Swaggerty, 10th pick, guys like that,” Vaughn said.
“Just being able do that on that scale wearing USA on chest, hearing the national anthem every day, there really nothing like it.”
Stott is also looking forward to this new experience and sees this opportunity as another chance to climb the ladder and continue to improve as a player.
“You just get rewarded for your hard work. Getting to the Cape is one thing for your hard work and then you go the next step and get Team USA. Not a lot of people can say they did that. Like we’ve said it’s an honor to represent our country and play the game that we love,” Stott said.
The hard for that Stott and Vaughn put in day in and day out would not be possible with the hard work of the Gatemen coaching staff.
“They’re here to help us get the extra work in if we want it. They’re here 1 o’clock, 12:30 every day to get extra hacks in the cage, hit grounders if we want. Just being here to help us improve our game is something they take pride in and I think its panning out,” Stott said.
“Big thing with Don he calls it spoon feeding us. He’s just giving us a little bit at a time, something new every day,” Vaughn said.
“I think that’s really helping, not everything thrown at you at once.”
During their time in Wareham, one thing Gatemen fans were treated to was watching these two at the plate and the professional at bats they give. As with any good hitter, having a good approach is the key to any success.
“I just try and get my timing for the rest of the game. Obviously, you’re looking for something out over the plate, you don’t want to lunge at something, get jammed on something,” Stott said.
“Being able to get your timing down your first at bat is something I pride myself on and being able to pick up his arm slot, if he changes his leg kick.”
While Stott searches for timing, Vaughn spends his at bat looking for his pitch and sees what the starter has to offer.
“I’m a big fastball hunter. Find out what the guys throwing, if he’s 91-93 then I’m getting ready for that 93-mph fastball. If he throws something else, then I trust myself to stay in my legs and hit those pitches,” Vaughn said.
Staying within his legs is a big part of Vaughn’s power numbers. Of his five homers with the Gatemen, Vaughn spread them equally throughout the ballpark. Two of them were to the opposite field, one was to center, and two were to left field.
His one to center was the most impressive of all. In a 10-4 win of the YD Red Sox, Vaughn hit a towering 435-foot drive to center to put the crowd in awe.
“I pride myself in keeping my legs strong. I believe my swing comes from my legs if I stay balanced and I can use my legs and my hips,” Vaughn said.
The most amazing part of Vaughn’s power? He’s not even six feet tall.
“Like you said I’m not a bigger guy but, I think if I swing as hard as I can and make good contact I can do some damage.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Bryson Stott is 6 feet 3 inches tall which is rather large for someone who plays shortstop. However, this is something Stott has had to adjust to.
As a freshman in high school, Stott was just 5 feet tall. As a sophomore, Stott was 5 feet 4 inches tall, but still rather short.
“I didn’t really grow until my junior summer going into my senior year so getting used to my bigger frame was something I had work on and get used to,” Stott said.
Stott does not view his size as a hindrance on the defensive side, but rather as a tool.
Stott has looked extremely comfortable with his size displaying excellent range through his 12 games with the Gatemen. In the season opener, Stott made an error in the fifth inning, but played error free baseball over the next 11 games. Stott showed off his range making a few diving plays in the hole as well.
“I can get to balls diving that are farther away from me. I’ve got long arms and being able to adjust to my body over the years is something I’ve worked on and gotten comfortable with,” he said.
If Vaughn and Stott want fans to take away anything from their time in Wareham, it’s just how much they truly love the game and work to be great at it.
“It’s our dream to play professional baseball,” Vaughn said. “A lot of kids grow up saying bottom of the ninth, World Series two outs playing Wiffleball, but we want to work that hard to get there.”
“We want to be in that situation. Pushing ourselves to be the best athletes we can be, the best version of ourselves really creates us into being good baseball players."
WAREHAM - As a freshman at UConn, Mason Feole had himself quite a season. The left handed pitcher from West Greenwich, RI went 7-4 with a 3.38 ERA. Feole was named American Athletic Conference Rookie Pitcher of the Year and he also made first team All-Conference.
Feole was already great, but he knew had more to achieve. There was something else on his mind. Heading into his sophomore season, Feole set a goal for himself: make the Team USA collegiate national team for the following summer.
Flash forward to now, he has done just that. The two time member of the Gatemen secured a spot on Team USA and is one of just 14 pitchers in college baseball who was chosen to play for our country.
“Any time you get the opportunity to represent your country in any type of way is really great. To wear USA across your chess with 24, 26 other guys that are going to try and win for our country is going to be a really awesome experience,” Feole said.
Feole earned himself a spot on Team USA following an excellent sophomore campaign. This past year, Feole was dominant once again and he even one upped his freshman year. Feole went 9-2 with a 2.50 ERA in 100.2 innings of work. He also had the strikeout pitch working all season long as he registered 120 of them as part of a sensational UConn staff.
The Huskies struck out more than 500 batters for the third straight season after never having done in in school history prior to the 2016 season.
Despite all of Feole’s success this season, the UConn Huskies were knocked out at the hands of the Huskies from Washington, losing to them twice in the regionals.
“My teammates helped me a ton this season” Feole said. “If we didn’t have the season we had it would have been tough for me to get that call and they made it possible.”
One of the main reasons Feole was able to head back to UConn as a sophomore and dominate the AAC for a second straight year can be attributed to his growth as a pitcher that took place in the Cape Cod League.
After his freshman year, Feole ventured an hour away from home to play for the Gatemen in the summer of 2017. However, something unusual happened for Feole. He struggled on a baseball field.
Feole went just 1-3 with a 4.94 ERA in his first stint in the Cape League last summer. Feole gave up runs in five of his eight appearances and opponent hit .298 off him.
“This is definitely a learning league especially being a freshman and getting the opportunity to come out here and play with some of the best players in the country,” Feole said. “It’s really great to be able to use what I learned last year with Coach Lawler and Coach Mac [Joshua MacDonald, UConn pitching coach] to be able to come into my own.”
And what did he learn?
“It was more mental than anything, just slowing the game down, just understanding myself and my mechanics a little better,” Feole said. “Slowing the game down when things get tough on the mound or when I get myself into jams.”
Entering the Cape season this year, Feole comes in as a veteran not a rookie. He was one of only a handful of players to return to Wareham for a second straight season.
“I feel like it’s less of a learning experience. Last year you kind of get your feet wet a little bit and sink into it and make some adjustment as a pitcher,” Feole said.
“This time around you can just use what you made adjustments with and go out and compete and not worry too much about changing things."
Gatemen fans had a limited opportunity to see Feole and the changes he made as he only had two starts this summer for Wareham before leaving for Team USA. Feole recorded no decisions in both his starts and he allowed three runs to score over his seven innings. Just like at UConn, Feole had the strikeout pitch working, recording 10 of them while walking just one.
Coming to play for the Gatemen this summer also allowed Feole to play with two of his Team USA teammates, Andrew Vaughn and Bryson Stott, before heading to Cary, NC.
“Every time you get to watch them take an at bat or field a baseball it’s really fun. You see Vaughn with the couple of homers to the opposite field, he makes the game really fun. And Bryson does the same thing with his defense and at the plate,” Feole said.
“They’re both guys that are fun to watch and they are both great guys off the field too. They’re quickly becoming really good friends and I’m excited to hit the road and get down there with them and meet a lot of great players from around the country and go compete nationally,” Feole said prior to leaving.
Feole and his teammates left the Gatemen after the June 24 doubleheader at Yarmouth-Dennis. Wareham was 9-5 with the three USA teammates on the roster. Gatemen outfielder Bryant Packard also made Team USA as a late add and joined his fellow Gatemen teammates on July 1.
“I hate to say it’s tough to leave the Gatemen, but it was a pretty easy decisions for me.,” Feole said. “It’s great being out here on the Cape, but I think there’s something extra special about representing your country especially in a sport like baseball.”
Despite the easy decision to leave Wareham, Feole knew he would miss many aspects of being here, especially for someone who has been here for two summers.
“Every time we come off the field and we are not between the lines you see everyone that works for the team, guys like Tom Crane and Andrew Lang. It’s nice to know there’s a lot of people doing a lot of things that aren’t baseball and it goes a long way to know that the Wareham community is so invested in Wareham Gatemen baseball.”
“It’s a blast being here; it’s going to be tough leaving that but I’m excited for the rest of the summer,” Feole said.