December 7, 2019

Touring the Bases With Peter Bock of the Coastal Plains League

February 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

College baseball is set to go off this week.  Wood bat leagues like the Coastal Plain League will be evaluating college talent before their start-up in late May.  Here is a behind-the-scenes look at that league with one of the league founders, Peter Bock.

The Coastal Plain League operates in three Atlantic Coast states.  The collegiate summer baseball league–what some people call a wood bat league–picks up on the traditions of the old Class D League of the same name.  This labor of love was founded by Jerry Petitt and Peter Bock in 1996.  It maintains the ongoing operation of several historic baseball parks that gave birth to some of the most famous names in the game.  Jerry Pettit is from the Washington, DC area and serves as the Commissioner for the CPL.  The league extends from southern Virginia to South Carolina with 15 teams along the eastern seaboard and has had over 4,500 players spend their summer in its ballparks since it began. Further, over 800 players have been drafted by Major League teams since the league’s first season, including 39 of them that have gone on to play in the Big Leagues. Of them, several are household names like Justin Verlander, Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Reynolds and Tyler Colvin.

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Q.  How did you guys get into this business?

Peter Bock: Jerry and I had an interest in getting into minor league hockey in the 1990’s. I happened to be involved with the Raleigh IceCaps of the East Coast Hockey League. Jerry decided to hold off on the hockey investment but was kind enough to let me know that he would be interested in forming a partnership with me if the right sports related opportunity came our way. In 1996 I talked to Jerry about my idea of starting a college summer baseball league. I am fortunate that he decided to become a part of that project.

Q.  The Wilson Tobs are one of the North Carolina teams playing now.  There is a lot of history to that Wilson team, who played on it back in the day?

Peter Bock:  One of the CPL’s first franchises, the Wilson Tobs, remain a staple in the league 15 years after it was founded. The Tobs play at Historic Fleming Stadium, which has a rich baseball history dating back to 1939. In fact, Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams played in an exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Fleming once. But the list of legendary names to grace the field in Wilson doesn’t stop there, as notables like Rod Carew, Curt Flood, Cal Ripken, Sr., Willie McCovey, Carl Yastrzemski, Bobby Murcer, Rusty Staub, Leon Wagner, Jimmy Hall, Richie Hebner, Fred Valentine, Micky Lolich, Tony Taylor, Donn Clendenon, Bob Veale, Caesar Tovar, Al Oliver, Tony Perez, Rico Petrocelli, Mel Stottlemyre, Chuck Witherspoon and Dick McAuliffe all played in Fleming. Even the famous Jack McKeon, who led the Florida Marlins to win the World Series in 2003, managed the Tobs back in 1960.

CPL Major Leaguers that played in Wilson while spending their summers with the Tobs include Justin Verlander (Tigers), Adam Greenberg (Cubs), Brad Eldred (Pirates) and Tom Mastny (Indians). Former Tobs pitcher Kevin Pucetas – a three-time Minor League All-Star – might be the next alum to reach the Majors, and could do it this season with Kansas City.

Q.  What’s a Tob?

Peter Bock:  It is short for Tobacconist.  A Tobacconist is a dealer in tobacco. Wilson was once known as the tobacco capital of the world as their economy thrived off growing and the selling of tobacco to cigarette and cigar companies all over the world.

Q.  What other teams have that kind of history, that kind of success over the years?

Peter Bock:  Most of our clubs have a minor league history…here are three (one from each state we have clubs in):

Peninsula Pilots (Hampton, Va.) – home ballpark: War Memorial Stadium.  War Memorial opened in 1948, and was the home of minor league baseball until 1992. It has hosted teams from the International League, Piedmont League and Carolina League. has hosted such players as Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Cesar Cedeno, Julio Franco, Hal McRae, Lou Piniella and Johnny Podres.

Thomasville HiToms (Thomasville, N.C.) – home ballpark: Historic Finch Field.  The field was a part of the N.C. State League from 1937-1952, and then a member of the Tar Heel League in 1953. Thomasville also fielded teams in the Carolina League. Players that played there include Hall of Famer Eddie Matthews, Curt Flood, Dallas Green, Jack McKeon and Tony Solaita.

Columbia Blowfish (Columbia, S.C.) – home ballpark: Capital City Stadium.  Columbia fielded its first professional team in 1892. Since then, the city has fielded teams in the Southeastern League, and the South Atlantic League. Past players include Larry Chancy, Alva Nalley, Goose Goslin, Ted Kluzewski, Frank Robinson, Manny Lee, Dave Magadan, Todd Hundley, Anthony Young, Kevin Baez, Jeff McKnight, Randy Meyers, Jeff Gardner, Gregg Jeffries and Dave Mlicki.

Q.  Who were the top guys in the league last year?

Peter Bock:  Some of the top 10 players in our league in 2010 have signed already and the others will likely be drafted in the early rounds and go on to play extensively as professional ball players.  The ten include Will Lamb (Clemson, OF/LHP), Carter Capps (Mount Olive, RHP), Buck Farmer (Georgia Tech, RHP), Peter Mooney (South Carolina, SS), Brian Billigen (Cornell, OF), Chase Boruff (Carson-Newman, RHP) signed during summer season with Royals, Kramer Sneed (Barton College, LHP) signed during summer season with Yankees, Chas Crane (Winthrop, 3B) Terran Senay (N.C. State, OF), and David Chester (Pittsburgh, 1B).

Q.  How do you land talent for the league ?  Is there a scouting process or do you rely more on your connection to college coaches?

Peter Bock:  The League is inundated with applications from players and coaches trying to place players in our league. We forward all received information onto our General managers and Coaches so they will have access to potential players. The large majority of players is scouted and recruited by the clubs individually as the General Manager and Head Coach handles those duties.

Q.  You have talent from all over the country? West coast colleges and kids from all over.  How do you get the word out?

Peter Bock:  The Coastal Plain League is very fortunate to have a great reputation throughout all of college baseball. Players seemingly want to be a part of the CPL and coaches respect and appreciate that when they send us a player, he is going to have a great summer, be taken care of, have every opportunity to be scouted by major league clubs and return to their school a much better player.

Q.  Who are the big names you hope to have playing this season in the CPL?

Peter Bock:  Although we don’t have most of the contracts from our teams yet, we have several commitments from big programs across the country, including Cal State Fullerton, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Rice, etc. With that said, here are a couple players we look forward to having play during the 2011 summer include:- Vickash Ramjit (Florida), Jeff Moyer (Florida), Austin Kingsolver (Cal State Fullerton), Chaz Frank (North Carolina), Craig Manual (Rice).

Thanks and it is great to know that folks from the Washington, DC area are contributing to this worthy endeavor.  Later in the season, Peter and Jerry will be guests on “Outa the Parkway,” the Baltimore-Washington Seamheads Network Podcast every Thursday night at 7:30 pm.

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