As originally published on gatemen.org, here.
As if a season-long .425 batting average weren’t forever etched in the minds of those who witnessed it, Andrew Calica’s accomplishments from the 2015 Cape Cod Baseball League summer have been given the stamp of immortality.
The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has now officially enshrined the bat Calica used to torment CCBL pitching into its amateur collection.
“It’s a great honor,” Calica said. “I’m really happy how my summer went, and just really happy to see that work pay off. It’s been great to see that support system I had with the (Wareham) Gatemen and my family, and seeing all that work coming to fruition is pretty cool.”
An everyday centerfielder for UC Santa Barbara and for the Wareham Gatemen, Calica’s bat being inducted into the Hall of Fame comes at the heels of him receiving the Thurman Munson Award (given to the CCBL batting average champion) and a first-team summer All-American nomination by Perfect Game.
Further, he was the first Cape League batter to hit over .400 since 1990 and his .425 mark was the highest since 1982—this all thanks to 16 multi-hit games in only 31 games played.
And yet despite all the record-setting accolades being thrown his way, Calica said the thought of Cooperstown never entered his mind.
“I just didn’t expect it,” Calica said. “I remember right after the end of the season, I had given (Wareham GM) Andrew (Lang) a couple of my bats that I didn’t want to take back home with me. He said they’d probably give them up to charity or something. I just didn’t expect to see that those bats would end up in the Hall of Fame.”
Lang relayed the steps taken in the process of achieving the induction, pointing out how he couldn’t fathom letting Calica’s summer pass without garnering more national attention.
After calling the collections acquisition department at the Hall of Fame and explaining the significance of Calica’s achievement, he shipped the bat—which Calica had autographed—to Cooperstown the first week of August. After a collections acquisition meeting was held on August 18 and the committee had voted on whether or not to accept the bat, Lang received confirmation at the beginning of October. Included in the admission packet were confirmation certificates and a lifetime pass to the Hall of Fame for Calica—the perfect incentive for him to go visit his bat when he heads out East to visit family in the near future.
Going back to mid-July, one of the chief concerns in Calica’s quest for batting average history was whether or not he would register enough plate appearances to be considered among the league leaders. Because of UCSB’s trip to the NCAA Tournament and it hosting a Regional at Lake Elsinore, Calica arrived to the Cape later than most of his peers.
After a 3-for-4 performance on July 29, he zoomed past the three-plate-appearances-per-game requirement and was a massive 81 batting average points ahead of his next closest competitor.
The Gatemen site was quick to publish an extensive analysis on his season up to that point. The full story can be accessed here, but Calica’s mind-boggling summer boiled down to four essentials: he hit lots of ground balls to fully harness his speed; his elite contact skills translated to low walk and low strikeout totals; he’s experienced a rejuvenated sense of purpose in the batter’s box since first bursting onto the college baseball scene; and lastly—and probably most importantly—his graciousness and humility instantly won over his teammates and coaches, and made him a quick fan favorite.
Dissecting numbers and spray charts suffice to tell the complete story regarding the first two essentials for Calica. But with an eternal spot in the baseball Hall of Fame and a subsequent opportunity to reflect on how he got there, Calica spoke extensively on the third and fourth essentials—starting with his rejuvenated sense of purpose when he steps into the batter’s box.
He began with the injury-plagued start to his college career.
“My first couple years of college ball, I had some issues with injuries,” Calica said. “I didn’t really have the opportunity to play a full season of baseball until my junior year. So I really started getting a feel for what my approach was like and what type of hitter I was. I knew that I wasn’t hitting for a lot of power, but I made contact; (I knew) that I could use my speed.”
He then transitioned to the point in time in which more playing time and reps led to more success.
“Once I started getting a feel for that, I felt like I could translate that onto the field more often,” Calica said. “And after my first full season my junior year and going into the Cape Cod League season, I felt pretty good. I felt more aware of myself as a baseball player. I felt like I had a better idea of my plan (and what I) was trying to do, whereas in the past I felt like I was just kind of up there competing, trying to put the ball in play, trying to do whatever I can to get on base.”
In a sense, perhaps Calica’s initial time away from facing live collegiate pitching led him to a rediscovered sense of what he was trying to accomplish at the plate. Flashy displays of power were no longer necessary. Pop flies were all but eliminated from his game. Flipping the stereotypical image of a count-working (but otherwise non-productive) leadoff hitter on its face, and instead opting to become an intelligently aggressive sparkplug, became the primary goal.
“It was easier for me to attack tougher pitching, like the type of pitching you see in Cape Cod,” Calica said. “And when I did run into trouble, I felt like I could always go back to my basics and look back at what was working well for me—move out of those slumps quicker than I had in the past. I think that really helped me maintain that consistency that I was able to keep throughout most of the Cape season.”
As for what lies ahead in 2016, the desire to reassume his all-but-locked-up starting spot in centerfield and the leadoff position for UCSB is obviously sky high when considering his torrid summer in the Cape.
But perfectly illuminating the fourth essential of his summer—overall good teammate and good person—Calica was quick to deflect his excitement as it pertains to his own personal success to excitement that focuses on building upon relationships he’s established with his teammates.
“I love playing college ball,” Calica said. “It’s going to be cool coming back for my fourth year here and I’ll be a redshirt junior. I’ll be playing with the guys I’ve been with for three years. Taking that success I had from the Cape out to the season, I think I’ve come into more of a leadership role this year than I’ve had in the past. It’s awesome. College ball is a great experience that you don’t really get anywhere else.”