SALEM — Salem State pitcher Brock Riley was sold on becoming a professional baseball player at a young age. Thus far, the 22-year-old Lowell native is on the right track.
A rising senior at Division III Salem State, Riley took a huge step toward reaching his pro baseball aspirations last Saturday when he signed a contract with the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Riley joined the Anglers last week and made his debut Tuesday night when he tossed two scoreless innings.
Riley spent the beginning of his summer pitching for the North Shore Navigators. In 17.1 innings of work, he compiled a 3.63 ERA, 16 strikeouts and a 1-1 record for North Shore.
“For the past few years I’ve played in a lot of great summer leagues,” Riley said. “I played in the NECBL after my freshman year. I’ve played in the Futures League the past two years. I’ve done well. It’s difficult to get into the Cape Cod League. It’s full of future first and second round picks. I’ve built a resume over the past few years that the Cape Cod League found impressive and finally I was able to get a call from Chatham.”
Growing up as a devoted baseball fan, Riley found himself at many CCBL games during his childhood. Now that he’s following the footsteps of players he grew up admiring, Riley’s ready to make his mark.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Riley said. “Every kid in America dreams of playing in the Cape Cod League. I remember when I was younger playing baseball with my cousins and we’d pretend to be players from Orleans or Chatham. My family spent a lot of time watching games on the Cape. I’d even ride my bike by myself for 40 minutes to catch games. I’m really happy to be here but I’m not satisfied. Now it’s time to prove I belong here.”
Riley has full support and confidence from his baseball coach at Salem State, Lynn native Al Donovan.
“Brock has succeeded everywhere,” Donovan said. “From the classroom, to the field, even in the weight room. He works out like an animal. It pays off. He’s a junior heading into his senior year. The next three weeks will be huge for him. He’s a confident kid and he’ll be successful. He’ll show what he can do and he can show there’s talent in Division III across New England that can compete at that level. It’s a big step for him, Salem State and all Division III kids. He’ll prove he belongs there.”
Donovan has played a crucial role in Riley’s success, the right-hander said.
“Coach Donovan is a fantastic coach,” Riley said. “He truly believes in me. He has so much faith and confidence in me and he pushed me to the next level. He told me has no doubt I can play at the next level. That meant a lot to me. It was a big confidence boost.”
Riley’s journey to the CCBL wasn’t the smoothest of roads. He began his college baseball career at Division II Franklin Pierce before transferring to Division I Maine. Things didn’t go as planned for Riley with the Black Bears so he transferred, for a second time, to Salem State. This past spring, Riley went 7-2 with a 3.66 ERA and tallied 56 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings.
“Salem State has done a lot for me,” Riley said. “It feels amazing being one of the few MASCAC and Salem State players to play in the Cape. Not a lot of Division III players get this chance so I’m not taking it for granted. I’m ready to prove I deserve this opportunity. It feels special to represent Salem State.”
The Anglers are 15-13-2 this season, eight points behind the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox for first place in the East Division. Riley’s the lone New England native on Chatham’s current roster.
“Brock will do well there,” Donovan said. “He’ll be challenged. He’s the only kid from New England on his roster, never mind being the only Division III player. That says a lot about his opportunity.
“Coaches can coach and mentor but if you don’t have the right student-athlete who’s committed, everything else is secondary,” Donovan added. “Brock’s one of the top kids in MASCAC and New England, and it shows.”
Riley’s hopeful his Cape Cod League experience will bode well for him during his senior season next spring at Salem State.
“It’s a great experience and it’s something you bring back to school with you,” Riley said. “I’m hoping this helps me have an amazing senior season. I’m hoping to prove to scouts that my pitches have gotten better and that I’m worthy of an MLB Draft pick.”