Waterford's Sutera grows into Cape Cod League role, achieves all-star status
Thomas Sutera is living a baseball life that he never imagined.
On Monday, he shagged fly balls in the outfield during batting practice at historic Fenway Park while attending the Cape Cod League pro day. Quite a thrill for a Red Sox fan.
Last weekend, Sutera, a Waterford High School graduate and rising senior at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., learned about his selection to the Cape Cod League all-star game roster, joining a prestigious list that includes some of the best college players in the country.
Sutera, a right-handed pitcher for the Harwich Mariners, has come mega-miles from his Waterford baseball days.
"It's incredible," Sutera said. "Looking back on it, it's crazy where I've come from. Obviously, our town has a really big baseball background so it's amazing to really be another person from our town that has had success and gone on to play college baseball and perform well in summer ball and have the opportunity to play on the Cape."
Put him in the late bloomer category. He didn't play varsity baseball at Waterford until his junior year.
A few growth spurts changed Sutera from a skinny 5-foot-8 kid as a high school freshman to now a lanky 6-foot-6 as a Cape Cod League reliever. He checks in at 190 pounds. His college coaches would like him to be in the 200-215 range.
Sutera's nickname is Noodle, thanks to some Central Florida fans. During a road trip to Florida in his freshman year, hecklers spotted him warming up in the bullpen and started calling him the Human Noodle. His teammates and coaches shortened it to Noodle.
"I'm really tall but I struggle to put on the weight," Sutera said. "I just eat and eat and I don't know where it goes. I have a fast metabolism, I guess. My teammates at school get mad at me because they see me eating burgers, pizza and pasta and they watch what they eat because they gain weight like nothing. And I can't gain weight at all."
His first Cape Cod League break came two years ago through a Waterford connection.
Rob Bono, who was an assistant coach at Chatham, recommended that Sutera be brought in late in the summer to fill a hole in the roster. He's known his fellow Waterford resident for years and had faith that Sutera could succeed.
In his debut, Sutera threw three scoreless innings in a spot start against Wareham.
"I knew Thomas always had a very bright future," Bono said. "It was always in him. It was just him growing up a little bit and getting a little stronger and growing into his body a bit, being 6-6. He's made the adjustment very nice. Tom is a kid who handles his business in a very professional way.
"... Thomas wasn't a big prospect. But something has triggered up in that brain and caused him to put it all together in the summer time."
Last summer, Sutera headed south to compete in the Valley Baseball League, playing for the Purcellville Cannons in Virginia. He earned all-star status and won the league's pitcher of the year. It was an important step in his development.
The momentum carried over to his junior season at Siena. He embraced the reliever role, making 26 appearances and pitching 52.2 innings. He went 3-3 and had the second-lowest earned run average on the team at 3.93.
When the Cape Cod League called again this summer, Sutera had a different mindset than his last stint.
Harwich offered Sutera a temporary contract. His plan was to finish the season with the Mystic Schooners.
Then Sutera did what he's always done during his baseball journey. He made himself indispensable. He volunteered to pitch in whatever role and on whatever day his manager asked.
"I just wanted to throw as many innings as I could," Sutera said. "I didn't know how long I'd be out here so every opportunity that I had, I wanted to go out there and compete and mainly fill up the zone. ... Every chance I got to throw, I told them I was ready to go. I didn't think I was going to stay, but I was hoping to."
The reliable Sutera pitched so well that he earned an invitation to stick around for the rest of the summer. He's leading the team in innings pitched with 23.1 and is second in appearances with nine. He's posted a 2.70 earned run average in mainly a relief role, allowing 21 hits and seven earned runs while striking out 26 and walking eight.
He's added a tough splitter with "crazy" movement to his arsenal that also features a fastball (90-92), curveball and changeup.
Physically, he's matured, too.
"I think I just really grew into my body and started throwing kind of like a mature adult," Sutera said. "I just grew up on the mound."
His all-star selection was a bonus. Harwich is hosting the game on Sunday at Whitehouse Field.
The news was unexpected.
"Everybody always hopes to be an all-star," Sutera said. "When the coach told me, I was really surprised because it's something that you dream of. Thinking I'd only be out here for a couple of weeks and then being an all-star, it's definitely unreal. It's mind-boggling that I'm playing with some of these guys that have a legitimate opportunity (to play in the major leagues)."
The same guys that Sutera has been mowing down on a regular basis.
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