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It takes about 12 and a half hours to drive from Greenville, North Carolina, to Bourne, Massachusetts.
For East Carolina University Pirates Spencer Brickhouse, Turner Brown, and Chris Holba, they are a long way from home.
From the baseball diamond to the golf course, the three share a special bond that has only strengthened since being carried over to summer ball with the Bourne Braves.
“The three of us are very close,” Brickhouse said. “At the same time, we are taking this experience as meeting new people and just meeting other guys that are very good competitors. We are also facing a lot of good competition and making a lot of friends out of this. Facing this type of competition just betters everybody.”
The cultural differences between North Carolina, located in the heart of the Southern United States, and New England’s most populated state, Massachusetts, can make for a difficult adjustment.
Brickhouse, who has occupied first base for the Braves for most of the early part of the season, had never even been to Massachusetts prior to the summer but took the chance to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League when he was asked by ECU head coach Cliff Godwin.
“I took it with a grain of salt and said ‘yes sir’ and walked into his office not really knowing anything,” Brickhouse said. “Just knowing I was going to play good baseball, just not really knowing anything about the team until I came up here.”
However, his host family and roommate, Holba, have comforted the 6-foot-4 Freshman All-American through the transition.
“They said we have had people from the South before, so we just accept it,” Brickhouse said. “I’m accepting of the North. I realize this is a different culture, but I’ll accept who you are, so it was interesting to see all these different guys from the different cultures and the different things they do at their school.”
One of the few returning Braves, Holba enjoyed his summer last year enough to want to return, despite the distance. Part of the reason was also because he got injured mid-season after being hit in the face with a line drive at ECU, so he needed to log more innings.
“I was always pushing to come back here,” Holba said. “I had a really good time last summer.”
Holba and Brickhouse often play video games at their host family’s house to pass the time while they are not playing baseball and all three will also golf together during their spare time.
“Especially disc golf,” Brown added.
A scrappy, gritty middle infielder in the mold of undersized athletes in other sports, Brown has brought his own style of play and energy to the Cape that he has carried over from his first two years at ECU.
“Energy kind rubs off on everybody,” he said. “We just want to be ourselves and feed off of each other.”
He also had a bit of an adjustment to the Cape Cod lifestyle, merely in getting used to the way people talk
“When we first got here hearing all the northern accents was actually kind of cool,” Brown said. “It’s been cool to get out here and explore new things and broaden our horizons I guess you can say. It’s been a lot of fun.”
While Brown has been productive over his first two seasons in Greenville, his mindset heading into the summer before his junior year is to be more consistent.
Brickhouse and Holba both have their primary reasons to take part in baseball’s best summer developmental league as well.
Since the Cape is the place to see the best pitching in the country, Brickhouse is intending on improving by facing some of the most elite pitching that that college baseball has to offer.
Holba, on the other hand, is trying to make up for lost time.
“Still working on my change-up,” he said. “It’s the pitch I have been working on last year, but just get more comfortable on the mound and develop my stuff.”
As for how Brown intends to represent the Pirates’ program, he simply wants to show that ECU works hard.
All three players know they have a bit of a weight on the shoulders as far as representing their program far away from home, yet are still going to follow the loose atmosphere of the CCBL.
“I love the school that I am at and I’ve got to do the best I can whether I’m on the field or off the field at representing ECU,” Brickhouse said. “I have to realize no matter where I go I’m still representing ECU.”
You can contact the author via email (email@example.com) or follow him on Twitter (@JanowerJacob).