During the summer baseball season, when folks are following Major, Minor and Independent Professional leagues, college kids spread themselves out across the country in regional leagues that generally run from early June to mid August.
While the most well-known is the 125 year-old Cape Cod League — which has over 200 alumni in the Majors right now — there are literally dozens of other places across the Fruited Plain for college ballplayers to continue their progress while school’s out of session.
(I attended a “CICL” game in 2008 down in tiny Huntingburg, Indiana (pop. 6057), with the Dubois County Bombers. They play at Historic League Stadium, originally constructed in 1894, renovated and expanded nearly 100 years later to house scenes for the 1994 movie “A League of Their Own.” Original advertisements from the film still remain along the outfield fence. Seats are all wood.)
The current Prospect League began its inaugural season in summer 2009 with the original “CICL” teams forming one Western Division. Five expansion teams formed the Eastern Division. Today, there are 14 total teams, divided into two divisions.
Rhodes, a native of Weatherford, Texas, about an hour west of Dallas, is a senior to be at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. The 6 foot 1 right-hander had a very successful 2011 campaign at Cameron (Lone Star Conference), gaining 2nd team all-conference honors.
He finished 9th in conference ERA (4.19), and in the #1 spot for “strike-outs-looking.” During much of the season, Rhodes was in the top spot for overall strike-outs as well.
The transfer from Western Oklahoma State College — where he posted a 2.47 ERA in 2010 – compiled a 7-1 record for 2011, with three complete games, along with five saves, and 77 strikeout in just 73 innings pitched. One of Rhodes’ complete game shutout victories came versus Southeastern Oklahoma in the Conference Tournament, on Mother’s Day, May 8.
Additionally, James was named conference pitcher of the week back in late March.
After receiving his Associate’s Degree from Western Oklahoma State College, he currently holds a 3.07 GPA at Cameron.
“James studies as hard as he plays.,” says his father, Kelly. “His work ethic, discipline, and team-first mentality are some of the things that I think make him a very special player.”
In summer ball with Quincy, Rhodes appeared in six games — three as a starter and three more as a reliever — where he’s amassed an ERA of 3.42 with one win and no losses.
As the regular season champion Gems prepare to host the Terre Haute Rex in Monday evening’s playoff semifinal along the Mississippi River at QU Stadium, the versatile Texan will surely be counted upon as starter and/or a steadying force in the bullpen — before he heads back to campus to complete his final collegiate season.