Joey Bartosic was in the midst of a 1-for-17 skid, so when he grounded out to third base to end the sixth inning last Saturday night, it felt like the 150th time a row. Bartosic, as he always does, took his slow walk out to centerfield, head down seemingly lost in an endless pool of frustration.
Running up behind him was teammate Robbie Metz, not to pat Bartosic on the back, or just to give Bartosic a vote of confidence, but rather a mild critique.
“You’re just a little out in front,” Metz whispered under his breath as he walked by.
The Gatemen center-fielder acknowledges Metz in kind, as the two men realize the path they are traveling on together this summer is not a mere regularity, but one that only so many before them at George Washington have had the chance to travel on.
Throughout the Cape Cod Baseball League, rosters are filled with players from the likes of LSU, Vanderbilt, Rice, and Florida. Many who spend their time year-round with one another get a call to continue their playing career together over the summer, teaming up on one of the Cape’s most prestigious programs.
When it comes to those from George Washington, however, that is no common occurrence.
As the 2016 Cape Cod Baseball League season got underway on June 10, Bartosic and Metz joined teammate Eddie Muhl (Cotuit) and Brandon Chapman (Brewster) as being the first players to represent George Washington in the Cape Cod Baseball League since 2010, following the footsteps of their head coach Gregg Ritchie who played for Chatham back in the 1980s.
On top of that, Bartosic and Metz made program history by becoming the first two members of the Colonial’s to play for the same Cape team in one summer.
“We got a call this past October that we would be coming up here this summer on temporary contracts,” explained Bartosic. “Flat out, we had no idea what to expect. Everyone comes up here and thinks they’re studs, and then you see that everyone else is hitting .380 and the top player in their conference also.”
Creating a Culture: When Bartosic began his career at George Washington, it was not just the beginning of a journey for him and his incoming teammates, but for new head coach Gregg Ritchie as well.
Ritchie was hired as the Colonials head baseball coach on October 11th, 2012.
The timing of his hiring, due to the fact that Ritchie was working for the Pittsburgh Pirates, meant the Ritchie had less than three months not just to learn about his current roster, but to fill it with 23 new players.
Two of the first recruits that Ritchie went after were unsurprisingly Bartosic, and his future teammate in Metz.
“I came in and it was really almost a mad dash to find a group of kids that not only were talented but could create a culture of winning,” said Ritchie. “Our focus is not only to win baseball games, and have successful season on the field, but to really see these boys turn into young men.”
As soon as Ritchie saw Bartosic play for the first time, he knew right away that the now starting center-fielder for the Gatemen had a drive that only so many possess.
“(Joey), I mean, he is ready to go to battle in that batter’s box every time he steps in there. He plays like his hair is on fire,” said Ritchie with a laugh. “He is the type of kid who is going to constantly grind, dig in, work at bats. He is going to beat you by wearing you down.”
Bartosic made an immediate impact his freshman season, earning a spot on the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team as he batted .298 with 12 RBIs in 46 games.
Since then, Bartosic has spearheaded the Colonials lineup, batting leadoff on an everyday basis, and being named the school’s the school’s most valuable player.
The Colonial’s everyday center-fielder has now become not only a table-setter on the field, but also off the field, taking on the role of guiding others on how to be a successful in a top-tier Division 1 program.
“There’s some pressure, being the guy who is really supposed to set the tone for the entire lineup everyday,” said Bartosic. “You just have to go out there and set a tone.”
Early Expectations: As Metz entered his freshman year at George Washington, the accolades had already begun to pile up for the two-way player from Poolesville High School.
During his senior season in high school, Metz went 7-0 on the mound, posting a 0.15 ERA while striking out 70. At the plate, Metz proved to just as much of a force, hitting .462 while being the school’s regular starting shortstop.
His efforts earned him Gazette Player of the Year and a spot on the All-Metropolitan team.
As his freshman season got underway, George Washington coach Gregg Ritchie made it clear to Metz what he saw as his ultimate potential.
“He told me he wanted me to be an All-American,” said Metz.
Ironically, enough however, Metz was initially told that would not come from him being a two-way player.
“Coming into my freshman season I was told I would not be a two-way,” said Metz. “And that made me work harder at being a better pitcher than I already was. Once spring rolled around they put me in a game, I worked my way up, and got to be able to be our Saturday guy.”
Metz’s freshman campaign saw him put up terrific numbers both on the mound and at the dish. The right-hander went 3-3 with a 3.23 ERA as a starter for the Colonials, while also hitting .306 with 19 stolen base and 30 runs scored.
Ritchie knew, however, that a sophomore slump was likely and in an effort to not burn both his number two hitter and top of the rotation starter out, advised Metz to take it easy over the summer.
“We held Robbie back a little bit just because of how much wear and tear he had put on his body,” said Ritchie. “We had him get ahead of his academicst, had him take some summer courses, and then after this past season we said ‘Ok, let’s let him loose.”
Always an aggressive hitter, Metz got off to red-hot start for the Gatemen this summer, hitting .309 through the first nine games of the season.
A player who has proven he fits just about anywhere on the diamond, Metz has proven to be an asset both up the middle and in the outfield.
He made his first start in the outfield since he was 10 years old back on June 28th against Chatham, and proceeded to throw out a runner at second base as well as making a game saving catch in the bottom of the ninth.
Wareham Coach Jerry Weinstein sees Metz as someone who can perform at a high level no matter where he plays.
“He’s ready to go everyday,” praised Weinstein. “He has proven to be the ultimate team guy who shows up, works hard, wants to get better, shows a willingness to do whatever it takes. You can never get enough of those guys.”
Stepping Stones: In 2015, Bartosic and Metz guided their team to the most wins in program history, 35.
The success allowed Ritchie to bolster the team’s strength of schedule in 2016. During the season, the Colonials faced the likes Virginia, Houston, North Florida, Cal State Northridge and Maryland, making their non-conference schedule the 100th toughest in the country. That combined with the loss of six members of the pitching staff for the majority of the season caused a dip in the win total from a year prior.
It was a valuable experience for the likes of Bartosic and Metz, however, who are now able to use that combined with the atmosphere of the Cape Cod Baseball League to teach others who come through the program that they can play with anyone in the country.
“Those two guys, combined with Eddie (Muhl) over at Cotuit have proven that we are a program on the rise,” said Ritchie. “It all stems back to Joey’s freshman class the 15 seniors that year that led the way. When you have two guys like that who can create a culture of turning these players not into studs on the field, but into good young men, you know you are going to have a bright future. We are really working to create fantastic young men. That’s the most important thing. ”
Metz, meanwhile, hopes that his and Bartosic’s performance against some of the top competition in the country this summer can help put George Washington back on the map for years to come.
“Prior to Coach (Ritchie) coming in the last decade or so had been tough for the program,” said Metz. “Our goal down here is to make sure that everyone’s knows what type of program (George Washington) can be and is.”