The Decade’s Best: No. 14 Zane Carlson

p-CarlsonZane2004mug.jpgZane Carlson
Chatham 2001, 2002 & 2003

Pitcher
Baylor

Very few players spend three summers on the Cape. In the decade, you could probably count them on one hand.

Even fewer have the impact that Zane Carlson had in Chatham.

For three years, if it was the ninth inning and the A’s were winning, there was a good chance you’d see Carlson making his way in from the bullpen. In his three seasons, he saved 34 games, becoming the league’s all-time leader. Chatham won 66 games in his time there, so Carlson saved half of them. When you figure that plenty of games didn’t yield save situations, you’re looking at a remarkable percentage.

Long considered a Chatham great, Carlson was inducted into the Cape League Hall of Fame last month.

I’d say it’s a well-deserved honor. I can think of very few players who are as much a real “Cape Leaguer” as Carlson. He never went on to great baseball success in the professional ranks, so college and the Cape were his opportunities to shine. He was undersized and never really captured the attention of scouts.

But he was a player, one who seemed to thoroughly enjoy his time on the Cape.

He made his first trip to Chatham in 2001, after his sophomore year. The summer before, he had actually been with Team USA, so you couldn’t have predicted that the Cape would become a second baseball home.

That first summer, Carlson was lights out, putting up a 1.23 ERA and saving 12 games. He struck out 26 in 22 innings.

In 2002, Carlson took a medical redshirt at Baylor but when summertime rolled around, he was back in Chatham. He saved 12 games again but this time led the league.

By the time he headed back to Baylor, Carlson was already the league’s all-time saves leader, but he was back in 2003 to break his own record. He saved 10 more games, becoming the first player in league history to save 10 or more games for three consecutive seasons. He also ended up second in league record books in career appearances (61) and career strikeouts by a relief pitcher (91).

All in all, it was a remarkable Cape League career by a guy who seemed to really get what the league was all about. At the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, he said, “I was hoping this would be at the Squire, but Chatham Bars Inn is fine.”

A Cape Leaguer through and through.

After the Cape

Carlson set Baylor and Big 12 saves records and is still tied for 13th nationally in career saves. He was drafted in the 27th round of the 2004 draft and pitched three seasons in the minors.

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