Along with the four Padres, the 2011 Harwich roster featured future big leaguers Eddie Butler, Carter Capps, Chris Stratton, JaCoby Jones, Darnell Sweeney, Billy Burns and, for a brief period, Kevin Gausman. The Mariners were coached (and still are) by Steve Englert, a former Boston College assistant who wore Tommy Bahama shirts, blared 1990s rap music during batting practice and kept the players loose with his energy and wit. In a thick Boston accent, Englert would tell his starting pitchers that if they didn’t last five innings, they had to wash his Cadillac. Or in local parlance, his “cah.’’
Players were assigned a range of pre-game duties. Johnson’s job was laying the chalk outline in the batter’s box, while Rogers was tasked with hosing down the infield. “I took so much pride in that,’’ he says. As a starting pitcher with time on his hands, he spent many summer nights roaming the grounds with a bucket, soliciting donations for that night’s 50-50 raffle.
The four Padres formed lasting relationships with their host families -- local residents who opened their homes, hearts, refrigerators and pantries to ballplayers from far-flung locales. Johnson exchanged Christmas cards for years with his host parents, Tom and Ashby Crafts, while Voit reconnected with the Doncaster family and Rogers would share reminiscences and hugs with the Novaks during trips to Fenway Park.
Nola invited his host parents, John and Susan Blake, to his wedding, and still speaks glowingly of Susan’s go-to dessert -- apple pie with chocolate chips.
Eleven years later, the memories extend well beyond the playing field. Johnson frequented the Hot Stove Saloon restaurant in Harwich, ate glazed doughnut burgers in the Yarmouth-Dennis bullpen, and was once kicked out of the Chatham Squire restaurant for trying to order clam chowder at the bar while underage.