Elon University Baseball Players To Play With Burlington Sock Puppets
freshman pitcher Sam DiLella didn’t know much about the Burlington Sock Puppets before this season. But when baseball head coach Elon mike kennedy informed him of his selection to play for the organization this summer, he did his research and was intrigued by the chance to play for the team.
“It will be a good opportunity,” DiLella said. “The level of competition and talent is quite solid. We are really excited.
The sock puppets became a summer varsity baseball team in 2021 and is a member of the Appalachian League, a minor league that offers college players across the country the opportunity to play organized baseball during the summer. The league has a Player Identification Committee made up of USA Baseball staff and college coaches who select college players to play for the league’s 10 teams.
DiLella is one of three Elon players who will play for the Sock Puppets this summer, along with the freshman pitcher Shea Sprague and first-year outfielder Vince DiLeonardo. The committee considers players’ geographic ties when assigning players, and this is the second year in a row that at least one Elon player has been assigned to the team, in year two. Cole Reynolds was on the squad roster last season.
For Sock Puppets general manager Anderson Rathbun, having Elon baseball players helps the organization connect with local fans who may have seen them play their spring college season.
“We’re really, really excited for all three of them,” Rathbun said. “Having that Elon tie and being a pipeline to develop Elon baseball players is something we’re really, really proud of.”
First year success
None of the three players has started a game for Elon this season, but Rathbun said playing for the Sock Puppets will help them improve before they return to Elon in the fall.
“I don’t know how much time they’re going to have in the spring, but they’re going to see a lot of playing time this summer and we’re really excited to see them develop,” Rathbun said.
DiLella has appeared in seven games out of the bullpen this season for Elon and has thrown five strikeouts in just over seven innings pitched. After starting throughout his high school career, DiLella said stepping out of the bullpen has been an adjustment, but he’s glad to see playing time so early in his career.
“Having the opportunity to play as a freshman was great,” DiLella said. “We’ve played some really good competitions and just having this exposure at this level is great.”
Sprague, who also appeared in seven games, said he learned a lot from Elon’s top-class pitching and hopes to continue contributing from the bullpen throughout this season.
“Any guy we meet there, you trust the most, whether it’s me, Sam or anybody else,” Sprague said. “It’s just fun to be part of and contribute to a really good pitching team.”
Looking forward to summer
The Appalachian League will feature players from conferences across the country this season, including the Power Five leagues. The Sock Puppets roster will have 35 players this summer, including 27 from Division I schools and 11 from Power Five teams, both up from last season.
Sprague said the competition will help him gauge where his game is at and force him to focus on putting in strong performances.
“The more competitive you play, the more accurate you have to be, and when you play good competitive every day in the summer, you’ll need to be accurate every time you step on the mound,” Sprague said. “It’s just going to make us so much better.”
While Sprague is excited to meet and interact with new players this summer, he said he’s happy to have two of Elon’s teammates on the team with him.
“We are going to be able to improve and hold each other accountable, but also just hang out. It’s nice to have a few familiar faces with you at the Summer Prom,” Sprague said.
the puppet season begins June 2 — five days after the last Colonial Athletic Association baseball championship game — and will play its home opener on June 6. The team’s final regular season game is scheduled for August 6.