Following the end of the college season, the nation’s best prospects flock to summer leagues across the country to hone their skills while competing with elite talent.

Duke junior Griffin Conine headlined the group of Blue Devils who competed in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League this summer and continued to elevate his Major League draft stock.

Conine followed up his breakout spring, in which he led Duke in most offensive categories, with an outstanding summer as a member of the Cotuit Kettleers. The Weston, Fla., native finished fifth in the league in batting average, tied for third in RBIs and tied for the league lead with nine home runs. Conine’s performance earned him the Robert A. McNeese Award given to the league’s top professional prospect, as voted on by numerous Major League scouts. The junior outfielder felt his ability to maintain his output day in and day out was the key to his summer success.

“Having a consistent approach and never getting out of it really [helped],” Conine said. “I never really had a slump up there, which was nice. I think that was the biggest thing, just being the same guy every day.”

Although Conine impressed scouts on the field during his time in the Cape, his demeanor and actions off the field may have left the strongest mark on those who surrounded him, including his coaches and teammates.

Cotuit’s head coach Mike Roberts had particularly high praise for Conine’s work ethic and humble nature. 

“One thing I saw was one of the best professional approaches I have ever seen out of an amateur,” Roberts said. “When Griffin walks on the field, you see a very humble young man, but you see a man who understands what he’s there for, and that’s to get the job done and get it done well. When he is inside the fences, he handles it like a professional and not like a lot of amateur players do.”

Conine said the proudest moment of his summer was hitting a home run off North Carolina ace Tyler Baum, who pitched for the Harwich Mariners, to blow open the game in Cotuit’s eventual victory. He also competed in the College Home Run Derby in Omaha, Neb., July 1, with his father Jeff throwing to him.

Conine’s quietness off the field reminded Roberts of Jeff Conine, who played in the Major Leagues for six different ball clubs from 1990-2007 and mentored Roberts’ son Brian when the two were teammates on the Baltimore Orioles from 2001-03. 

The younger Conine’s performance in the last six months has caught the eyes of many MLB scouts, who hope he will develop into a player like his father. Roberts currently feels Conine could be a first-round pick, but he will likely need to continue improving his defensive skillset in order to break into the top 30 on draft day.

“What I saw was a guy that was really trying to improve his game in every area and not just one area,” Roberts said. “I thought he worked on his outfield play very hard to become a better defensive player this summer, which I think is very important for him to be, possibly, in the first round, as they want to see some improvements in the defensive side, in the arm and the baserunning.”

In addition to Conine, fellow junior Jimmy Herron also thrived in the Cape Cod League this summer. Herron decided to return to school after being drafted in the 31st round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees. The Harleysville, Pa., native finished third on the Cape with a .338 average for the Orleans Firebirds. He also added 10 doubles to his summer line.

Perhaps the highlight of the summer for the Blue Devil duo came July 22, when the two faced each other in the Cape Cod league All-Star game. With the score tied 3-3 in the top of the seventh inning, Herron laced a go-ahead two-run double on the 10th pitch of his at-bat, which put his East squad in front. Herron was named East MVP, and Conine was named West MVP following a 2-for-4 day with a two-run home run.

“That was really cool because I don’t think it has ever been done before,” Herron said. “That was neat. Just to make the All-Star game was a great honor, but to win the MVP, and also Griff won it, it’s pretty neat to just represent Duke in that way.”

Following the summer, Herron and Conine are entering their fall routine of intra-squad scrimmages and workouts back in Durham to prepare for the start of the season in the spring. If they both continue playing well in the spring, they would have the option of leaving for the pros next summer, but they are hoping to play deep into the NCAA tournament in June before having to make that decision.

“The stadium was as nice of an atmosphere as I’ve ever played in,” Conine said of the Home Run Derby in Omaha, where the College World Series is also held every year. “It definitely got me interested to have more Duke uniforms out there instead of just the one.”

Hank Tucker contributed reporting.