26 July 2004
THIS WEEK IN THE CAPE LEAGUE
When Mark Mulder took the mound of Houston’s Minute Maid Park on July 13, it wasn’t his first All-Star start.
No, the Oakland lefthander hadn’t ever been selected for the prestigious assignment by the American League manager, but he’d drawn the start for another All-Star team just seven years earlier – the Cape Cod Baseball League’s West Division.
And while in Houston, Mulder saw some faces familiar to Cape League fans in the opposite dugout. He didn’t get the chance to pitch against Lance Berkman or Jeff Kent while he wore the Bourne uniform during the summer of 1997, but he retired each of the two Cape League alums in the second inning of the game.
It’s no coincidence that of the 21 big-league All-Stars who went to four-year colleges, eight played in the Cape League at one time. Five of those eight played in the CCBL All-Star Game as well – Mulder this year became only the second pitcher to start an All-Star game in both the Cape League and the major leagues.
Mark Loretta, representing Falmouth, started at shortstop for the West Division in 1992, going 2 for 5 with a run scored and an RBI. Todd Helton won the home-run contest while representing Orleans in 1994, and Mike Lowell competed for Chatham and the East Division in that same game. Ben Sheets pitched for the West Division in 1998.
Three of the CCBL alumni in the National League starting lineup on July 13 did not get a chance at the All-Star showcase on the Cape. Kent, a Cotuit player in 1988, and Berkman, with Wareham in 1996 – as well as Brewster’s Sean Casey in 1994 – did not play in the league’s midsummer classic during their summers on Cape Cod.
The history of the Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star Game features many names familiar to baseball fans, as professional stars such as Billy Wagner (Brewster), Jason Varitek (Hyannis) and Jeff Bagwell (Chatham) once competed in the league’s midsummer classic.
And while those talented players have used their All-Star seasons on the Cape as launching pads for enviable big-league careers, other former All-Stars still work toward an eventual goal of enjoying as much success in the major leagues as they did with their Cape League teams.
Mark Teixiera (Orleans) took home East Division Most Valuable Player honors in the 1999 game after collecting two hits, including a two-run home run in the top of the first inning to give his team an early lead. And while a plethora of outstanding first basemen in the American League this season kept Teixiera – now a member of a surging Texas team – off the All-Star squad, it’s not hard to see that he’s on his way.
His 18 home runs at the All-Star break were fourth among big-league first basemen, and he was named American League Player of the Week on July 6 after leading the league in four offensive categories.
But Teixiera isn’t the only recent Cape League All-Star knocking on the door of similar success in the major leagues.
Brewster’s Bobby Kielty competed in the Home Run Derby and earned the save for the East Division in the 1998 All-Star Game. And while he has struggled with the Oakland Athletics this season, he established himself as a legitimate big-league outfielder with a breakout season in 2002 – he hit .291 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI for the Minnesota Twins.
Hyannis third baseman Eric Hinske won the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award in 2002 just five years after competing in the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby for the West Division. In regular action with the Toronto Blue Jays this season, he’s hit .274 with eight home runs and 40 RBI.
But more recent All-Star heroes still toil in the minor leagues, hoping to earn a chance to take their places among the all-time greats of baseball.
Sean Gamble (Yarmouth-Dennis) drove in the game-winning run of last year’s game at Guv Fuller Field in Falmouth. After a junior season at Auburn in which he hit .293 with 34 RBI, Gamble was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the sixth round of the draft. He has hit .242 with eight runs scored in 15 games with the Batavia MuckDogs of the New York-Penn League.
Brian Snyder of Cotuit drove in three runs in the 2002 All-Star Game, and he’s now hitting .315 with 11 home runs and 53 RBI with the Kane County Cougars of the Oakland Athletics organization.
Matt Murton, who earned West Division MVP honors, currently plays for the Sarasota Red Sox of the Florida State League. The Wareham outfielder went to Boston in the second round of the 2003 draft, and he is hitting .282 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI for Sarasota.
These players – and dozens more – still dream of translating their success on the Cape to success in the big leagues, and possibly a few appearances in another All-Star Game. -- Brian MacPherson, CCBL Intern, firstname.lastname@example.org
John Garner, Jr.