The Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star Game never quite gets the attention it deserves. Most people don’t even know it exists. Of course, most people don’t even know that the Cape League exists — and if they do, they don’t know much about it.
The Cape Cod League was founded in 1885 and is widely recognized as the best amateur baseball league in the country. It draws the nation’s top collegiate players, who spend the summer living with a host family on Cape Cod and playing with and against their biggest rivals. There are 10 teams, and they play from mid-June through the beginning of August, drawing plenty of attention from Major League Baseball officials, who spend huge chunks of their summers migrating from ballpark to ballpark, scouting talent and deciding who might be worth a draft pick next year.
The Cape League provides fans the opportunity to watch the future stars of MLB for free all summer long. It’s a unique experience for both the fans and the players, many of whom are barraged by autograph requests after every single game. It’s kind of like minor league baseball, except it’s more fun because these kids aren’t just hoping, praying and waiting for a call-up. They’re learning how to flourish against some of the best young pitching in the country, how to hit with wooden bats and how to thrive under the watchful eyes of major league scouts.
It’s refreshing to watch it happen. Five years ago, Jacoby Ellsbury was playing under the lights in Falmouth, and now he’s starting in center field for the Red Sox. Watching the Ellsburys of today grow into the Ellsburys of tomorrow is an experience that just doesn’t happen anywhere else.
And for anyone who can’t get over the Bourne or the Sagamore to see a game on the Cape, the best talent in the league is coming this way. For the first time in 22 years, the league’s All-Star Game will take place at Fenway Park on Thursday, July 23, at 7:05 p.m., in honor of the league’s 125th anniversary. It will be broadcast live on NESN and will feature an autograph session and, just like the real deal in St. Louis last week, a Home Run Derby earlier in the afternoon.
“Each summer, the Under Armour Cape League All-Star Game is our showcase event,” Cape Cod League president Judy Walden Scarafile told the league’s Web site. “It is eagerly anticipated by everyone connected with the league, especially our players and our many fans. Having it take place at Fenway, ‘America’s Most Beloved Ballpark,’ is only fitting as we celebrate the 125th birthday of Cape Cod baseball. We’re coming back!”
Not only is this an opportunity to catch a game at Fenway Park for a meager price ($10 per general admission ticket), but it’s an opportunity to see talent bloom right in front of you. The Red Sox currently feature seven players who got their feet wet in the Cape League, including Jason Varitek (1991, 1993), Kevin Youkilis (2000), Jacoby Ellsbury (2004), Justin Masterson (2005), Mike Lowell (1994), Jason Bay (1999) and Mark Kotsay (1994).
This year’s East and West rosters feature a wide array of talent from all across the country. There are players from the typical college baseball powerhouses like Cal State Fullerton, Arizona and 2009 national champion Louisiana State. There are players from smaller schools who are finally getting a little bit of exposure, like Florida Gulf Coast, UNC Wilmington and Jacksonville State. (And before you knock the small schools, remember, Mike Lowell went to Florida International.) And there are two Boston College kids who are getting a chance to play in their backyard ballpark.
There are so many reasons to go to the game — not just because it’s a chance to watch something at Fenway Park for 10 bucks, but also because it’s magical to see these kids on the precipice of baseball superstardom.
Plus, there aren’t any good reasons not to go. The Red Sox have the day off.
UCLA hurler Rob Rasmussen has been tabbed the East’s starter in the 2009 Cape League All-Star Game after compiling a 0.96 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 18.2 innings. The Pasadena, Calif., native made 18 appearances for the Bruins in 2009 — including six starts — and he went 4-2 with a 6.75 ERA and 51 K’s in 44.2 innings, good for fourth on the team in both categories.
Texas’ Brandon Workman gets the nod for the West. In March of 2009, he recorded the 21st no-hitter in Longhorns history, registering 10 strikeouts in a 9-0 win over Penn State. The Arlington, Tex., native also helped lead the Longhorns to the finals of this year’s College World Series, where they fell to LSU in three games.
South Florida kicker Maikon Bonani was hospitalized after he fell 35 feet from a theme park ride where he works in Tampa. While serving as an attendant for a gondola ride, he checked to make sure the door was locked, but the ride took off. Bonani hung on and eventually let go about 35 feet above the ground, falling onto a landscaped area.
Nurses told ESPN.com that he is in fair condition, and USF coach Jim Leavitt told the St. Petersburg Times, “He’s fine. The main thing here is that he didn’t die. He isn’t paralyzed. The most important thing is his health.”
If Bonani needs a long time to recover from the fall, he will be granted a medical redshirt for the upcoming season.
Quote of the Week
“I looked at him and said, ‘Mr. Steinbrenner, you’ve got this new stadium going up. I mean, you’re not going to have Notre Dame and Army scheduled for your first football game?’ He laughed, first of all. You know, I don’t think he’s used to people busting his chops too often.”
— Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis, on ESPN.com, on the Nov. 20, 2010 matchup between the Irish and Army at the new Yankee Stadium
Catch the 2009 Cape Cod League All-Star Game at Fenway Park on July 23 at 7:05 p.m. General admission tickets are $10. If you can’t catch the game live, tune in to NESN for full coverage.