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Nineteen MLB All-Star’s Once Played in the Cape League

Graphic by Maya Ferland
07/12/2021 9:51 PM

Article By: Taylor Viles

Each year, whether it be through the MLB draft, the end-of-year MLB awards, or the MLB All-Star Game, the Cape Cod Baseball League continues to prove its dominance in the professional baseball scene.

This year is no different as 24 percent of the All-Star’s chosen to represent the sport of baseball in Denver this evening were once Cape League players.

New England native and current Boston Red Sox closer Matt Barnes (Wareham ‘10) headlines the list in his first career selection. Barnes, from Danbury, Connecticut, has been a longtime reliever but didn’t transition to his current role until this season. He sits second in the American League (A.L.) in saves with 19; more than doubling the number of saves compiled during his previous seven seasons.

Gatemen fans will remember him previewing his future success during three games in June 2010. He was used as a starter with the Cape, registering 20.2 innings while picking up 20 strikeouts. The majority of those came in his final appearance when he sent down 14 in seven innings. He left Cape Cod with an ERA of 2.17.

Barnes isn’t the only former Cape League player to receive their first All-Star nomination this summer. Corbin Burnes (Orleans ‘15), Jake Cronenworth (Orleans ‘14), Kevin Gausman (Harwich ‘11), Bryan Reynolds (Orleans ‘15), Kyle Schwarber (Wareham ‘12), Chris Taylor (YD ‘11), Jared Walsh (Cotuit ‘11), and Mike Zunino (YD ‘11) are all playing in the mid-summer classic for the first time in their career.

Schwarber has had arguably the most exciting season so far by the players on this list. In his first season as a Washington National, he sits second in the National League in home runs, belting 25 over the season, 16 of which came in June. His home run total, combined with his 53 RBI at the season’s midway point, has him on pace to well overtake his previous career high’s.

On Cape Cod, Schwarber gained massive attention from scouts playing in every single game for Wareham. He batted .343 with eight home runs and 38 RBI. His impressive regular season helped his team to the playoffs where he continued his rise to stardom. He hit two home runs in the winner-take-all game, during the championship triumph over Yarmouth-Dennis, a feat that earned him the playoff’s most valuable player. Due to a recent injury, Schwarber won’t be able to participate in today’s game.

Although both Barnes and Schwarber played in Wareham, there is a closer connection found between some of these Cape League players turned MLB All-Star’s. Three pairs of the players chosen to represent the best in baseball were teammates while on Cape Cod.

Barnes and current Los Angeles Dodger Max Muncy (Wareham ‘10) were each rostered by the Gatemen during the summer of 2010. While Barnes only played in June, Muncy lasted the whole summer, playing 40 games and notching 25 RBI. He also played first base during two of Barnes’ starts. During a loss on June 19, Muncy went 3 for 4. In that game, Barnes picked up three assists on tosses to Muncy at first.

In 2011, current Los Angeles Dodger Taylor and current Tampa Bay Ray Zunino headed to Red Wilson Field to play for the YD Red Sox. Both faired well on Cape Cod. Taylor acted as the leadoff hitter for part of his tenure with the team hitting .270 over 24 games. He also appeared in four games during the playoffs before the Red Sox were eliminated. Zunino only playing in 11 games but made his presence felt, hitting .303 with two doubles during those games. Together, Zunino and Taylor combined to catch two potential base stealers on Cape Cod. For this All-Star Game, they will be facing off against each other.

Four summers later in 2015, the Firebirds welcomed current Milwaukee Brewer Burnes and current Pittsburg Pirate Reynolds to be offensive and defensive standouts for the fans in Orleans. Offensively, Reynolds hit .346 with eight RBI as the leadoff hitter. If it had not been for his late arrival to Cape Cod on July 7, he likely would have become an All-Star. On the mound, Burnes collected 28 strikeouts over 38 innings. He compiled a 3.78 ERA during the regular season helping the Firebirds to the playoffs. In his only game during the postseason, Burnes allowed only one run over 6.2 innings in a stellar performance against Chatham. Once Reynolds made it to Cape Cod, he collected at least one hit in each of Burnes’ starts showing why pitchers want him in the lineup when they take the mound.

The last All-Star Game was in 2019 because the 2020 event was canceled due to Covid-19. The A.L. walked away with a thrilling 4-3 victory over the National League (N.L.), but not before two Cape League alumni on the N.L. side tried to change the outcome. Charlie Blackmon (Cotuit ‘06) and Pete Alonso (Bourne ‘15) combined to drive in all three runs for their squad. If the past is any indication of what’s to come tonight in Denver, Cape League names should make it onto the scoresheet.

Here is the full list of the Cape League alumni selected for the 2021 All-Star Game:

Barnes, Shane Bieber (YD ‘15), Kris Bryant (Chatham ‘11), Walker Buehler (YD ‘14), Burnes, Brandon Crawford (Orleans ‘07), Cronenworth, Gausman, Aaron Judge (Brewster ‘12), Whit Merrifield (Chatham ‘09) Muncy, Buster Posey (YD ‘06- ‘07), Reynolds, Schwarber, Taylor, Justin Turner (YD ‘05), Brandon Woodruff (Harwich ‘12), Walsh, Zunino.

First Pitch for the 2021 All-Star Game is scheduled for 7:30 EST.

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