The Cape League All Star Game is a mid-summer celebration of Cape League baseball, and a chance for some of the best young talent in the game to play with each other and not against each other for once. This year all Star game took place on a sweltering night at Eldredge Park in Orleans, the home of the Orleans Firebirds who judging by the temperatures this past week on the Cape have “Fire” in their name for a reason. The day of the All-Star Game topped off span of the hottest weather we have seen all summer, and some of the hottest weather I have ever seen in my twenty years visiting the Cape.
The heat began on July 17th with the sun beating down so much that at a game in Cotuit an ambulance had to be called and a fan treated for heat related illnesses at Lowell Park. The heat continued to rise over the next few days coming to a crescendo this past Saturday, where the temperate in Osterville reached 98 with e a heat index of 109, and Sunday, the day of the All Star Game where the air may only have been in the mid-90s but the heat index once again put the temperatures closer to 105 degrees. During this time Cape League teams were advised to be prepared for the heat and to take all necessary actions to keep players and fans safe, at several ballparks pregame batting practice and infield outfield practice was cancelled to conserve energy and keep players safe. Nevertheless, some teams took practice and I saw on two separate occasions players and coaches wearing long sleeves amidst the sweltering conditions.
Despite the heat no games themselves were cancelled, and on July 21st at the Eldredge Park in Orleans thousands turned out to watch the Cape league All Star Game. By the time the gates officially opened at 2pm the field was already swarmed with fans which prompted constant announcements that this game, unlike every other Cape League game, did have paid admission, and to those fans who may have walked in without paying to please find a table and buy their tickets. The event itself included autograph sessions with both the East and West Division All Star Teams, as well as access to the goodies brought along by the leagues sponsors who lined the road on top of the top of the hill that rises up from behind the first base dugout and is a favorite viewing locale for baseball fans and scouts alike. Joining the sponsors the top of the hill were merchandise booths from several of the leagues teams, including one from the league itself maned by none other than Cape League Royalty, the family of Commissioner Emeritus Paul Gallop. For fans that arrived early like me these booths provided something to do and an opportunity to catch of moment in the shade during the three hours wait from the opening of the gates to the Home Run Hitting contest emceed by Paul Gallop himself.
The contest itself did not hold the same draw or experience the same magic that this year’s Major League Baseball Home Run Derby did. Watching from the sideline it was hard to tell the score, or to get into the event as the brand-new Firebirds scoreboard just beyond the short porch in left field was unused during the event, and the clock and score were instead kept on a separate scoreboard on field that was challenging to see. The format was also hard to understand and was only announced one time before the event began, and I have it on good authority that this was the first time come coaches and competitors heard the format as well. But in the end, it was Brewster’s Tyler Hardman who won the day beating out the other competitors in the final to take home the crown as Derby Champion.
Following the Derby, it was finally time for the All Stars to take the field and for, as the league motto states, “the stars of tomorrow to shine tonight”. Following a beautiful rendition of the national anthem by an Orleans local and two first pitches the game was delayed slightly to meet its 6:05pm start time, as the game was being broadcast on Fox College Sports and in the words of the public address announcer, “we’re on TV time.” Once the game did begin it was quickly apparent that both teams were closely matched and in short order the innings flew by until the west struck first in the top of the fourth only be answer by the home town Firebirds player Max Troiani in the bottom of the same inning who poked a single through the West defense allowing a run to score. One of the more memorable moments of the night came in the fifth inning as Cody Pasic, a catcher who grew in Cotuit going to Kettelleers games, came up to bat having been chosen not just to play for his boyhood team this summer but to represent them in the All Star Game as well, and smashed his first home run of the season giving the West Division the lead. As Pasic strolled around the bases taking in what he had just accomplished, none other than Mike Roberts the Cotuit head coach greeted him and gave him a richly deserved high five from the third base coaches box.
As the sun finally set and the temperature cooled down, the bats got hot. The West scored two more in the top of the 6th and the East answered with 3 runs in the bottom of the seventh tying the game at four before the West once again took the league in the top of the eight. In the bottom of the ninth, down to their final opportunity the East came up huge again as a run was driven in to tye the game at 5 and then in a hit that would earn him East Division All Star Game MVP Brett Auerbach of the Brewster Whitecaps knocked a single through the West defense and scored Chatham’s Brady Smith to walk the game off for the East, final score 6-5 East Division All Stars. Brewster’s Brett Augerbach, and Gage Workman both earned East Division All Star Game MVP honors and Wareham’s Matt McClain won the honor for the West Division.
In the end as a hot day turned into a slightly less hot evening the Cape League All Star Game served as a highlight of the season, and a brief respite for the leagues players in what is often a very competitive and tireless schedule. Monday July 22nd the league gets back to regular action as the rainouts that have been prolific across the league this year have forced a full slate of games to be played the day after the All-Star Game. Now begins the final hunt for the playoffs in the last two weeks of the season. For many this is the final opportunity to show what they can do in America’s premier amateur league, and the pressure to on to perform as every player can feel the heat just the same as they can feel the summer winding down.