What baseball league has been around longer than the minor leagues and 22 major league teams? The Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL), which was founded in 1885 and plays its games during the summer in an area of Massachusetts known for beaches, mini golf, seafood, ice cream, ponds, and, of course, summer baseball.
Major league stars such as Kris Bryant, Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Buster Posey have appeared over the years in the CCBL, which has two divisions of five teams each that are scattered in towns around the Cape.
On Saturday, the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox beat the Falmouth Commodores for the championship. The series was close until the end. The Commodores finished atop the West Division, and the Red Sox won the East Division.
The Cape Cod League season is two months long and is for college players only. When not training or playing, athletes and coaches take care of the field and host youth baseball clinics. The coaches and managers work with high school or college teams during the year, or they are retired from coaching.
“[Players are chosen by] the coaches of each team who call around to colleges and see who’s available. We see if they have a good player in a position we need. Also, scouts help a lot,” said Falmouth Commodores coach Brad Stoll.
“I’ve coached here for 20 years, and I just love being down here with the coaches, players, and the fans,” explained Falmouth manager Jeff Trundy. “There’s nothing like the Cape Cod League.”
The Commodores players shared similar thoughts. “The best part of the Cape Cod League is the competition. There is so much talent here, so many great baseball players — you play against the best competition. The fans are great; the stadium is great. It’s just amazing. It’s the best summer baseball league,” mused catcher Michael Cantu.
“Every player dreams of going to the Cape Cod League,” said outfielder Tyler Lawrence.
While they’re on the Cape for two months, players stay with host families. These families feed the players, give them places to sleep, and much more.
Outfielder JJ Matijevic said host families are one of the best parts of the CCBL. “I mean, you don’t even know these people, and they’re accepting you into their house, and feeding you, and being so kind to you. They’re incredible people to do something so kind.”
“They treat us really well and make us feel at home,” Trevor Larnach said of his host family.
For players, the CCBL provides a change of pace from the college game — they use wood bats, too — though the experience is similar to NCAA baseball. “Your job is the same wherever you play,” said Lawrence. “The nature of the game doesn’t change, but the level of competition does. The CCBL is the best of the best. But there’s less pressure here because if you get out, you know you were facing one of the best pitchers in the country.”
The CCBL has been sponsored by major league baseball for more than 40 years, and it even has its own Hall of Fame! The Cape Cod Baseball League has been a stepping-stone for so many baseball greats. It has helped shape the sport and put Cape Cod on the baseball map.
Photographs by (from top) Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe/Getty Images; Aidan Kohn-Murphy