In the summers of 1987 and ‘88, Bagwell played for the Chatham A’s (now the Chatham Anglers). A Boston-native, he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1989 before being traded to Houston in 1990. Yesterday, league officials learned that Bagwell, who retired in 2005 after 15 seasons with the Astros, had been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
“On behalf of the entire Cape Cod Baseball League community, we extend our congratulations to Jeff Bagwell and his family. We not only celebrate a career worthy of enshrinement in Cooperstown, we are grateful for having had the chance to see what a Hall-of-Famer-in-the-making looks like up close,” Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL) Commissioner Paul Galop said.
While playing for Chatham in 1987, Bagwell initially struggled with a .208 batting average. But, when he returned the following summer, he posted a .315 batting average with a .449 on-base percentage. That summer, Bagwell was selected to be the starting third-basemen to represent the East in the Cape League annual All-Star Game – a game in which he went 4-4 with a home run.
He also played in the Boardwalk and Baseball Tournament that featured a Cape League team competing against four teams from other summer college leagues. In that tournament, Bagwell helped lead the Cape League team to victory, the only team in the tournament to use wood-bats.
Bobby Whelan, head coach at Dartmouth College and also Bagwell’s Cape League coach recalled the impression Bagwell left on him then.
“I had the pleasure of watching Jeff play in high school and at Hartford University and I had the distinct privilege of coaching him in Chatham in the summer 1988,” Whelan said. “He was a terrific player that had a great presence about him wherever he went.”
“I realized two things about him right away: First, he did not want to be good, he wanted to be great, in every aspect of the game. Second, he made the commitment to becoming a Major League player every day. Many kids enjoy the competition and status of being in the Cape League but Jeff showed up for early outs every day to work at getting better. Jeff is one of the most loyal and hardest working players I’ve ever coached. He put the numbers up and earned this distinction on his own. I’m very happy for him and his family,” Whelan said.
While Bagwell isn’t the first Cape Leaguer to eventually be elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame – Pie Traynor, Craig Biggio (Bagwell’s teammate in Houston) and Frank Thomas are the other former Cape Leaguers to earn that distinction – he is the first Cape League alum to go on to hit over 400 home runs in the Big Leagues.
Whenever a former Cape League player reaches the pinnacle of the sport, it’s exciting for league officials, volunteers and fans, Galop said, “because you go into the upcoming season here, see the best college baseball has to offer, and wonder: which one of these guys is the next Jeff Bagwell?”