For the best college baseball players in the country, summer on Cape Cod is no vacation; it’s an audition that could change their life. Photographer Alex Gagne shares scenes of summer with the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Infielder Tanner Murray (#41) and his fellow Orleans Firebirds run out to start the inning at Eldredge Park, their home field in Orleans, Massachusetts. A standout at UC Davis, Murray was drafted last year by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Photo Credit : Alex Gagne
When Alex Gagne began hanging out with the Orleans Firebirds in 2010, he was only a few years older than the players he followed with his camera. The Massachusetts-based freelance photographer had come to Orleans that summer to produce his first folio with master printer Bob Korn, an ardent supporter of the hometown team, one of 10 in the Cape Cod Baseball League. When Korn connected Gagne with the Firebirds, it began a project to document the moments beyond hits and runs, wins and losses, in the most acclaimed amateur proving ground in the country. “I wanted to show the process of being a player,” Gagne says.
They come from across the country, welcomed by host families. They live here for eight weeks, playing 44 games on pretty, small-town fields. They know the legend: More than 1,200 former Cape League players have gone to “the show” since 1960. Nearly one in every seven players in the majors has memories of twilight games in ocean-swept towns. But for many Cape hopefuls, their dreams may end in a minor-league town, far from the bright lights. Or their summer competing against the very best may reveal weaknesses in their game, and no professional team even offers them a chance.
Most of the photos in these pages come from 2019, the last season before the pandemic. “I was there at the first practice [that year],” Gagne says, “to let them know I was going to be there. To build the relationship, I photographed everything. I followed them everywhere. I spent so much time with them, I might as well have been on the team.”
Gagne has shot tens of thousands of images. “I’m not interested in the action. I am drawn to the details,” he says. He has found beauty in a bucket of baseballs, wooden bats against a dugout wall, the sun setting on a field of fresh grass, a child asking for her ball to be signed. He was there when players stopped into a convenience store for sunflower seeds, when they went for pizza, when they hung out with their host family, when they coached children in the basics they, too, had learned long ago.
“I’m going to keep going back,” Gagne says. “In 10 or 15 years, I’ll look back at all these pictures when they were young, when the dream was alive.” —Mel Allen