Chicago, Ill. – July 3, 2019 – The dream of every player who takes the field for the 2019 Midwest Collegiate League All-Star Game on Saturday, July 13 is simple – to go from being an MCL All-Star to an MLB All-Star.
Now more than ever before, it’s clear that the aforementioned goal is an attainable one. Former DuPage County Hounds infielder Paul DeJong was named to the 2019 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Cleveland, becoming the first MCL alum to earn a place in the Mid-Summer Classic on the game’s biggest stage.
“I want to thank the Midwest Collegiate League for helping me,” DeJong said in a 2015 phone interview with the MCL’s Brandon Vickrey. “They were part of my development and allowed me to get better at the game. They obviously made a difference in where I got today, especially Sean Osborne with the Hounds organization. They couldn’t have been more gracious. Stadiums like the Oilmen’s were very nice and it was a great experience with the fans. The level of play was good and it was good for my development.”
In that same interview, DeJong advised current MCL players to treat summer ball seriously, strive for improvement and establish lasting connections with coaches and teammates.
“Never stop working hard, and you never know what could happen,” DeJong said. “If you would have asked me in the MCL if I was going to be a fourth-round draft pick in 2015, I would have said, ‘You’re crazy,’ but I kept working.”
DeJong, who is in his third season as a standout for the St. Louis Cardinals, appeared in the 2013 MCL All-Star Game as his North All-Stars fell to the South All-Stars 12-4 at Oil City Stadium. Current DuPage County Hounds manager Ben Caple, who will manage the MCL West All-Stars in this year’s midseason showcase on Saturday, July 13 at 7:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium, was an assistant coach on the Hounds staff when DeJong played for the team.
During his 2013 MCL season, DeJong hit .287 with one home run and 16 RBIs while appearing in 32 games.
“I was developing as a catcher at that point, and Sean Osborne really helped me learn the fundamentals and fix some things in my game,” DeJong said. “Overall, Sean was great.”
The Illinois State product and Antoich Community High School graduate agreed to a six-year contract extension with the Cardinals in March 2018 worth a guaranteed total of $26 million. It was the largest ever agreement with a player who had not completed at least one full year of major league service. He was the runner-up in the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year balloting behind Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers. DeJong was the NL Rookie of the Month in July 2017 and the NL Player of the Week in April 2018.
As the MCL celebrates its 10th anniversary season, DeJong is one of numerous players from the league who have gone on to play professionally. The first to reach the big leagues was Tony Cingrani, who played in the MCL (then known as the Great Plaines League) in 2010 and made his MLB debut in 2012. Cingrani, currently out for the season with an injury, pitched for the Cincinnati Reds from 2012-2017 and has been with the Dodgers since 2018. He was part of a combined no-hitter on May 4, 2018 and appeared in three games during the 2017 World Series.
The highest MLB Draft Pick out of the MCL was Corey Ray, who was has appeared in 25 games at Triple-A in the Brewers organization this season. He was selected fifth overall in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft and is ranked in the Top 100 prospects by MLB.com.
MCL All-Star Game Year-by-Year Timeline
2011 – The year before the Northwest Indiana Oilmen joined the league, their soon-to-be home field got a taste of MCL baseball. The All-Star Game was hosted within the beautiful confines of Oil City Stadium for the first time, a game that saw the South (Southland Vikings and Will County CrackerJacks) edge the North (Chicago Zephyrs and Rockford Foresters) 8-7 in extra innings.
2012 – The MCL’s Mid-Summer Classic made a one-year transition to Benedictine Stadium as the South (Will County, Northwest Indiana, Southland and Illinois) beat the North (DuPage County, DeKalb County, Rockford and Chicago) 3-2.
2013 – Current St. Louis Cardinals star Paul DeJong played in an MCL All-Star Game that saw his North squad fall to the South 12-4. The game featured six players who would go on to play professionally including DeJong, Pat Cashman (White Sox organization), Andrew Lowe (Frontier League), Chis Chigas (Frontier League), Matt Pobereyko (New York Mets organization) and Jeff Boehm (Los Angeles Angels organization).
2014 – The South defeated the North 10-3 as slugger Jeff Boehm cracked a two-run homer in the first inning to help the South jump out to a 3-0 lead. Boehm, who was with the Southland Vikings and went on to play in the Los Angeles Angels organization, received the 2014 Midwest Collegiate League All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award.
2015 – The South topped the North 10-3 in another game stacked with players who would go on to play professionally. That group included Micah Coffey (White Sox organization), Shane Carrier (Minnesota Twins organization), Trent Carrier (Pecos League), Reid Birlingmair (Oakland Athletics organization), Enrique Zamora (Frontier League) and Scott Kapers (Texas Rangers organization).
2016 – DuPage County’s Joe Engel (Columbia) notched three hits to earn MVP honors as the Blue All-Stars beat the White All-Stars 10-2.
2017 – The MCL fielded one All-Star team, which took down the Serbian National Team 14-3. The MCL squad pounded out 19 hits and Tyler Sroczynski of the Oilmen led the way with four RBIs.
2018 – In a game dominated by pitching, 11 different hurlers enjoyed scoreless, hitless outings as the MCL West All-Stars topped the MCL East All-Stars 6-3 in 11 innings. Bloomington’s Zach Frey was the winning pitcher with two perfect innings of relief. He struck out four of the six batters he faced and needed only 19 pitches to hold the East scoreless in the ninth and 10th innings, earning the MCL All-Star Game MVP Award.