By CHARLIE VASCELLARO • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
For almost three decades, youth baseball players from all over the country have been chasing their big-league dreams all the way to Cooperstown’s Dreams Park, and this year’s 2021 Major League World Series represents the physical manifestation of those dreams coming true.
More than 500 Dreams Park alumni have made it to the big leagues and seven of them are members of this year’s Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves World Series combatants.
Michael Brantley, (Florida Muddogs, 1999, Florida) boasts a .298 career batting average over 13 Major League seasons racking up 1,571 hits with a .795 OPS (on-base + slugging percentage). Brantley was born on May 15, 1987, in Bellevue Washington and attended Fort Pierce Central High School in Fort Pierce, Florida. He was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the seventh round of the amateur draft in 2005, and made his big-league debut September 1, 2009, with the Cleveland Indians. A five-time All-Star most recently being named to the 2021 AL team, Brantley finished third in AL MVP voting in 2014 reaching career-highs with 20 home runs, 90 RBI, 200 hits and .327 batting average.
Rookie outfielder Chas. McCormick (West Chester Wildcats, Pennsylvania, 2007) was born on April 19, 1995 in West Chester, Pennsylvania and made his big-league debut with the Houston Astros on Opening Day, April 1, 2021. Drafted by the Astros in 2017, McCormick hit .257 with 14 home runs and 50 RBI in 108 games for the Astros in 2021.
With the look of a seasoned veteran, Kyle Tucker (Sal Urso’s High Performance, Florida, 2009) mashed 30 home runs with 92 RBI and a .294 batting average for the Astros in 2021 adding two pairs of home runs in each of the first two rounds of the post season against the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. Tucker was born on January 17, 1997 and selected by the Astros with the fifth pick in the first round of the 2015 draft.
Hard-throwing, left-handed relief pitcher Tyler Matzek (Brea Crimson Tide, California, 2003) made 69 relief appearances for the Braves in 2021, striking out 77 batters in 63 innings. Matzek was born on October 19, 1990 in Mission Veijo, California, and was a first round draft pick
(eleventh overall) of the Colorado Rockies in 2009. He made his big-league debut with the Rockies in 2014. He struggled with control problems early in his career and stepped away from the game briefly in 2017 before mounting a comeback that brought him back to the major leagues with the Braves in 2020.
Six-year MLB veteran shortstop Dansby Swanson (Peachtree National, Georgia, 2006) enjoyed a breakout season in 2021 reaching career highs with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 160 games. Swanson was born in Kennesaw, Georgia on February 11, 1994, and selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 38th round of the 2012 draft. He declined to sign and was picked by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2015 draft. He was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Braves for pitcher Shelby Miller in 2015.
Right-handed pitcher Kyle Wright (Viper Baseball Academy, AL, 2008) is still in the early stages of his big-league career appearing in 21 games for the Braves since 2018. Wright was selected by the Braves with the 5th pick in the first round of the 2017 draft.
Right-handed pitcher Ian Anderson (Clifton Park, New York, 2009, 2011) made his mark during the pandemic-shortened season of 2020 finishing seventh in Rookie of the Year voting, posting a 3-2 win/loss record with a 1.95 ERA in 32 innings. Anderson went 9-5 with a 3.58 ERA in 24 starts in 2021 and has been nearly flawless over the course of two post seasons with the Braves posting a 4-0 record with a 1.26 ERA in 35 innings.
While the results of the 2021 World Series were still pending at the time of this publication, Dreams Park alumni have already left their imprint and will continue to do so.