Cape League Elects Former Orleans Manager Castleberry As New Commissioner

by Brad Joyal
Former Orleans manager John Castleberry was elected the Cape Cod Baseball League’s new commissioner. COURTESY PHOTO Former Orleans manager John Castleberry was elected the Cape Cod Baseball League’s new commissioner. COURTESY PHOTO

Around Major League Baseball, John Castleberry is known as Mr. Cape Cod, a nickname he inherited because of his love for the Cape Cod Baseball League.

After spending more than three decades working as a professional baseball scout, Mr. Cape Cod is returning to the area as the new commissioner of the league he deeply admires.

Castleberry was elected last week as the 14th commissioner in Cape League history. He succeeds Eric Zmuda, who served as commissioner from 2019 until 2023.

“I really want to give back to the league,” said Castleberry. “They gave to me and it’s my turn to give back to them. With my contacts and resources and the things that I know and have developed, I think I can bring a different look at the league.”

Castleberry’s first taste of Cape League baseball came in the early ‘80s, when he joined the Orleans Cardinals — now known as the Firebirds — as an assistant coach. He managed Orleans from 1984 until 1991, earning Manager of the Year honors in 1986 after leading the club to its eighth league title in franchise history and its first in the modern era.

During his time in Orleans, Castleberry managed dozens of future professionals, including Frank Thomas, a 2014 inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Although he gave up coaching — both in Orleans and George Washington University — to become a scout in 1991, Castleberry’s presence is still felt in Orleans, where his number is retired and he and his wife, Kate, were married at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church.

“I think that John becoming the CCBL commissioner is like closing the circle,” longtime Orleans general manager Sue Horton said. “He was first here in 1983 as a volunteer assistant to Jack Donahue, and when Jack stepped down the next year, the Orleans committee had every confidence that John could be the manager even though he was in his mid-20s.

“John’s never really left the league — throughout all the years he’s been a scout, he’s been here every summer and remained in close touch with many of us as a resource and sounding board.”

Few scouts garner the respect that Castleberry has earned across the industry. He has received multiple Scout of the Year awards in addition to earning five World Series rings while working as a scout for the Miami Marlins (1991-2000), Philadelphia Phillies (2004-2008) and San Francisco Giants (2008-present). He’s also served as a scout for the Cincinnati Reds and Texas Rangers during his 33-year career.

Beyond working with Major League clubs, Castleberry also co-founded and served as president of East Coast Pro, which organizes the premier annual high school baseball showcase event.

“I thought it was going to be about five years and then I’d jump back into coaching,” Castleberry said about scouting. “Thirty-three years later, and this is still what I’m doing. I’m getting ready to retire. The league has been kind enough to let me work one more year, so I’m going to mix that in and be the commissioner.”

Castleberry joked that becoming the Cape League commissioner seemed harder than becoming the Pope due to the lengthy process and due diligence that was completed throughout the league’s search, which began with an initial interview in November.

Some officials and executives around the league nominated Zmuda to be retained for another three-year term because they felt it wasn’t a good idea to change commissioners.

Zmuda led the league through the pandemic and oversaw last year’s centennial season celebrations. He also helped solidify partnerships between the league and BaseballCloud and D1Baseball. BaseballCloud implemented its data collection and visualization techniques during the 2023 All Star Game in Harwich, and D1Baseball streamed all of last summer’s games online — a partnership that brought Cape League baseball to fans around the world.

Castleberry acknowledges there is plenty to love about the current state of the Cape League, though he admits the league will need to make changes to adapt to the NCAA’s Name, Image and Likeness rules and transfer policies.

“We have to make some changes, I think, just because of the landscape of what’s going on,” Castleberry said. “That might mean that we have to give a little bit and be more creative on how we approach things. It’s never going to be perfect, but we’ve got to find a way to do the best that we can and make the league better than anyone else.”