Coastal Plain League

Ryan Zimmerman, Russell Wilson Headline Notable Coastal Plain League Alumni

Ryan Zimmerman, Russell Wilson Headline Notable Coastal Plain League Alumni

The Coastal Plain League boasts an impressive list of alumni, from MLB stars Ryan Zimmerman and Justin Verlander to NFL quarterback Russell Wilson.

May 18, 2021 by Michael McCleary
Ryan Zimmerman, Russell Wilson Headline Notable Coastal Plain League Alumni

The 2021 Coastal Plain League season begins May 27, bringing some of the best players from all over the country to 15 teams across Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Many elite college players have passed through the league, including a few who had success at the highest level of the sport — and one with success at the highest level of a different sport.

Here are 10 of the most notable alumni from the CPL.

1. Kevin Youkilis

One of the earliest MLB alumni, Youkilis played for the Florence RedWolves in the summer of 1999. Youkilis played 10 years in the MLB, including eight and half seasons with the Boston Red Sox. He was known for his unconventional stance and his career .381 on-base percentage. 

The latter mark helped him break into popular culture, as he was a favorite of the on-screen adaptation of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane in Moneyball (and a favorite of the real life Beane, as referenced in Michael Lewis’ book of the same name).

2. Justin Verlander

One of the best pitchers of the modern era played for the Wilson Tobs in the summer of 2002. Verlander is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League in 2001. Verlander appeared in just two All-Star games the next seven years, but more recently has returned with some of the best seasons of his career in the past four years. 

3. Ryan Zimmerman

An alum of the Peninsula Pilots, Zimmerman was one of the first players to come through the Washington Nationals system after the Montreal Expos relocated to the U.S. Capitol in 2005. Sixteen years later, he still plays for the franchise and, in 2019, the homegrown star helped bring a World Series to Washington, D.C.

4. Joe Smith

Smith has been a reliable reliever for a number of MLB teams in the years following his stint with the Edenton Steamers, which have since left the CPL. Smith has pitched for six teams across 14 MLB seasons, recording a 3.04 career ERA.

5. Mark Reynolds

Another long-tenured CPL alumnus, Reynolds played 13 MLB seasons before retiring in 2019. Reynolds played for the Fayetteville SwampDogs in 2003 and followed his summer in North Carolina with an MLB career defined by two things: home runs and strikeouts. While he never hit for a high average (he was a career .236 hitter), he had multiple seasons of 30-plus home runs including a 44-home run season in 2009 (and he struck out 223 times that year).

6. Bobby Parnell

The Thomasville pitcher followed his 2003 summer with nine seasons as a big-league pitcher, including eight with the New York Mets, who drafted him in 2005. He was a serviceable starter for New York, posting a 3.82 career ERA and spending his last season with the Mets as a supporting member of a pitching staff that led the franchise to a World Series appearance.

7. Adam Warren

Warren, a 2006 New Bern River Rats pitcher, played eight MLB seasons. Seven years of his career were spread across two separate stints with the New York Yankees, where he was a quality reliever in the Bronx. After the Yankees re-acquired Warren from the White Sox in 2016, Warren reached a career-low 2.35 ERA in his 2017 season with New York.

8. JT Brubaker

Debuting in 2020, Brubaker is one of the more promising young starters in baseball. The Wilson Tobs alum and Pittsburgh Pirates starter has appeared in seven games so far this season, recording a 2.58 ERA in 38.1 innings pitched.

9. Nick Maton

The most recent Coastal Plain League alum to make their debut in the big leagues, Maton made his first Major League appearance on April 19 for the Phillies against the San Francisco Giants. He got his first MLB hit, and since then he’s had a nice start to his career, hitting .316 in his first 25 games with the Phillies. Maton played for the High Point-Thomasville HiToms in the summer of 2014.

10. Russell Wilson

Wilson, a former member of the Gastonia Grizzlies and star baseball player at Wisconsin, was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies and is technically still a member of the New York Yankees. But he never played in the MLB. Rather, he chose the other sport he played at Wisconsin: football. Wilson was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks and has amassed 33,946 passing yards, tossed 267 touchdowns and won a Super Bowl in two appearances across his still-soaring career. Not a bad decision.

Michael McCleary is a contributor for FloSports whose work has appeared in IndyStar, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Daily Orange and more. Follow him on Twitter @mikejmccleary.