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The Orleans Firebirds are a collegiate summer baseball team based in Orleans, Massachusetts. The team is a member of the Cape Cod Baseball League and plays in the league's Eastern Division. They were known as the Orleans Cardinals from 1946-2008.
Orleans currently plays its home games at Eldredge Park and has been among the league leaders in attendance in recent years. The Firebirds are owned and operated by the non-profit Orleans Athletic Association, and like other Cape League teams, are funded through merchandise sales, donations, and other fundraising efforts at games such as fifty-fifty raffles.
The Firebirds finished the 2007 season in a third place tie in the Eastern Division with 47 points, only six points away from a playoff berth. Orleans has won two Cape Cod Baseball League Championships in the 21st century, most recently in 2005 when they defeated the Bourne Braves two games to one in the championship series. The team was originally known as the Orleans Cardinals but in October 2008, Orleans announced they would be changing their team name for the 2009 season in response to the licensing agreement between the CCBL and Major League Baseball.
The Pre-Modern Era
Orleans has fielded a team since the early days of the Cape League. In the final fifteen years of the Pre-Modern Era, Orleans won a total of seven league championships, including back to back titles in 1949 and 1950, and again in 1952 and 1953. Their title in 1957 had been their most recent title up until 1986, when the then-Cardinals broke a nearly thirty year championship drought.
The Modern Era
The early part of the modern era for the Cardinals were plagued with the team's inability to break through in the playoffs. Despite qualifying for the post-season eleven times between 1967 and 1985, the team was unable to win any league crowns. Orleans made the playoffs four consecutive times from 1969 to 1972, but was eliminated in the semi-finals in 1969 and 1972 and lost in the championship series to the Falmouth Commodores in both 1970 and 1971.
Orleans would fall in the championship series two more times in 1974 and 1981 before finally winning their first title in the modern era in 1986. That year, manager John Castleberry led the Cardinals to the best record in the league in the regular season. Orleans would sweep their semi-final series against the Chatham Athletics and eliminate the two-time defending Cape League champion Cotuit Kettleers two games to none in the championship series.
In the 1990s, Orleans would win another Cape League title in 1993 and make the playoffs on five other occasions. Their Eastern Division Regular Season Championship in 1994 was their only regular season crown until 2002.
Orleans has seen tremendous success in the 21st century, making the championship series three times, and winning the title twice, in 2003 and 2005.
For the 2009 season the team changed its name from the Orleans Cardinals to the Orleans Firebirds, following an agreement between the Cape League and Major League Baseball which stated that if a CCBL team shared a nickname with an MLB team that they would have to obtain their uniforms through a Major League Baseball Properties-licensed vendor. Wanting to maintain their independence and longstanding relationship with local vendors, the Orleans team has changed its name. Although their name is now Firebirds, the fans still cheer "Lets Go Cardinals" at games, and the announcer still says Cardinals a few times every game instead of Firebirds to get the crowd fired up.
- Russ Adams 2001
- Aaron Boone 1993
- Andrew Brackman 2006
- Emmanuel Burriss 2005
- Brett Cecil 2005
- Jeff Conine 1986
- Chase d'Arnaud 2007
- Nomar Garciaparra 1993
- Tyler Greene 2006
- Todd Helton 1994
- Lance Niekro 1999–2000
- Jay Payton 1992–93
- Ryan Perry 2007
- Josh Satin 2006
- Michael Schwimer 2007
- J.T. Snow 1988
- Mark Teixeira 1999
- Frank Thomas 1988
- Ben Sheets 1999
- Matt Wieters 2006
- Danny Valencia 2006
- Nate Freiman 2007-08
- 1998 Cape Cod Baseball League Official Yearbook, p. 26
- Cape League Championships. Retrieved 2007-07-04.
- http://www.orleanscardinals.com/namechange.html Orleans Firebirds Join Chatham Anglers As New Names in Cape League for 2009