When asked to list the states that produce the best baseball talent, most fans rattle off large, warm-weather states like California, Florida and Texas. But a list of elite incubators for big league ballplayers ought to include Delaware; despite its small size and population, it has been the birthplace or home to nearly 75 Major League Baseball (MLB) players. Here’s a fearsome lineup made up of the all-time all-stars in Delaware Baseball
Seattle Mariners (1995–1996, 2000), Montreal Expos (1997– 2000), New York Yankees (2002), St. Louis Cardinals (2003), Chicago White Sox (2005–2006), Baltimore Orioles (2006)
Wilmington-born Chris Widger was a star at George Mason University before spending more than a decade as one of MLB’s most dependable catchers. He was an elite defensive backstop who was credited by several managers for his ability to work with young pitchers. A 2005 World Series championship with the White Sox capped off Widger’s career. After his retirement, Widger put his great baseball mind to use as a coach or manager for a number of minor league teams, including the Wilmington Blue Rocks.
Arizona Diamondbacks (2011–2018), St. Louis Cardinals (2019–present)
Also born in Wilmington, Paul Goldschmidt spent most of his childhood in Texas. After the Diamondbacks selected him in the eighth round of the 2009 MLB Draft, he advanced quickly through the minor leagues and became an almost immediate sensation. Over the course of his 11 big league seasons, Goldschmidt has asserted himself as one of MLB’s most consistent power hitters, belting 30 or more home runs on six occasions. This six-time All-Star has maintained nearly a .300 career batting average and is not too shabby with the glove either. He won the Gold Glove for his skills at first base four times.
Oakland A’s (2016–2017), Tampa Bay Rays (2018–2021), Miami Marlins (2022)
Born in Wilmington and raised in Chester County, Pennsylvania, Joey Wendle led West Chester University to the Division II college baseball title in 2012. Currently one of the few big leaguers to eschew batting gloves, Wendle made his MLB debut for the A’s in 2016 but really came into his own when he was traded to the Rays two years later. A steady defensive player and a hard-hitting infielder, he earned his long-deserved first All-Star team selection in 2021. The previous year, Wendle was a key contributor to the Rays’ run to the World Series. In the AL Divisional Series against the Yankees, he hit .353 and helped seal their division rivals’ postseason fate.
Pittsburgh Pirates (1903), Chicago Cubs (1905), Cincinnati Reds (1906–1910), Philadelphia Phillies (1911–1914), New York Giants (1915–1917)
The son of a Wilmington cabinetmaker, Hans Lobert made use of his tremendous speed to become one of the best base stealers of his era. He finished in the NL’s top 10 in stolen bases on five occasions. One time, in 1908, he stole second, third and home in the same inning. Lobert was no slouch as a hitter either, twice finishing in the top 10 in the NL. Following his playing career, he served as the baseball coach at West Point and had two stints as manager of the Phillies.
Montreal Expos (1990–1993), Los Angeles Dodgers (1994–1996), St. Louis Cardinals (1997–1998), Baltimore Orioles (1999–2001), Chicago Cubs (2001–2002)
Seaford’s Delino DeShields was one of the most highly regarded prospects to come out of Delaware. While a Seaford Blue Jay, he was named the state’s high school player of the year and a national high school All-American. In 1987, the Montreal Expos made him the No. 12 pick in the first round of the MLB Draft. DeShields buoyed the rebuilding of the Expos in the early ’90s around a cluster of young, highly talented players. The slick fielding, base-stealing and line-drive-hitting newcomer finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1990 and was one of baseball’s top middle infielders of the earlier part of the decade. DeShields was later traded to the Dodgers for future Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez in one of the most lopsided deals in MLB history. He struggled in Los Angeles, but his career rebounded later with teams in St. Louis and Baltimore. He is currently the first base coach for the Cincinnati Reds, where he briefly coached his son, Delino DeShields Jr.
Texas Rangers (2002–2006), Milwaukee Brewers (2006–2007), Toronto Blue Jays (2008), Washington Nationals (2010)
A former Saint Mark’s Spartans and Delaware Blue Hens standout, Kevin Mench played eight MLB seasons and one in Japan. He enjoyed his best years with the Rangers, where he finished seventh in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2002, and twice socked at least 25 home runs in a season. In 2006, Mench homered in seven consecutive games—tied for the second-longest streak in MLB history. Unfortunately, a series of foot injuries shortened Mench’s successful career.
Minnesota Twins (1982–1993)
Dover’s Randy Bush was the Twins’ designated hitter for much of the 1980s, platooned in the outfield with several young players, and was also a fantastic pinch hitter. In 1991, he led the AL in pinch hits with 13. During a long MLB career, Bush won a pair of World Series rings with the Twins, in 1987 and 1991. He later served as the head baseball coach at his alma mater, the University of New Orleans.
Baltimore Orioles (1967–1970), Milwaukee Brewers (1970–1974, 1978), Atlanta Braves (1975–1976), Texas Rangers (1977)
New Castle’s Dave May starred at William Penn High before signing a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants. After bouncing around in the minors, he came up with the Orioles, with whom he served as a reserve outfielder for several seasons. A change of scenery turned May into a star. The new Milwaukee Brewer blossomed into a top-notch defensive outfielder and one of the team’s best hitters. In 1973, he enjoyed a career year, hitting .303, pounding out 25 home runs and driving in 93 runs. May earned his only career All-Star Game bid that season. After a tough 1974 season, Milwaukee traded May to Atlanta in exchange for all-time home run king Hank Aaron, who was looking to finish his career in the city where it started. Two years later, May was part of a trade for another former MVP, the Texas Rangers’ Jeff Burroughs. Following his retirement, May returned to Delaware. Before he died in 2012, May got to enjoy his son Derrick’s long MLB career in his own right. May has been inducted into the Milwaukee Brewers Wall of Honor.
Philadelphia Phillies (1959–1972), Milwaukee Brewers (1973)
The son of a Sussex County judge, Chris Short was born in Milford and played high school ball at both Wilmington’s Sunny Hills School and Lewes High School. Always a hard thrower, the left-handed Short debuted in the big leagues in 1959 at age 21. Slowly but surely, he improved his control and developed a broader arsenal of pitches. In 1964, Short enjoyed a breakout season— winning 17 games, striking out 181 batters and finishing third in the NL in earned run average. Short co-headlined with Hall of Famer Jim Bunning on the pitching staff of the 1964 Phillies, whose famous late season collapse (losing the pennant to the Cardinals despite leading them by 5 1/2 games, with 12 remaining) is the stuff of baseball legend. While the Phillies never again challenged for the pennant during Short’s career, the southpaw finished in the top 10 in NL wins on three occasions and earned two All-Star Game appearances. He finished his career in the top five all time in wins, strikeouts, appearances and shutouts in Phillies franchise history. In 1992, he was posthumously inducted into the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame.
St. Louis Cardinals (1994–1998, 2001, 2004–2005), Seattle Mariners (1999–2000), San Diego Padres (2000), Philadelphia Phillies (2002), Oakland A’s (2002), Seattle Mariners (2003), Chicago Cubs (2005), Colorado Rockies (2007)
The well-traveled John Mabry was born in Wilmington but raised across the Delmarva Peninsula in Cecil County, Maryland. For 14 seasons, he crisscrossed the North American continent, parlaying his steady hitting, elite glove skills and defensive versatility into a long and lucrative MLB career. Following his retirement, Mabry got into broadcasting and coaching for the Cardinals organization. Currently, he works as a coach for the Kansas City Royals.