All-Star Games in New Hampshire and Tacoma;

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday, July 13.

Following the major league All-Star game won by the American League on Tuesday night, AAA baseball and the AA Eastern League held their all-star games last night.  While they were played on a much smaller stage, a good performance in either of those games looks good on a player’s resume.

With 3 AA leagues in existence it’s easier for each league to play its own All-Star game.  Briefly an attempt was made to play a AA All-Star game in the 1990’s but the leagues have since gone back to the old format.  The Eastern League held its All-Star game in Manchester, New Hampshire where the AA Blue Jays play their games. Since its expansion in the mid-1990’s the league is split into an East and West division.  The stars of the two sides took to the field last night in less than ideal weather conditions before a crowd that passed 6100 persons. 8 years ago nearly 9 thousand filled the park beyond capacity when John Smoltz made a rehab start there.  Though the AA Blue Jays only opened play in 2005 this was the third time the Eastern League held the All-Star game in Manchester.  The park has also hosted a Bob Dylan concert.  When the game began following a 23-minute delay, the west scored their only run in the second inning while the East division All-Stars mounted a 7-run rally in the 6th inning for all their scoring. The MVP award went to (Why should this surprise anybody) an outfield prospect for the Yankees.  You’d think they would run out of outfield prospects considering that Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier are in the majors and Dustin Fowler reached the top-if only for one night. But Zack Zehner of the Trenton Thunder (AA Yankees) stole the show right in the heart of Red Sox Nation. He notched 2 hits driving in 2 runs in his 3 atbats. His 2-run base knock gave his side a 3-1 lead they never relinquished. His Yankee teammate Thairo Estrada went the distance at shortstop, collecting a hit and two walks. For his part Danny Mars of Portland (AA Red Sox) put up 3 hits and an RBI.  Playing on his home field, New Hampshire second baseman Gunnar Heidt added a two-run double in the midst of his team’s 6th-inning rally.  During the season Estrada’s 103 hits are second only to the 111 garnered by Garabez Rosa who also registered a safety last night. Rosa toils for Bowie, the AA Orioles. All told the west division put up just 5 hits and a run while the east collected a dozen hits.

Later in the evening and some 3 thousand miles from New Hampshire, the AAA All-Star game was held in Tacoma, home of the Rainiers (AAA Mariners.)  Only after discussing the matter with somebody local did I find out the team isn’t named for nearby Mount Rainier, but for Rainier Beer. There are just two AAA leagues-the International and the Pacific Coast League making it easier to arrange an All-Star game. While Tacoma has been home to the Mariners’ top farm club since 1995 and has hosted baseball since JFK was a presidential candidate the city had never hosted the AAA All-Star game.  In astonishing weather conditions for a part of the country known for its rainy climate, Cheney Stadium saw an overflow crowd surpassing 7,000 in attendance as the PCL notched a 6-4 win over the International League all-stars. The International scored the game’s first run in the second inning with the PCL evening the score in their  half.  The PCL, acting as the home team broke it open with 4 4th-inning runs, spearheaded by a 3-run home run off the bat off the league’s leading home run hitter Renato Nunez of Nashville (AAA Oakland.) Nunez leads all minor-league hitters with 24 home runs though he doesn’t play in one of the league’s many home run parks like Colorado Springs, Vegas, Reno or Salt Lake.  The PCL side added another run in the 5th. The International put up 2 in the 5th featuring a solo shot from Willy Adames.  They added one in the 7th but that’s as close as they got. For the IL squad,  Ozzie Albies, Rusney Castillo, Adames and Richie Shaffer put up 2 hits each with Shaffer hitting the team’s other home run. The rest of the team only had one hit between them with the total coming to 9. For the PCL, Christian Walker, Willie Calhoun (two doubles) and Colin Moran (home run) collected 2 hits each as their side finished with a dozen hits. The toughest night went to Yankees’ farm hand Caleb Smith who took the loss. He pitched the 4th inning giving up 5 hits and 4 runs including the home run by Nunez.

While MLB won’t resume play until tomorrow the minors are back at full strength tonight.  Even players from last  night’s two All-Star games have to report to wherever their teams are playing for action tonight. Fortunately for them, no Eastern, International or Pacific Coast league games will be played during the day.  The only day games are in the New York Penn league and those are underway as I write this. One game just ended moments ago as the Connecticut Tigers won in extra innings 2-1 over Williamsport in the first game of a doubleheader. The next action will be 3 FSL doubleheaders beginning at either 4 or 4:30 PM. The first Eastern League action features Harrisburg (Nationals) facing the  Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants.)  That game begins at 6:30 tonight. The unluckiest International League teams are Pawtucket (Red Sox) and Syracuse (Nationals) who meet at 6:30 in their league’s first game after last night’s festivities in Tacoma.  I’m  not a travel agent anymore but I wouldn’t care to set up a flight from SeaTac to Syracuse on short notice.  Nashville faces Omaha at 8 PM in the first PCL game following the break.

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