The Stockton Ports hosted the 11th Annual California League/Carolina League All-Star game for the first time since Banner Island Ballpark opened in downtown Stockton in 2005. A sell-out crowd of more than 5,000 fans were on-hand for the entertaining game, which featured 15 runs, 19 hits and six errors.
The All-Star festivities began on Monday night with a meet-and-greet event for the all-stars at the Stockton Arena, adjacent to Banner Island Ballpark. On Tuesday, the festivities continued with a sponsors luncheon that featured guest speaker Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A’s, the parent team for Stockton.
Before the game, there was a FanFest and autograph sessions, followed by a Home Run Derby with three participants from each league. Hometown favorite Anthony Recker, who has starred at catcher for Stockton this season, earned a spot in the finals of the Derby by hitting four homeruns in the first round. He squared-off in the finals with Gilroy, CA, native Chris Gimenez of the Kinston Indians, who hit five homeruns in the first round.
In the finals, Gimenez hit first and presented Recker with a big challenge by hitting seven homeruns. Recker gave the home crowd a good show, hitting five homeruns and coming close on two more, but ultimately the crown went to Gimenez and the Carolina League. Gimenez earned $500 for himself for winning the individual title and the Carolina team won $500 to split for hitting more homeruns overall in the Derby than the Cal League.
Despite not taking home the title, Recker enjoyed his experience in the Home Run Derby.
“I tried my best. When he put up seven I knew that I was in trouble. I just went out there and tried to match him, and I came close. It was just a lot of fun and it is an experience I’ll take with me,” Recker said.
After the game, Recker was told that he had been promoted to Double-A Midland.
The only participant in the Home Run Derby not to homer was the Lancaster Jethawk’s Bubba Bell, who is currently among the top two in the California League in homeruns and RBI. He made up for that performance in a big way during the actual game, going 3-5 with two RBI. Bell would earn the California League’s Most Outstanding Player award for his performance in the game. The Carolina League’s Most Outstanding Player award went to Blake Davis of the Frederick Keys, who drove-in two runs.
The game started off in a brisk fashion as starters Wade LeBlanc (Lake Elsinore) and Rowdy Hardy (Wilmington) worked scoreless half innings. LeBlanc was dominant in his one inning of work, using his change-up to strike-out two of the three batters he faced. After the game, LeBlanc was given the award for the game’s Most Outstanding Pitching Performance.
Even though he was only scheduled to pitch one inning, LeBlanc, who has six wins and a 2.12 ERA for the Storm this season, approached his All-Star game start as if it was a regular outing.
“You have to mentally approach it like you are going to go six or seven innings,” LeBlanc said after the game.
“You can’t change what you do to prepare just because of the innings you are going to throw.”
The game slowed down considerably in the second inning. After James McDonald (Inland Empire) worked a scoreless top of the second, Brad James (Salem) ran into trouble in the bottom of the second. With one out, James walked Chad Huffman (Lake Elsinore). The next batter, Lucas May (Inland Empire), singled to put runners at first and second. At this point, James lost track of the strike zone. He proceeded to walk the next two batters to force in the first run of the game. After a sacrifice fly from Tony Granadillo (Lancaster), Bell stepped in with his second hit, which scored the California League’s third run of the inning.
The Carolina League would answer with two runs in the top of the third off of Brooks Brown (Visalia). Both runs scored on a two-out base-hit from Davis, making the score 3-2. Carolina would get no closer in the game, however, as the California League scored three runs in the bottom of the third off of Julio Pimentel (Wilmington). Pimentel hurt his own cause by committing a throwing error early in the inning. His error would be the first of four by the Carolina defense.
Leading 6-2 after three innings, the California League cruised the rest of the way. They scored a single run in each of the fourth and sixth innings and two in the fifth. Carolina scored two in the sixth inning and cut the lead to 10-5 on a homerun by James Delaney (Lynchburg) in the eighth inning.
With two-outs in the top of the eighth inning, California League reliever Darren O’Day was struck in the hand by a come-backer. He threw wildly to first to extend the inning and had to come out of the game. Stockton reliever Pat Currin was called on to close-out the eighth inning.
Currin had thrown only two warm-up tosses in the bullpen at the time of the injury to O’Day, so he had to complete his warm-ups on the mound. Despite the unorthodox warm-up session, Currin was dominant in his outing. He struck out the first three batters he faced and appeared to have struck out Davis to end the game on an 0-2 pitch, but it was ruled to have just missed the corner. Currin retired Davis on a soft line-out to short to close out the game and his 1.1 inning performance.
“I thought it was strike three, and I thought he could have rung him up on it, but it’s [the umpire’s call] and I guess he said it was just outside. I got the batter out, so it was fine in the end,” Currin said with a laugh.
“This outing was good for me. In my last outing, my command wasn’t really there, so this is a good step leading into the second half.”
Recker and the rest of his California League teammates enjoyed their experiences.
“It was fun just being out here in front of the home crowd and earning a win for the California League. It was a great experience to meet all of the guys from both leagues,” Recker said.
* Chris Davis (Bakersfield) came off the bench, but managed to make an impact by launching a solo homerun in the sixth inning for the California League’s final run.
* Matt Antonelli (Lake Elsinore) and Tony Granadillo (Lancaster) each had two hits for the California League team, while Aaron Cunningham had three hits for the Carolina League.
* Jason Delaney (Lynchburg) hit a solo homerun and went 2-4 with two RBI for Carolina.
* 3B Mario Lisson (Wilmington) committed one fielding error and could have been called for another, but he made the defensive play of the game in the fourth inning when he dove to field a ball hit down the line and then got up and threw across the diamond to get the runner by a step. Lisson also had another strong throw later in the game.
* SS Blake Davis (Frederick) also had a nice diving stop in the third inning to keep a ball in the infield with runners at second and third. A run scored on the play, but two would have scored had Davis not knocked down the grounder.
* The hardest thrower in the game appeared to be reliever Bob McCrory (Frederick), who touched 96 on the gun for the Carolina League.