All-Star Grand Tour, Stop 1

OK, it’s that time of year again – All-Star time. Usually I end up hitting six or so of the “Midsummer Classics” around baseball, and the first of the bunch is pretty much always the Florida State League All-Star game.

This year, the FSL game was at Brevard County’s Space Coast Stadium in Viera. The ballpark’s the spring training home of the Washington Nationals and Brevard County’s a Brewers farm club, so that’s a tad strange (the elevators have huge Nationals logos on them for example), but it works, so who’s complaining?

As usual, there were several mascots on hand for the festivities. And this, plus the presence of my camera, meant there was a great opportunity for mascot hijinks. With Manny the Manatee (naturally) on hand, as well as fellow FSL mascots Squeeze (Vero Beach) and Phinley (Clearwater), it was impossible for Lisa to do her standup solo. And Phinley also made sure he got some mic time as well (though true to mascot tradition, it was all silent).

We’re trying something a little different this year in our minor league All-Star video coverage. In years past we would head to a game, do a game feature, which usually involved putting a microphone on a HR Derby participant, interviewing the derby winner and game MVP, talking about the game itself, etc, etc. This year we’re going to focus more on the players in the game itself. Jay Bruce and Cameron Maybin both played in the FSL All-Star game last season, but no one’s going to remember which team won the game. I have to admit – I don’t remember and I did a video feature on it – but I will remember Maybin flying around the bases in the Skills Competition (something they did not do this year) and Bruce banging a double off the wall, but the final score? Nah. (I did, however, look it up and the East – the team with Maybin, Bruce and game MVP Allen Craig won 8-4).

So, this year we went in with an eye towards doing a feature on Brevard third baseman Taylor Green. He’s from British Columbia, was drafted in the twenty-something-eth round a couple years ago and starting last season in the Sally league, has been raking pretty good. Seems the Brewers are good at drafting & developing good hitting third basemen (see: Braun, Ryan and Gamel, Mat for examples). The Green feature is done (finished it last night) and will hit the website on Thursday, so keep an eye out.

We also did interviews with Rick Porcello and J.P. Arencibia, a pair of first-rounders from the ’07 draft. Porcello – a fellow Jersey guy (I told you we stick together) – has been very impressive in his pro debut with the Lakeland Flying Tigers after being drafted out of high school last June. He talked about his love for fly-fishing (something Jerseyans are not known for, but yes, there are streams, forests and other natural beauties in New Jersey – it’s not all oil refineries and chemical plants). That interview will also hit the website on Thursday.

As for Arencibia – he was so hot for the Dunedin Blue Jays the first half of the season that he earned himself a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire after the game. He started at catcher for the East and went two-for-three. The interview went very well – he gave thoughtful answers and like Porcello,  was excited at being an all-star and looking forward to playing – and in his case – catching some of the game’s brightest prospects. Look for the Arencibia interview to also appear on milb.com on Thursday.

The Derby was won by Vero Beach’s J.T. Hall, who was hitting monster bombs far over the right field wall. Green ended up in the finals against Hall, but Arencibia didn’t make it out of the first round. In the game itself, the East came away with another victory, with Drew Stubbs of Sarasota earning the MVP nod.

Part 2 of my All-Star whirlwind tour will bring me to Midland, Michigan for the Midwest League game. Dow Diamond’s one of the best new ballparks in the minors, so I’m looking forward to the trip, even if it does come just a couple of short days after the FSL game.

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