photo: Harrison Bader (Guillermo Hernandez/Springfield News-Leader)
The conditions and the festivities were all picturesque for the 2016 Texas League All-Star Game as the stadium was packed with a capacity crowd at Hammons Field. Texas League fans from all over came to watch the mid-summer classic.
And they were treated with plenty of entertainment.
The South Texas League All-Star held off the North with an 8-5 victory, snapping a two-game losing streak in front of the largest crowd at Hammons in 2016.
“There’s a lot of talent here,” Springfield manager Dann Bilardello said. “Some guys can put the ball in play a long way. This is Double-A, a level where you’re going to have most of the top players. A lot of the players that were originally voted in weren’t here, but that didn’t matter. The talent out there on both sides was great.
“We just came up short, but we wanted to win the game.”
Bilardello said before the mid-season classic the goal was to give every player an opportunity to play. The skipper did just that, employing all 23 players in the game.
“I think that is the utmost and most important thing to do in an All-Star game,” Bilardello said. “Everybody has got to play.I’m just glad everyone got in. We made it competitive. We made it exciting in the ninth. We gave ourselves a chance.”
The South struck first thanks to an Alex Bregman two-run homer. They stretched their lead to 3-0 after a Derek Fisher RBI single
The North got on the board after a Willie Calhoun sac fly in the bottom of the third. Facing a 4-2 deficit in the sixth, Daniel Poncedeleon, who was on the North squad, yielded a three-run blast to Ryan Cordell.
The South added a tally in the seventh as Bruce Caldwell brought the North to within three runs with a three-run blast to right center.
That wasn’t enough to overcome an 8-5 deficit in the ninth, though.
Despite threatening with runners on the corners with no outs, Paul DeJong struck out looking and Frank Schwindel grounded into a double play to end it.
Known as an offensive-oriented ballpark, the game played as one. Both sides combined for 28 hits.
How the S-Cards did?
The Springfield Cardinals had seven representatives for the North Division squad, including relief pitcher Josh Lucas, who was a late add to the roster. All seven of the Cardinals contingent appeared in the All-Star game.
Harrison Bader, one of three Cardinals voted as starters, went 4-for-5 with a double and a run scored.
Bader was honored to be representing the Cardinals.
“It means a lot,” said Bader. “After skipping a level, the coaches have allowed me to take care of my business and pointed me in the right direction. I can’t ask for more. We clinched the first half as a team which is the best thing that has happened so far. That’s the cherry on top of making the All-Star team.”
Luke Voit and Carson Kelly were the other starters voted by their peers.
Voit singled and doubled in five at-bats as a designated hitter. After being named to Futures Game before his league’s All-Star game, Kelly played five innings behind the plate and looped a single in two at-bats.
“It’s just a tremendous honor to be out there and represent the Cardinals, especially here at the All-Star game and now the Futures Game,” Kelly said. “I’m very, very excited.”
Although he wasn’t a starter, Bruce Caldwell made an impact with his big home run for the North.
“(The experience) was definitely an honor,” said Caldwell. “It’s been pretty cool. A bunch guys here with amazing talent and meeting new guys here is pretty cool.”
It was also Paul DeJong’s first All-Star game appearance as a professional. The third baseman was hitless and struck out twice, but made a couple of smooth plays at third base.
“It’s just an honor to be picked for this team,” said DeJong. “There’s so many good players and to be in that category of those players is just a tremendous honor.”
As far as pitchers, Poncedeleon gave up four earned runs on five hits over two innings. He threw 45 pitches but was excited to get two innings in the All-Star game.
Josh Lucas was the final Cardinal pitcher to appear. The right-hander faced one batter and recorded a strikeout on five pitches.
“Fun experience,” said Lucas. “It’s definitely something different. A packed house and a bunch of different guys you don’t know and you get to meet. It’s fun making new connections and meeting guys on a one-on-one basis instead of playing against them and not knowing who they are.”
Voit prevails in ’16 TL HR Derby
After falling short last summer in Florida State League Home Run Derby, Luke Voit ousted Midland Rockhounds slugger Matt Chapman to garner the Texas League Home Run Derby title.
Voit did all that while performing in front of family down from St. Louis and coaches from Missouri State University.
His pitcher was Bilardello, who Voit credited for the title.
“Being in that situation for anybody that is in a home run derby and never done it, he’s done it before, but when you don’t have the cage, and you’re not familiar with the surroundings it’s weird,” said Bilardello. “I don’t think it affected him one bit. He must have had a helluva of a pitcher. That was probably the guy who put him over the top.
“He did a nice job. I was happy for him that he won it.”
Voit, who finished with 30 home runs overall, belted 14 homers to lead the way in the first round. The first baseman before concluded the derby with 16 home runs in the final round to edge Chapman 30-28.
“I wanted to hit it as long and far as possible and pull it down the line,” said Voit of his approach before All-Star game festivities. “That wind was freaking blowing in. I just took it nice and easy and that helped me come out in the end.”
Voit won a $400 Bass Pro Gift Card and a hunting knife from Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, which sponsored the Home Run Derby.