Thursday, July 17, 2014

Our All-Star Game

Odds are, I will never take my dad to a World Series game. Odds are, we'll never get to spring training, or to a World Series, either. Our lives just don't stack up that way.

But tonight, we went to the AAA All-Star Game, held in the cozy confines of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park because, hey, when an All-Star Game comes along, you ask yourself, "when am I going to get another chance?" (We missed the NHL All-Star Game a couple of years ago because I was on the road for work, and, well, there are a lot of things to love about living the RTP area, but an overabundance of event-level professional sporting events is not one of them.)


And yeah, it's a minor league ASG, played after the glamor event of the "Futures Game" (which nabs all the best prospects) and the major league ASG. Near as I can tell, it was held back until the night after Jeterama so MLB Network would have some fresh sports programming to air; I don't have a problem with that. Give these guys some air time, people. I support that message.

But because it's a minor league ASG, and particularly a AAA one, it's an odd beast. The best guys, the Gregory Polancos and Oscar Taverases, have already been called up to the majors now that the Super 2 deadline is past. The second wave of prospects, the Kris Bryants and the like, went to the Futures Game. Which leaves a mix: 4A guys feasting on talent they're just a little too good for, failed phenoms who are still kicking around, no-name guys who are having lights-out years out of nowhere, and the occasional real-deal prospect who somehow slipped through the cracks.

That's how you get a can't-miss prospect like a Joc Pederson batting in the same lineup as Mike Jacobs, who's got 100 big league homers under his belt and is metamorphosing into Crash Davis on the back nine of his career. It's how you get a human monolith like Jesus Aguilar, who hits balls really hard (except when they curve) sharing the field with a Rule V pick who didn't stick with the Phillies last year and the Nationals' #10 prospect and the 27-year old son of the guy they traded Ryne Sandberg for, back in the day.

Which could be uneven. Or could be a reason to maybe distance yourself from the experience a little bit. After all, the shine wore off Ivan DeJesus Jr's prospect status a while ago. But that's missing the point. For the moment, for what they are and what they're doing, these guys are stars. Are All-Stars. Are the best that can be there. Which, in my opinion, is worth taking at face value, and worth celebrating, and certainly worth enjoying.

What we got was a 7-3 game that the International League blew open early. A smash down the first base line from local guy (and Jurassic prospect) Wilson Betemit plated two. A home run into the restaurant behind the left field wall brought in two more. Three more in the middle innings and it looked like Brazil-Germany all over again. The PCL scored a couple of runs in the late innings, but the outcome wasn't in doubt.

Which didn't keep it from being great anyway. We saw Pederson park one thirteen rows deep in the right-center field bleachers. Saw the crowd rise to its feet when hated Gwinnett's Juan Jaime threw 97, 98, 99, 99 - and finished wiping out the side before he could hit the magic 100 mph. Saw catches made against the Blue Monster in left-center, and Philip Gosselin go all Brooks Robinson at third. Saw hometown heroes succeed and fail - Mikie Mahtook did not have a good All-Star break - and generally saw a great game.

And we saw it together, over hot dogs and jokes about the between-innings dog act from Monday night and Dad waving his arms around and getting himself on the stadium camera during a pitching change. Whatever else happens, this is our All-Star Game, and it always will be.
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