Altoona, PA - For the first half of the 2014 Eastern League All-Star Game, pitching was the big star.
That is until Erie Seawolves Steven Moya stepped to the plate in the fifth.
After allowing a base hit to Altoona Curve’s Willy Garcia, and walking Akron Rubberducks Francisco Lindor, Steven Antolin left a fastball up and Moya got all of it for a grand slam. The West went up 5-1 on the East, and went on to beat them 5-2.
Here’s some thoughts and notes on the players featured in the event:
Who better to start with than Moya? It’s not just his size and build that are impressive, but his ability to adjust throughout the game stood out. He made necessary adjustments to his plate approach, and got more selective with each at-bat. In his first at-bat he jumped on a curve ball that he had no chance on, and struck out. But he exhibited excellent patience in the at-bat that led to the West’s victory, and being named All-Star Game MVP.
Both lefty starting pitchers, Reading Fightins Hoby Milner and Richmond Flying Squirrels Ty Blach, pitched excellent in their inning of work. Milner was shaky out of the gate and walked the first batter, but then got Lindor to ground out and struck out Moya. Milner is on the lean side, but is all arms and legs, with good extension to the plate.
Blach was practically flawless. He used few pitches and showed a fluid delivery, facing the minimum in the first inning. Most impressive was a sharp as a tack curveball he fooled Trenton Thunder’s Ben Gamel with.
Derrik Gibson showcased his talents well in the contest. The Portland Sea Dogs outfielder hit the only other home run, tripled, and scored a run. While the power stood out, it was his ability to get around the bases to stretch the possible double to a triple that really shined. He found a lot of ways of making trouble, including being part of a double-steal . While that move didn’t lead to a run scoring, he exhibited good baseball intelligence, contact, and power.
Harrisburg Senators outfielder Michael Taylor did a few things right, and only one thing wrong. Despite being a bit too aggressive, leading to getting caught stealing, his speed and approach are big strengths. The Nationals prospect drew a leadoff walk, and singled in a run, then successfully stole a base in the third. The squad didn’t capitalize on that effort, but Taylor was fun to track.
The Curve were unable to get as many fans interested as was hoped in the event taking place in Altoona, with paid attendance coming in just over 6,000. There was talk about why that happened, but local interest just didn’t pan out.
During a conversation with a Rubber Ducks media member, we discussed the rebranding efforts of the Rubberducks, formerly the Aeros. He cited owner Ken Babby, in his second year in the position, for his tireless efforts and excellent ideas for helping the Ducks make a new mark in the minors. A focus on the family aspect of the minor leagues, as well as improvements to the ballpark were also mentioned as successful aspects of the newly named franchise.
Trenton Thunder manager, and the Eastern squad manager, Tony Franklin was unsure who he was pitching to star the game the night before, and admitted a conversation hadn’t taken place just yet. He talked about the likelihood of being "up all night" and being "a worrier" when it comes to how he manages a game, even that one. While the Eastern squad lost, he played Peter O’Brien who has quickly descended in the system. O’Brien was promoted from High-A earlier this season and has exhibited much-talked about power. Franklin also got a chance to play top Yankees prospect Gary Sanchez, who pinch hit in the 6th, but didn’t do anything. Overall, Franklin said that while he enjoyed the experience, he fretted over playing every guy on the roster.
The previous day’s event, the Ghostman Hitting Challenge (the EL equivalent of the Home Run Derby) featured small games, pre-hitting challenge, that allowed players to get in on some unique challenges. One of them was Mascot Dodge Ball, in which players went up against all the teams mascots. You’d be surprised how seriously they took it and how hard they lobbed those balls. By the way, there was also a Bubble Gum Blowing contest, and several players, including Sean Coyle and Adrian Sampson participated.
Ah, the minor leagues.