This week, the Eastern League All-Star game was held by the Red Sox’ AA-affiliate Portland Sea Dogs (ME). I was fortunate enough to have had the privilege to go attend the game, and what a pleasure it was to watch the Eastern League’s best showcase their talents in front of a sold-out Hadlock Field.
The gates opened to the public at 3:00 for an eventful afternoon in Portland that included the planned Home Run Derby and a festive pregame introduction ceremony that allowed fans to greet the starters as they made their way down to the field from the sky-boxes. After the National Anthem, Blake Swihart threw out the ceremonial first pitch and, around 7:20, it was time to play ball.
On the first pitch of the game Marco Hernandez (BOS) led off with a line-drive single to center field and the game had finally begun. It was a competitive contest and neither team was willing to accept a loss. Both teams attempted to bunt, steal bases, and generally play quality baseball. It was refreshing to watch.
Both teams featured some of the top prospects for each franchise’s respective MLB affiliate. The advertised top prospects in the game were Josh Bell, Gavin Cecchini, Brandon Nimmo, and Bradley Zimmer. Bell is ranked the Pirates third best prospect according to MLB.com and is a promising hitting prospect that is making a transition from the outfield to first base. Although he has a lot to learn at his new position, Pirates’ management is optimistic due to his superior athleticism and eagerly await the addition of this bat to their lineup as early as next season.
The New York Mets had two top prospects selected to this game, their second overall Brandon Nimmo and fourth overall Gavin Cecchini. Nimmo is known as a hitting outfielder with solid , while Cecchini, the younger brother of Red Sox prospect Garin, is a quality defensive shortstop that has made strides at the plate in the last two years. Both are projected to make their MLB debuts in 2016 by MLB.com. Last but not least is Bradley Zimmer, the Cleveland Indians number one overall prospect. Zimmer is a reknown five tool talent with the potential to become a bonafide superstar. He plays a quality outfield, has an advanced approach at the plate, and offers above average speed to go along with his high baseball IQ. The Indians are not expecting to rush Zimmer and his projected MLB debut is 2017.
The most impressive players to me other than these top prospects were Pedro Severino (WAS) and Anthony Gallas (CLE). Both on the Western Division team. Although Severino did not start the game, he was spectacular behind the plate blocking balls in the dirt with precision and athleticism. He also added a hit and a run scored. Gallas was put on a show in the Homerun Derby and contributed a double, single, RBI, and a run scored in the actual game.
Some of the other players in the game that baseball fans may see in MLB in the near future included: Roman Quinn (PHI), Dwight Smith Jr. (TOR), Gary Sanchez (NYY), and Wynton Bernard (DET). Needless to say there was some top level talent on display. The only thing that could have made the event better was if Yaz’s grandson, Mike Yastremski (BAL), would have been able to honor his selection and play in the game. Unfortunately he was battling an injury and did not make the trip.
Now back to the game. Nine innings of quality baseball sulted in a 4-4 stalemate, which lead to quite the unusual ending. Instead of simply ending the contest in a tie the league decided to institute a Home Run Derby Shootout. Each team chose three players who each were given one swing; after these six hitter no one had hit a homerun. After this each round was sudden death. Finally, on the 22nd hitter in the shootout, Brian Pointer (PHI) won it for the Eastern Division. It was a very unusual ending to a baseball game.
After the game Marco Hernandez (BOS) was awarded the game MVP. He contributed a single, a homerun, two RBI, and two runs scored for the Eastern Division squad.