by Bill Hass gsohoppers.com and former baseball writer Greensboro News and Record
It was a different setting and a different perspective, but no less satisfying for Edwin Rodriguez.
He first experienced the South Atlantic League All-Star game in 1982 as a second baseman for the Greensboro Hornets and played a key role as his North team beat the South 5-4 in Memorial Stadium.
Tuesday night, as the manager of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, he was the first-base coach for the North team that whipped the South 13-4 in NewBridge Bank Park.
â€œIt was a different view but the excitement was the same,â€ Rodriguez said. â€œAt first base, I feel like Iâ€™m not doing anything there. But it was fun to watch those guys; there was a lot of talent on the field from both teams. Iâ€™m pretty sure a lot of them will be in the big leagues pretty soon and five or 10 years from now they are going to be all-stars.â€
It had been 26 years between SAL All-Star games for Rodriguez. During the next 26, he said, he will remember being around the players and getting to know them. It was also special to catch the first pitch from a former Hornets teammate, Matt Winters, who was named to the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame.
â€œBeing the catcher for the first pitch, that was a great experience,â€ Rodriguez said. â€œGood memories.â€
The night worked out well for the three Hoppers, all pitchers, who made the North team. A.J. Battisto had his family from Pennsylvania watching from the stands when he pitched the second inning. Corey Madden struck out the two hitters he faced, one on the bottom of the eighth and the other in the top of the ninth.
And Garrett Parcell got the final out after receiving the ball at the mound from honorary manager Tony Perez. Facing Abraham Almonte of Charleston, S.C., Parcell threw a ball, a strike, another ball and another strike. With the crowd standing and roaring, he got Almonte to swing and miss to end the game.
â€œThat was pretty cool,â€ Parcell said â€œThat was exciting, especially getting the ball from a Hall of Famer. The whole thing was awesome. My dad got to come out from California to see me today; that was really big. He hasnâ€™t seen me much since spring training.
â€œTwo strikes, everybody on their feet, the hometown crowd. I know when I get two strikes itâ€™s going to be tough for a guy to hit me, so it was pretty fun.â€
Battisto got any all-star nerves calmed when his first pitch was hammered for a home run by Jason Heyward of Rome. He settled down and got the next two batters to ground out and recorded a strikeout to end the inning.
â€œThe guy punished that ball,â€ Battisto said â€œAll the hitters were real aggressive, swinging at the first pitches. I knew that; I just didnâ€™t get the ball down enough, obviously.
â€œ(Overall) it was great. The fans were great, they got behind me and Corey and Parcell and we all fared well.â€
Madden struck out Yamaico Navarro of Greenville on three pitches to end the eighth inning, then fanned Justin Snyder of Charleston, S.C., to open the ninth. He then gave way to Vinnie Pestano of Lake County.
â€œI was hoping it was going to be fun and being at home made it more fun â€“ it was a blast,â€ Madden said. â€œWhen I came in the game, they were pretty loud and I got goose bumps. When I came out, tipping my hat, it was the best moment in my career so far.â€
All three players were just hoping for a chance to participate in the game and now they have the kind of memories they will savor for a lifetime.
*****More of the fine works from Bill Hass who also writes for theacc.com.*****