See also: Capsules on the other minor league all-star games
TOLEDO, Ohio–For Kevin Witt, the 2006 Triple-A All-Star Game provided a bit of redemption.
Witt collected three of the 11 hits in the contest, including a two-run homer in the third, as the International League stars claimed a 6-0 victory over the best from the Pacific Coast League at Toledo’s Fifth Third Field July 12.
Despite hard rains that soaked Toledo most of the day, as well as a gullywasher shortly before the game began, the soggy conditions did not dampen the spirits of the 11,500 fans in attendance.
Nor did the rain affect the performance of Witt, who rebounded from a disappointing effort in the Home Run Derby two days earlier to earn IL MVP honors. The Durham Bulls first baseman also had a first-inning single and opposite-field RBI double in the fifth to finish just a triple short of hitting for the cycle.
“I caught a lot of heat for not performing in the Home Run Derby,” Witt said. “Hopefully this will make my teammates back in Durham give me a little better welcome when I come back home.”
The IL squad broke in front with three unearned runs in the third inning. Charlotte’s Jorge Velandia led off with a single against Nashville’s Ben Hendrickson, and Chris Denorfia hit a grounder to third that looked like a double play ball. But Justin Leone of Portland threw the ball wildly to second, allowing Velandia to move to third.
Hendrickson threw a wild pitch that scored Velandia, and two outs later Witt launched a long home run to right-center.
“That’s what happens when you’re playing a good club–you have that one error, and it balloons when you give them an extra out,” PCL manager Mike Jirschele of Omaha said. “That hurt us, especially the way the game was going. You knew it was going to be a tight game with not much hitting.”
The International League staff combined to tie a Triple-A All-Star Game record by allowing PCL hitters just two hits. Two Charlotte pitchers, knuckleballer Charlie Haeger and lefty Heath Phillips, retired the first 12 PCL hitters in order as each covered two full innings.
“We had preliminarily mapped out what we wanted to see (from Haeger and Phillips), and it went according to plan,” said IL manager Larry Parrish from Toledo, who was working with just eight pitchers. “Those two started the game out on the right foot, no doubt.”
The PCL finally collected its first hit with two outs in the fifth when Leone drilled a double off the wall in left against Toledo’s Chad Durbin. Leone was stranded at second, though, when Durbin coaxed James Loney of Las Vegas to ground out.
The International League staff allowed only three other baserunners the rest of the night and erased two of them on double plays. The PCL, whose only other hit was an eighth-inning single by Loney, never advanced a runner past second.
“Our guys were real aggressive, and we made a lot of first-pitch outs,” Jirschele said. “They were here to swing the bats, and that’s what they did.”
Meanwhile Witt and the IL offense gave its pitchers some breathing room. In the fourth Denorfia singled off Jason Hirsh of Round Rock, then moved to second on a groundout before coming home on Witt’s opposite-field double.
“Witt–wow, what a night,” said Parrish, who managed Witt when the latter was a Mud Hen in 2003. “He played here, so the fans are familiar with him. You couldn’t script it any better than that.”
In the seventh the IL finished the scoring when Kevin Barker of Syracuse and Toledo’s Ryan Raburn slammed back-to-back home runs off Matt Roney from Sacramento.
Iowa’s Rich Hill, the starter for the PCL, was named that squad’s MVP after throwing two scoreless innings and striking out a pair.
• Among those at Fifth Third Field July 12 for the All-Star Game was Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, whose son Tony Gwynn Jr. of Nashville was the starting center fielder for the Pacific Coast League team.
• Toledo native Jamie Farr threw out the game’s first pitch. Farr, who starred as Corporal Max Klinger in the television show M*A*S*H, has lent his name to a LPGA golf tournament that was held in the Toledo suburb of Sylvania the weekend after the game.
• The Triple-A All-Star Game was played in 2 hours, 16 minutes, making it the fastest-played contest in the 19-year history of the event. The previous record was 2:22 set in 1996.
• The crowd of 11,300 was the fifth-largest crowd in Fifth Third Field history. The only larger crowds in the five-year-old facility’s history came on Opening Day in four of the past five years.