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Nick Pratto, Home Runs Headline South Atlantic League All-Star Game

Nick-Pratto-Bill-Mitchell
Nick Pratto (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

GREENSBORO, N.C. — On a night when the stars of the low Class A South Atlantic League converged at First National Bank Field, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, for the league’s 59th annual all-star game, it was the long ball that stole the show.

The festivities began with the home run derby, which saw Chad Spanberger, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound first baseman in the Rockies organization for the Asheville Tourists, crush 29 home runs out of the stadium to cheers of joy from the fans and fellow players.

Then, in the encore performance, seven home runs left the stadium as the South Division All-Stars defeated the North Division All-Stars, 9-5.

Lexington Legends first baseman Nick Pratto, who was the South Division's designated hitter, hit one of those home runs and knocked in four runs on the night. His two-run shot in the fifth inning gave the South Division All-Stars a formidable, 7-3, advantage.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Pratto, who was the 14th overall pick by the Royals in 2017, admitted he was inspired to hit a home run over the right field wall after watching the home run derby.

“Little bit,” Pratto said with a smile. “I’ve never been here. Looking at that right field porch, it was kind of tantalizing.”

His performance stood out and earned him the event's Most Valuable Player award, a moment he did not take lightly.

“It’s an honor, for sure,” Pratto said. “These guys are special talents and it’s fun to be out here around that kind of play.”

Pratto narrowly beat out Asheville Tourists second baseman Bret Boswell for the award. Boswell, an eighth-round pick of the Rockies in 2017, also hit a home run while knocking in three runs and scoring twice on the night.

Tate Blackman, who finished third in the home run derby, was the one player who carried over his performance from that event into the game, hitting a home run in the third inning. But the blast was not enough to keep his team in the game.

Fortunately, Blackman, a member of the White Sox organization with the Kannapolis Intimidators, was not worried about the final score.

“I’m very pleased with the way I came out today and you know it’s all about having fun,” Blackman said. “Sometimes we get mixed up in the results and we just go back to the kid stage and playing baseball, having fun, meeting new guys. Doing it for the crowd. They want to see the long balls. They want to see us smiling. Baseball is fun. It’s an enjoyable sport and I love playing each and every day.”

Freddy Tarnok, the 80th overall pick by the Braves in 2017, was one of the few pitchers to really impress on a night that saw 14 runs scored. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound righthander struck out all three batters he faced in the sixth inning to help get his side the victory, using an electrifying fastball that sat in the mid- to upper 90s.

And after the final out, the festivities ended with a bang.

Fireworks lit up the stadium and the surrounding area as fans stuck around for the end of the show for about ten minutes.

Then, just like that, the highly entertaining evening was over. But one thing is certain—the fans will be back next year for another electrifying show.

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