Wisconsin Timber Rattlers outfielder Monte Harrison had joked just last week with some friends and teammates about hitting 2 or 3 home runs at the Midwest League All Star Game.
The second round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2014 MLB draft made good on his prediction, blasting not one, but two home runs with 3-RBI's to lead the West to a 5-2 victory over the East in front of 5,009 fans at the 2017 MWL All Star Game at Dow Diamond Tuesday night.
“No, honestly, I really didn't think I would hit two home runs, but I was just playing around with my teammates back home and I wasn't really taking it serious, but when I got to the game, I felt really good and when I got in the cage I was like, I don't know, we'll see what happens.”
What had happened, was Harrison belted a solo home run over the left field wall at Dow Diamond, breaking the game wide open to give the West a 3-1 lead in the top of the seventh inning, before coming back with a 385-foot, 2-run blast over the same spot to make it a 5-1 game in the top of the ninth inning and crown himself the games MVP.
Harrison should not have even been batting that late in the game, however, one of the West reserves couldn't play, so Harrison was left in the lineup for the entire game, which is rare for an All Star Game.
“I wasn't supposed to play the whole game,” Harrison said. “A kid on our team said he couldn't play so I just played the whole game and good things happen when you play the whole game.”
Loons pitcher Dustin May was pleasantly surprised to hear he'd be starting for the East in the top half of the first inning on such a big stage, despite being from Texas, where everything seems to be on a grand scale. None the less, this was an epic moment for the 6-foot-6 right-hand pitcher from Justin, TX.
“Oh yeah, it's definitely the biggest crowd I've thrown in front of,” May said. “Being an All Star and just throwing in front of the home crowd is a big deal to me, and just getting the start was super exciting.”
May recently developed a new weapon in his repertoire which had been baffling MWL batters over the past few weeks, leading to up to his start tonight.
“I've been working on a change-up and it's really developed in the last couple outings,” May said of his new arsenal. “I only used it occasionally, because it wasn't a big enough speed drop, but I changed my grip up and I found one that I really like and it's helped out a lot. It's a two-finger circle-change, so it's (the grip is) like wide open.”
May (4-3, 3.92 ERA) matched up good against the best players on the West roster, giving up just 1-hit, while striking out 1-batter through his 1-inning.
The home team East squad managed to score first, early in the game when Lansing Lugnuts shortstop Bo Bichette (son of former MLB player Dante Bichette) singled to lead off the bottom of the first and quickly stole second base, before advancing to third on an infield grounder by West Michigan outfielder Jake Robson.
Bichette then scored on an infield ground out by another MLB players son, his Lansing teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for a 1-0 East lead in the bottom of the first inning.
The East had been protecting its slim 1-0 advantage when Kane County Cougars outfielder Marcus Wilson reached base on a 1-out single to set the table for Cedar Rapids Kernels' first baseman Lewin Diaz, who promptly destroyed a 396-foot, 2-run home run over the left field wall at Dow Diamond, giving the West a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning.
After striking out the only batter he faced, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers pitcher Braden Webb (a third round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2016 MLB draft) earned the win for the West team.
Following the Diaz homer, the East would never lead again, and after relinquishing the 2-run blast to Diaz, West Michigan Whitecaps pitcher Gregory Soto (5-1, 2.68 ERA) was charged with the loss for the East.
Loons infielder Brendon Davis decided to make things interesting when he hit what was arguably the longest home run of his life, a 425-foot bomb to straight away center field with 1-out in the bottom of the ninth inning to get the East to within 3-runs (5-2) of the West.
Davis, who was a late addition to the East All Star roster after an injury had opened up a spot, used the big stage to let everyone in the baseball world know that he will not be denied, and that he was there to show people what he can do when given the opportunity.
“Big pay back,” Davis said. “Playing with a chip on my shoulder. But, I've been playing like that my whole life. I'm just glad I could go out there and have a good time with these guys.”
Davis, who finished 1 for 1 with a walk in 2 plate appearances, wanted to go deep in his first at bat, however, he got four straight balls and was walked, so he just tried to make contact during his next at bat, and wound up hitting the shot of his life.
“My first at bat, I was trying to do some damage, Davis said. “I got to 3 (and) 0 and I was basically trying to hit a homer, but the second at bat, that guy was pretty good and when it got to two strikes I was just looking for a fastball to just try and make contact.”
“I think I had faced that guy once before because, I remember he was pretty good, he's got good stuff. So I was looking for a fastball and it got to two strikes, so I just wanted to put the ball in play. I was looking for a fastball over the plate, got it, and I didn't miss.”
The third All Star representing the Loons, catcher Keibert Ruiz, rounded out a successful two days for his team, following Davis with a single in the bottom of the ninth inning to go 1 for 2 tonight.
The ever so humble Ruiz seemed more happy to see Davis, his friend and teammate, succeed. Although, he was thankful for the experience to be playing in his first ever All Star Game.
“It's good when you see one of your friends hit a home run in the All Star Game,” Ruiz said of Davis' ninth inning homer. “This is my first time playing in an All Star Game and it feels so great for this opportunity.”
Never in his wildest dreams, did Great Lakes skipper Jeremy Rodriguez think his first full season as a professional manager would include a chance to be the head coach in an All Star Game, let alone, coach that All Star team at his new home stadium, which happens to be the crown jewel of the league.
“Oh man, when I signed with the Dodgers, just seeing the stadium here, it was awesome,” Rodriguez said. “When I found out they won the championship the year before, I was like, okay, no pressure. Then, I was like, wow, we're also doing the All Star Game at home! So, I was like, jeez, no pressure at all.”
“So, for me, I'm all about living the moment, enjoying life, having fun, bringing energy, so at this stage, yesterday and today, it was awesome. The fans have been unbelievable this whole year. Even when we were down, in the cold and the snow. It was a blessing, I'm definitely blessed.”
Harrison was the only player on either squad to have multiple hits, going 2 for 4 with 3-RBI's to lead the West and take home the MVP hardware.
Davis led the East going 1 for 1 with the home run, while also adding the only walk of the game to reach base in both of his plate appearances.
Bichette finished 1 for 3 with a stolen base and 1-run scored, while West Michigan outfielder Danny Woodrow was 1 for 2 with a double, as his teammate Blaise Salter was also 1 for 2 with a single.
Fort Wayne Tincaps outfielder Jorge Ona and Ruiz, were each also 1 for 2 with a single respectively tonight.
The Loons will have Wednesday off before hosting the South Bend Cubs (Chicago Cubs) Thursday at 7:05 pm to kickoff a 4-game home series Thurs-Sun at Dow Diamond.