Greetings from Las Vegas, where I am attending the annual Pac-12 Basketball Tournament. It’s my favorite non-baseball sports event of the year, and it serves as a little vacation before the PCL season gets started.
Still, the blog soldiers on. Today we’ll do some all-star game talk and provide some Mariners links.
Tickets for the Triple-A All-Star Game and Home Run Derby are selling at a good pace, the front office tells me. There are still tickets available – I suggest acting soon if you haven’t already.
With that in mind, it’s time for another… Triple-A All-Star Flashback!
Tacoma is hosting the 30th annual Triple-A All-Star Game at Cheney Stadium on July 12. We’ll spend the winter looking back at the previous years, to give fans an idea what they can expect in Tacoma this summer.
Ah, finally – the first Triple-A All-Star Game after the merger, and the first battle between the Pacific Coast League and the International League.
I’d like to report that the PCL ripped ’em to shreds in the first game against their new all-star rival, but it didn’t happen. The International League won it, 8-4, in front of 11,049 fans at Harbor Park in Norfolk, Virginia.
The box score is littered with names I immediately associate with the Boston Red Sox of that era.
Third baseman Mike Lowell – then a Marlins prospect, but a future Red Sox star – homered in the first inning. He added a double and went 2-for-4 with two RBI, winning the MVP Award.
Other future Red Sox players in the game included Trot Nixon and Brian Daubach.
But the real story here happened before the game.
Norfolk outfielder Benny Agbayani was named to the all-star team, where he would play in his home ballpark. But he told the team’s GM that he was getting married that day and couldn’t make it.
The recently departed Tides general manager Dave Rosenfield countered with a ballpark wedding. Agbayani would get married in a ceremony at home plate before the game, and the club would pick up the expenses.
After some discussion, Benny and his bride decided to do it.
But another problem arose: the Mets called up Agbayani right before the all-star break!
Thankfully, the MLB and Triple-A all-star breaks are at the same time, so during the break the couple flew back to Norfolk and proceeded with the wedding.
Apparently it had all of the baseball traditions, including the bride and groom walking down a path of players with their bats held in the air.
Because he was on the Mets major league roster, Agbayani was not allowed to play in the Triple-A All-Star game. That’s all right, he was having a day to remember anyway.
Triple-A All-Star Fun Facts
- For more on the Agbayani wedding, here’s an archived story.
- The man who helped make the wedding happen, Dave Rosenfield, was a minor league legend. He recently passed away after spending a lifetime in the game. We can all thank him for inventing “Turn Back The Clock” nights.
- All-Star managers were Jerry Royster (PCL – Las Vegas) and Marv Foley (IL – Rochester). Royster became a major league manager, while Foley has an unbreakable record: he is the only manager to win a league title in three Triple-A leagues (the PCL, the IL, and the now-defunct American Association).
- Tacoma Rainiers manager Dave Myers was named an all-star coach. Myers managed Tacoma for four seasons, 1997-2000, before Lou Piniella hired him to be the Mariners third base coach. Myers lives in the Tacoma area and is still in baseball, working as a pro scout for the Tampa Rays. Whenever Benny Agbayani’s name comes up, Myers says “I was in his wedding.”
- The Rainiers lone player was closer Steve Gajkowski, who retired all four batters he faced with three strikeouts. The Seattle native had 24 saves and a 2.57 ERA for Tacoma in 1998.
- Current Round Rock manager Jason Wood played in this game, representing Edmonton for the second year in a row. Wood was an excellent Triple-A player for many years; he made his MLB debut in 1998 as well.
- It’s a good thing the wedding got everybody’s attention, because the 1998 game was short on long-term future major leaguers. Mike Lowell headlined this game, and catcher Paul LoDuca (Albuquerque) also had a lengthy MLB career. Outfielders Armando Rios and Jeremy Giambi also spent considerable time in the bigs. But as always, nearly everyone who played in the game reached the majors at some point.
- They shrunk the Home Run Derby to just three contestants, a short-lived idea that lasted just one more year. Rochester’s Willis Otanez won it. Otanez started his pro career in 1991 and was still playing in the Mexican League in 2015!
- The ESPN telecast was led by Bob Carpenter – currently the Washington Nationals announcer, and the guy I buy my scorebook from every year.
- Blue-uniformed lightning rod C.B. Bucknor was the second base umpire.
I hope you have enjoyed these All-Star Flashbacks. I plan to squeeze in a couple more before the season starts.
- Ryan Divish has an update on Rainiers outfielder Boog Powell, and how manager Pat Listach helped him handle his suspension.
- Bob Dutton has four surprises from Mariners camp.
- With several starters playing in the World Baseball Classic, competition for the Mariners last two roster spots is really heating up.
- Cactus League game reports: … yesterday the M’s lost big to Cleveland, 14-6… Tuesday was an off day… and on Monday, possible Rainiers player Taylor Motter homered in a 9-0 win over the Rangers.
- Mariners outfielder Leonys Martin had a birthday on Monday, and the guys hired a mariachi band to follow him around. Hilarity ensued.
- USS Mariner’s marc w did a spring training check-up on Mariners starting pitcher velocities.
- Former Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito is now a professional musician in Nashville, and he wrote and performed a new theme song for the Nashville Sounds.