An announced crowd of 5,842 jammed the parking lot of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, meandering into the stadium. Senior citizens tailgated well before the gates opened.
One of the charms of the game is seeing the families of these aspiring young ballplayers visit with them beforehand. And the Fall Star Game, because it’s rather a big deal here, has the national anthem performed live rather than pre-recorded, as is the case when there are only a couple of hundred fans in the stands.
We initially sat in the second row behind the dugout on the first base side, but quickly realized that was a mistake. Not only was that the West team’s side, but my ear nearly fell off from the seniors behind me recounting all their boyhood playing days. I understand the bonding and all that, but guys — I really don’t need to hear your life stories while I’m trying to enjoy the game. Then again, who am I to complain?
Here’s a name from the past. Guess who the manager of the West All-Stars was, wearing #13 in a Tigers’ uniform? I’ll give you a hint: he caught for the Phillies in 1987 and 1988, in an era when the Phils had a penchant for acquiring washed-up players well after their prime. He played for 19 major league seasons all told, hanging around with California, Seattle, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and finally Toronto before retiring in 1995. He always wore his trademark #13 jersey. That right, it’s Lance ….
For a change of scenery we moved to the other side of the field, settling in behind the first base dugout, now within earshot of Extreme Fan Susie – an icon at Salt River Fields. I have a feeling she’s the original Talking Stick, and I blogged about her a couple of years ago. The fascinating thing is that she can hold a quite normal conversation, and then all of a sudden spring to attention, undulating and clapping while yelling things like: “That’s right, Mr. Bird. You — go — Mis — ter — Bird.” I find her less of a distraction than the know-it-all guys from Iowa, and more of an entertaining fixture. Of course it helps that she rooting was for the East team.
The only two Phillies representatives on the East Fall Stars were Roman Quinn and Nefi Ogando, neither of whom started.
Nefi Ogando never made it into the ballgame. His strength is saves out of the bullpen (he leads the AFL in that category) and the situation didn’t present itself. But Roman Quinn came into the game as a left fielder in the middle innings and acquitted himself very well. He was 2 for 2 at the plate, lining run scoring singles in the 6th and 8th innings. The AFL leader in steals, “Q” promptly stole second and then third base after singling in the 8th inning. His 2 RBI helped the East All-Stars to their 6-2 victory over the West in a true Fall Classic.