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Friday, July 12, 2024

A Tale of Two All-Star Games


Its universally-panned uniform change aside, this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game – its first since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic – was an across-the-board success.

Leading things off on both sides of the ball, the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani showed up in a big way at Coors Field in Denver, home of the Colorado Rockies. Fresh off a stellar performance in the Home Run Derby, the phenomenon many erroneously liken to Babe Ruth – who never quite pulled off full-time batting and pitching duties in the same season – retired the side in order to commence Tuesday’s main event. Ohtani would receive the win in the American League’s 5-2 effort over the National League squad. Fellow newly-crowned superstar, Toronto Blue Jays youngster Vladimir Guerrero Jr., went home with the MVP trophy thanks to a towering solo home run in the third inning.

On the local front: an even younger ballplayer made waves in the Long Island Stan Musial Men’s Baseball League All-Star Game, which took place at Fairfield Properties Ballpark – known colloquially as Ducks Stadium – in Central Islip. In the first of three all-star games played with over 150 18+ amateurs selected and representing 35 teams on Saturday, Edwin Fernandez, 20, of Coram, drilled a booming, bases-clearing triple in an ultimately inconsequential blowout. The score took a backseat priority, according to those tasked with coordinating the event.

“Scores of the games were not as important as the players, coaches, managers, league officials and fans in attendance watched sons, brothers, nephews, grandsons and neighbors play baseball at a beautiful stadium on a sunny day,” said Executive Director Bob DePersio.

In a league composed of talented ballplayers who defy the natural order by continuing to play the kid’s game, certain “zany” theatrics can often arise. Especially in an all-star setting, where all in attendance are reminded it is just that: a kid’s game. In the penultimate inning of the same game, Long Island Crush relief pitcher Connor Cutino, 21, of Hauppauge, entered just like the noise that accompanies each Fairfield Properties Ballpark fireworks show: with a bang.

“To be honest, I saw that no one who came in before me had a memorable entrance, and our deficit made it a great situation to try something out,” Cutino revealed. Channeling his inner Heath Bell, then promptly outdoing the former San Diego Padres closer, Cutino dashed at full-sprint from the right field bullpen to the pitcher’s mound. He then completed what he described as a “college-level tumble” – essentially a front flip/somersault hybrid – before receiving the ball from his manager and striking out the first batter he faced.

The day was not perfect, but perfectly “men’s league.” Just as Brad Pitt wondered in “Moneyball” (2011), “how can you not be romantic about baseball?”

“We were the first organization to hold an event at Ducks Stadium when it opened [in 2000], and we have done so every year since – with the exception of 2020, due to COVID,” League President and Founder Jimmy Rose recalled. “We are proud to be associated with the Ducks of the Atlantic League. It takes a lot of hard work and cooperation from a lot of people, a great staff of volunteers who put countless hours into it, and especially from the Ducks.”

Two days before the New York Mets’ Pete Alonso would become the MLB’s reigning Home Run Derby champion, Kyle De Meo defeated the Stan Musial league’s 2-time champion Steve Miller in its own competition, according to the Four Seam Falcons’ Instagram page.

The league is also happy to report that unlike their Major League counterparts, the practice of players sporting their respective teams’ uniforms for All-Star weekend festivities remained intact, and will continue to for the foreseeable future.

Michael J. Reistetter
Michael J. Reistetter
Mike Reistetter, former Editor in Chief, is now a guest contributor to The Messenger Papers. Mike's current career in film production allows for his unique outlook on entertainment writing. Mike has won second place in "Best Editorials" at the New York Press Association 2022 Better Newspaper Contest.