'It means the world': Grizzlies pitcher proud of all-star honor

News-DemocratJuly 14, 2014 

Like all of the thousands of professional baseball players competing in independent leagues and minor leagues from coast to coast, Gateway Grizzlies pitcher JaVaun West dreams of the bright lights and fortune of major league baseball.

But for West and four teammates, playing in the Frontier League All-Star Game on Wednesday at GCS Ballpark may be a long way from the big leagues, but its still the best against the best -- just at a different level.

"To have the opportunity to play in another all-star game, Just to know that the other managers and general managers in the league think enough of me to get their votes. It means the world,'' West said. "I want to see everybody do good because we're all here working hard and trying to do the best we can.

"I've been told I'll probably pitch two innings then after that I'll be in the dugout pulling for my teammates. But when its over, we'll all be enemies again.''

Appearing in his third Frontier League All-Star Game, catcher Landon Hernandez along with pitchers Aaron Newcomb and Richard Barrett and infielder Michael Wing round out the Grizzlies all-star representatives who will showcase their talents before the home crowd.

The '14 Frontier League All-Star Game will be played beginning at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday at scenic GCS Ballpark. Gates open at 5:45 p.m., and tickets are priced at $15 per person.

The all-star festivities conclude with a gigantic fireworks display following the game.

Currently 6-1 with 3.77 ERA, West, along with Newcomb, have been the mainstays on the Grizzlies starting staff during the first half of the season.

West, however, hasn't been completely satisfied.

"There have been some ups and downs this year. There were about three or four starts, I'd like to have back,'' West said. "My goal is to have a better second half of the season. I need to be more consistent.''

Hernandez missed the first two weeks of the season because he was coaching college baseball in Hawaii. Long is one of the top all-around catchers in the Frontier League, and Hernandez is hitting .279 at the all-star break with five home runs and 19 RBI.

"I'm looking to have a better second half of the season. I'm not satisfied at what I've done in the first half,'' Hernandez said. "But it's always a nice honor to be chosen to represent your team in the all-star game.

The Grizzlies closer, Barrett will be making his second all-star game appearance. A native of North Hollywood, Calif., Barrett has been lights out when called upon this season. He enters the all-star break with a 1-1 record in 18 games with 11 saves. Barrett has a team best 1.42 ERA.

Making his all-star game debut will be Wing. The Grizzlies most consistent threat this season, Wing is ninth in the league in hitting with a .338 average with eight home runs and 38 RBI.

After leading the Frontier League West Division for much of the first half of the season, Grizzlies manager Phil Warren and his coaching staff will lead the West squad for a second straight season on Wednesday.

Gateway (33-19) enters the four-day all-star break in a virtual tie with River City (32-18) for the lead in the West Division.

One of the top managers in Frontier League history, Warren also managed the West squad in 2007.

"It's always an honor and its also always good when you get to manage in an all-star game because it means that your team has had a good first half of the year,'' Warren said. "I look forward to interacting and getting to know some of the players from the other teams a little bit better.

"We are looking forward to managing the best players the West Division has too offer.

Joining Warren on the West Division bench will be Grizzlies pitching coach Randy Martz, hitting coach Zach Borowiak, bench coach Mike Breyman and trainer Geoff Manzo. All-star luncheon

The Frontier League will recognize its current stars and honor many of its former greats during the annual all-star luncheon Tuesday at the Casino Queen in East St. Louis.

Among the activities planned during the luncheon is the first ever induction's into the Frontier League Hall of Fame. The 2014 Hall of Fame Class includes Morgan Burkhart, Brett Gray, Fran Riordan, Aaron Ledbetter, Kirk Taylor, Scott Pinoni and Frontier League founder Chris Hanners.

Members of both the West and East Division All-Star teams will also be introduced during the festivities.

Making his all-star game debut will be Wing. The Grizzlies most consistent threat this season, Wing is ninth in the league in hitting with a .338 average with eight home runs and 38 RBI.

Home run derby

The best power hitters in the Frontier League will showcase their talents beginning at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday during the annual Home Run Derby.

The West team will be led by Josh Ludy of River City, who shares the league lead with Stewart Ijames of Washington with 15 each.

IJames will compete as a member of the East Division squad.

Also on the West Division squad is Michael Wing of Gateway. Wing has a team leading eight home runs. Rounding out the West Division sluggers will be Kyle Robinson of Windy City, Mike Schwartz of Normal and Russell Moldenhauer of Joliet.

Moldenhauer won the 2012 derby when he played for Lake Erie.

Rounding out the East Division players in the derby will be Joe Rapp of the Frontier Greys, Vincent Mejia of Lake Erie, Joe Staley of Florence and Shayne Houck of Evansville.

The gates at GCS Ballpark open at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday and from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m. fans will have the opportunity to meet the all-stars and get autographs.

Following the home run derby, the Chicago Bandits, a women's professional softball team will take on a group of Frontier League all-stars in the annual Battle of the Sexes.

Tickets are priced at $15 for box seats and $10 for lawn seats.

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