By Brenden West Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — With the Midwest League All Star Game finally here, Clinton will be well represented.
Five LumberKing standouts made the 2013 squad: outfielders Dario Pizzano and Jabari Henry, catcher Tyler Marlette and pitchers Dylan Unsworth and Tyler Pike. The distinction earned high praise from manager Eddie Menchaca, who said on Wednesday that the honor extends beyond the first half of the season with each player harboring hopes for a career in the big leagues.
“It’s a amount,” he said. “There’s 25 guys on the roster and to have five going -- they’re well-deserved players -- it’s a credit to our organization... to the staff for keeping them consistent. It goes down on their resume, their baseball card. It goes down in our organization as far as these guys were in the All Star game representing the Seattle Mariners and the LumberKings.”
This year’s game will be held in Dayton, Ohio, home of the Cincinnati Reds Single-A affiliate Dayton Dragons. Although Unsworth recently went on the seven-day disabled list (his status uncertain for whether he will play in the game), the rest of the All Stars verbalized their excitement for having the opportunity.
With a team-leading 53 strikeouts, Menchaca called Clinton’s left handed ace “one of the best lefties I’ve seen in this league,” crediting his deception and delivery.
Pike posted a 4-3 record with a 2.90 earned run average through 12 starts thus far. Both numbers make put him in the top 15 among players in the league. Through 59 innings, he’s allowed only 19 earned runs.
“I didn’t think I had an outstanding first half, so it surprised me a little bit,” Pike said. Since he’ll make his next start on Sunday, he doesn’t think he’ll actually throw in the game. “But it’s a great honor to be voted in by the coaches. Hopefully it’ll get me more motivation to get me going.”
Menchaca said he’s not concerned about either of his hurlers risking injury. The team will be managed by the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers staff, who consulted the team about how each player should be handled.
“They’re not going in there to win an all star game, they’re just trying to show their ability to everyone in the Midwest League,” Menchaca said.
Marlette expressed surprise with being named to the roster, but it’s hard to argue against a .313 batting average and an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .874, both second only to Henry.
“There’s no doubt that the guy’s an offensive catcher,” Menchaca said. “He’s got some bat speed and ability to drive the ball to left-center.”
Said Marlette of the distinction, “I didn’t have a lot of at bats like a lot of catchers in the league. It’s definitely a big honor to be ranked among the top catchers in the league.”
Clinton’s big left-handed bat has had a stellar first half of 2013. Pizzano posted team leading stats with 65 hits, 19 doubles, 95 total bases, 35 runs and 35 RBIs. Menchaca said Pizzano’s determination sets him apart.
“For the most part one of our most consistent hitters,” Menchaca said. “He’s got a good approach at the plate. His ability to compete is really high.”
The numbers stack up league-wide as well. Pizzano’s doubles are good for fifth in the Midwest, leading all outfielders, and his RBIs are fifth among outfielders.
“It was a big honor obviously because the level of play in this league is really high,” Pizzano said. “It looks good for the organization and looks good for us. Helps our individual careers out as well. I was really excited to find out.”
Another player who said he was surprised, Henry said he’s most looking forward to reconnecting with friends he’s made throughout his playing days.
“I know a couple people so I’m going to hang out with them a little and get to know some people I don’t know,” he said. “I’m going to pick their minds while I’m there, I pick everybody’s minds.”
Even though he spent 10 days on the disabled list, Henry’s consistent numbers pre- and post-injury have earned him the honor. He maintains a Clinton best .927 OPS, with 49 hits, 15 doubles, five homers and 28 RBIs in 155 plate appearances.
Menchaca said he can rely on Henry, who has led-off for the LumberKings in his recent starts.
“He’s one of those guys I can put in the lineup and I know what I’m going to get every day,” Menchaca said. “Really stubborn to his approach and that’s what’s going to make you a good hitter.”
In general, he wished his players the best on their trip.
“They put the time and effort into it and they get back what they earned,” Menchaca said.