LAKELAND -- A record crowd, a great game, a Hall of Famer throwing out the first pitch and a chance to see a young local hero experience the thrill of his life.
What more could a baseball fan ask for?
Lakeland Tiger Jeff Frazier was named Star of Stars as the West beat the East, 7-4, in the 45th Florida State League AllStar Game at Joker Marchant Stadium on Saturday night.
Frazier thrilled the second largest crowd in FSL All-Star game history -- 5,946 -- with a two-run homer in the sixth, a line-drive onto the berm in left field which somehow made it through a stiff wind.
"The crowd gave me a big hand every time I came up so I was glad to give something back to them," said Frazier.
Rounding third and seeing all those people standing and cheering for me was the greatest thrill of my life, added the 23-year-old Rutgers product.
Frazier's homer broke open a 2-1 game that saw the pitchers on both sides strike out 25 of the best hitters in the league.
Fort Myers right-hander Kevin Slowey was named Pitcher of the Game for an amazing first-inning performance that saw him strike out the first three East hitters on exactly nine pitches.
"I was pumped but who wouldn't be in an atmosphere like this?" said Slowey, who came into the classic having already struck out 92 FSL batters while walking just seven in 81 dominant innings.
The youngest player on the field, Sarasota ace Homer Bailey followed Slowey to the mound an nearly duplicated the Miracle hurler's feat, taking 12 pitches to also strike out the side.
"By then we are all sitting in the bullpen asking ourselves how in heck are we supposed to follow these guys into the game?" said Lakeland reliever Jeff Hahn.
Hahn struck out the first man he faced as well, coming into the game with two outs in the eighth. He and fellow L-Tiger Kevin Whelan finished out the game and made a winner of Lakeland manager Mike Rojas.
"I know how hard the front office here worked to bring off this game and I am happy for Zach (Burek) and everyone else involved in the planning," said Rojas.
There were two other big blows in the game, a two-run triple by Cody Ehlers of the Yankees in the seventh, and threerun homer by Ambiorix Concepcion of the St. Lucie Mets in the eighth.
Concepcion's rocket may have been hit even harder than Frazier's was, also landing high on the berm but taking a less direct approach as high as it was far.
"That kid absolutely crushed the ball," said Rojas. "Our whole dugout was amazed because the wind was knocking everything down all night."
But the night belong to the pitchers. Nineteen of them saw action.
"My job was easy: Just stay out of their way and let them throw," Lakeland Tiger and West Division pitching coach Britt Burns said.
Detroit great Al Kaline threw out the first pitch not too long after Dunedin's Ryan Patterson won the popular Home Run Derby.
http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/ ... 002/SPORTS
Jeff Frazier's stats so far this season.
http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/ ... pid=455095