The annual Cal League All-Star game was hosted by the Visalia Rawhide this season.
The event took place June 19-20, and featured several fun and unique activities relating to the local community and concluded with the actual all-star game on day two. This game was a great way to see the bright young prospects from around the league, including the eight players representing the Lake Elsinore Storm. The Storm players consisted of pitchers Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi, Colby Blueberg, Trevor Frank, Gerardo Reyes, Jose Castillo, and first baseman Josh Naylor.
The festivities began with an autograph session for VIP fans.
The teams all had tables set up and fans could get signatures and have conversations with all their favorite players. Many of the players also signed throughout the day and always made themselves very accessible.
Next up was the Lions Club International Charity Beep Baseball Game.
Beep baseball is a form of the game where sound emitting devices are placed in the ball and at the bases and allow for visually impaired and blindfolded participants to enjoy playing the game. Many of the all-star players also participated and even attempted to bat while blindfolded.
Players next participated in the All-Star Skills Challenge, which included such hometown events like the lemon tossing contest and a precision lasso roping contest, where Cal Quantrill showed off his lasso ability and was able to lasso his target on the second try. There was also a chicken round-up, which had players running all over the field attempting to catch chickens as quickly as possible.
The last event of the All-Star Skills Challenge was the Traditional Visalia Cow Milking contest. The South team was led to victory by Storm pitcher Colby Blueberg, which proves that he is not only a good pitcher but handy around a farm as well.
The conclusion of the 2017 Fanfest consisted of a home run derby, which featured a top slugger from every team, including one of the Padres’ top prospects, Josh Naylor.
Naylor defeated Ibandel Isabel of Rancho Cucamonga in the first round, hitting several monster shots that landed in the parking lot beyond right field. He was then eliminated by Inland Empire third baseman, Jose Rojas, in the semifinals. The event was ultimately won by hometown first baseman, Marty Herum.
The second day was devoted entirely to the all-star game.
The Storm had two players in the starting lineup for the South squad including Josh Naylor at DH and Eric Lauer as the starting pitcher. Lauer, despite giving up two hits and a walk, was able to work out of a jam, giving up only one run by getting Giants catcher, Aramis Garcia, to ground into a double play. Trevor Frank and Gerardo Reyes each came in and pitched a scoreless inning in relief while Naylor was 1-4 with a double to left field.
Quantrill and Luchessi were both unavailable due to recent outings and Blueberg was left in the bullpen waiting for the bottom of the ninth, which never came. The North team prevailed 5-3 and Modesto center fielder Braden Bishop was awarded MVP for his 4-4 performance at the plate.
The Visalia Rawhide hosted an exceptionally enjoyable Fanfest and All-Star Game. The players seemed to have a great time while remaining incredibly accessible to the fans. It is an event I plan to attend for years to come.