The South division jumped out to an early lead and managed to weather a brief rally from the North to win the 2008 Northwoods League All-Star Game, 8-4, at Warner Park in Madison Monday night. Particularly notable efforts came from Madison Mallard Matt Jansen, who struck out the North's first three batters, and LaCrosse Logger Cory Vaughn, who finished 2-for-3 with two doubles and secured the game's "Star of Stars" award.
Vaughn, whose dad Greg was a four-time Major League all-star and works as a consultant for LaCrosse this season, described his experience in the game as "a blast. We had a lot of fun out there tonight. Other than that, I can't really describe how I'm feeling right now."
The announced attendance of 5,357 set a new Northwoods League All-Star Game attendance record and, according to Madison Mallards general manager Vern Stenman, included about 1,200 walk-up tickets.
"That's about what we do for a Mallards game, especially when the weather is nice," he said. "I think we got the best night of the year."
Mallards field manager C.J. Thieleke skippered the South division's squad in the game and he described his role as part traffic manager, part motivator. He was "impressed" with the talent level of the all-stars, particularly Vaughn.
"That's a major league body already," he said. "And when you're that good, you can slow the game down a little bit. He's not quite there yet, but you can see there are signs of it."
Unlike a typical night at the park, Thieleke found himself just as big of a fan as the paying patrons in the seats at times Monday night.
"We've had good players, no doubt, over the years. But the ceiling on some of these kids is pretty high and it was fun watching them go out and do their thing."
The long ball
In the bottom of the sixth, Green Bay Bullfrog Josh Prince, a sophomore from Tulane, drilled one over the left-center fence to make it 6-3 for the South. The North's Eric Stephens from Rochester (and Cal State Fullerton) hit one in the second. Round trippers are rare in the Northwoods League, with most players taking most of the summer to get used to the smaller sweet spot on a wood bat. Sunday's home run derby was won with just three dingers from Mankato's Michael Rockett.
Behind the plate with Mayor Dave
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz was asked to explain his performance throwing one of the game's first pitches, which was significantly outside the strike zone.
"I went with the off-speed stuff," he said from his field-level seat. "I decided not to bring the heat, because the fastball can get down in the dirt. It ended up high and inside to a right hander, but not in the dirt. So I consider that mission accomplished."
Cieslewicz admitted to paying $36 to attend a Brewers game recently and noted how an entire family could come out to the Duck Pond for that amount. I asked him about the progress on plans for a new Duck Pond at Warner Park, for which rough designs have already been drawn.
"I think we're really close. It's down to the details, really," he said. "Vern [Stenman, Mallards general manager] holds out hope that we'll have it for 2009, but I think it's going to be 2010."
Bottom of the fifth
With the South up 4-3 now, Cory Vaughn steps to the plate for the third time in the game. This time, instead of roping a double into left, he strikes out. Two for three ain't bad, huh?
The Mallards' Gabriel Shaw saw some action in the bottom of the fourth, pitching to two batters. Shaw is 2-0 in six starts this season with a 2.90 ERA and 22 strikeouts. But perhaps most notable about Shaw is his choice of hosiery on the field. Unlike most Northwoods League players, he wears the cuffs of his pants to about the knee, revealing a pair of green stirrups with white stripes. They're classics; similar to what all ball players wore until about ten years ago when, for some reason, baseball fashion dictated that players wear the cuffs of their pants down around their ankles, like pajamas.
Bottom of the fourth
LaCrosse's Cory Vaughn, son of former major leaguer Greg Vaughn, just hit his second double of the game down the left-field line. A 6'3", 225-pound freshman from San Diego State, Vaughn is impressive at the plate.
The 2008 Northwoods League All-Star Game got off to a bumpy start at Warner Park Monday night with "Mallards music guy Weed" butchering the Canadian national anthem and Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz hurling a first pitch well over the catcher's head.
But once the game itself got underway, the locals shined. South division starting pitcher Matt Jansen, a left-hander from Purdue, struck out the side in the top of the first. Jansen is 2-2 in seven starts for the Mallards this season with a 2.14 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched.
In the bottom of the first, Mallards outfielder Rob Lyerly drove in the second run of the game on a single to right.
The home team South Division gave up three runs in the top of the second inning, however, so after two and a half, it's 3-2, North leading.
I'll attempt to update this thing through the night… or for as long as the wireless connection holds up.