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Detroit

July 9, 2013

East beats West in annual baseball All-Star game at Comerica Park

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Liggett's Connor Fannon looks home from third base during the All-Star game Monday night. Moments later he would score when Grosse Pointe South's Carmen Benedetti (25) tripled to right field.

DETROIT — As the rain got stronger, so did the determination to make this night a success.

A delay was acceptable — a postponement, impossible.

So they waited, patiently pacing in the dugout and in the concourse.

The 7 p.m. start time came and passed, but when a once-in-lifetime opportunity presents itself, extra time within a Major League ballpark isn’t that big of a deal.

“Nobody really likes rain, but it made this night a little longer,” Mike Morris said with a smile. “You can’t really complain too much about that.”

No, but one can enjoy it, and on July 1, some of the best and brightest high school baseball players in the state certainly did.

“This whole thing was an awesome experience,” said Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse’s Bob Walmsley. The Lancers’ skipper served as the head coach for the East squad in the 2013 Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star game at Comerica Park. Morris, the Troy Athens coach, was one of Walmsley’s assistants. “To be down here, to work with these kids and see how much they enjoyed it, it was all awesome.”

Roughly 95 minutes after its scheduled time, 36 total players from the East and West squads put on a nine-inning show for the more-than 1,100 fans in attendance, unofficially capping the 2013 season.

“It was a blast, an absolute blast,” Morris said on the field after the game. “To be with these 18 kids and watch them work and play, it was pretty special.”

“It was pretty exciting, to be on this field, play with some future teammates and against some kids I’ll play against next year,” said Lathrup Village Southfield-Lathrup outfielder Johnny Slater. The University of Michigan-bound Slater finished with two hits, a stolen base and two runs scored in the East’s 9-4 victory. Slater (Atlanta Braves) was one of four players in the game that was chosen in the 2013 MLB draft. “I’d been on this field before, but to actually get to play a game was pretty cool.”

“It felt really good,” said Lake Orion High’s Nick Deeg. He started on the mound for the East just weeks after getting drafted by the Tigers in the 37th round.

While the talent was undisputed, the delay and lack of a pre-game routine took its toll, as the teams combined for seven errors on the night.

A pair of miscues and a groundout allowed the West to get on the board in the top of the first, taking a 1-0 lead without recording a hit.

Slater singled to lead off the bottom half of the first for the East and scored when Warren De La Salle’s Cole Clifton walked with the bases loaded.

Shortly after, Detroit Western International’s Hector Gutierrez cleared the bases with a double to right, and the East led 4-1 after the first.

In the bottom of the second, Macomb Dakota’s Travis Perkola doubled with two outs and then scored on an overthrow as he attempted to steal third, giving the East a 5-1 advantage.

Leading 6-2 after three innings, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s Connor Fannon tripled home a run in the fourth for the East and later scored when Grosse Pointe South’s Carmen Benedetti tripled to deep center.

The East added another run on a fielder’s choice, and led 8-2 after four.

Fannon reached on a dropped fly ball in the sixth and scored for a second time on a Ryan McClelland (Brighton High) single.

The West added its final run in the top of the ninth.

“What an experience,” Fannon said afterward. He was named the East team Most Valuable Player after pitching in the game, as well. Gull Lake High’s Pat Gaudard took home the West MVP honor. “The whole setting is so perfect — the field, the lights, everything. To (earn MVP) was just the perfect ending to four years of baseball at Liggett.”

Asked about stopping the East’s two-year losing streak, Walmsley said simply, “Not too bad.”

“I mean, we’re all competitors,” he added with a smile. “You’re down here having fun, but you still want to win.”

“We wanted to win badly,” Clifton said following the game, which didn’t end until after 11 p.m. “It was a huge win for these guys.”

Other East players local to the C & G coverage area included Robert Griffin (Sterling Heights Stevenson), Ian Harrison (Troy Athens), Billy Malak (Madison Heights Bishop Foley), Connor Mohr (Farmington High) and Chase Turner (Beverly Hills Groves).

“To see these guys enjoy it the way they did was pretty cool — something I will always remember,” Walmsley said. “They were on the top of the dugout, other guys were putting their bats in the same spot as (Miguel) Cabrera and (Prince) Fielder to have some luck rub off. I was kind of like a kid, as well, just being part of all this.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.