TOP STORY: Chris Allison and Roger Miller have three words of advice for the players who participate in the 42nd annual Midwest League All-Star Game tonight at John O’Donnell Stadium — enjoy the moment.
“You never know when or if it will ever happen again,’’ said Allison, a Rock Island native who was selected as the Star of Stars at the 1995 Midwest League All-Star Game at Comstock Park, Mich., while playing second base for the Michigan Battle Cats.
“I think I appreciate it all more now than I did at the time. Then, I was in my second year, and like everybody else, I saw nothing but success down the road as I worked toward that ultimate goal of making it to the big leagues.’’
Miller chased the same dream in 1990, the last time the Midwest League all-stars took the field in Davenport.
A catcher for the Clinton Giants, Miller joined Javy Lopez of Burlington and Eddie Taubensee of Cedar Rapids on the South roster, and when an injury kept the only first baseman selected for the game on the bench, Miller volunteered.
“I don’t think I had played first all season for Clinton, but I wanted to play so badly I raised my hand and ended up playing the entire game,’’ said Miller, whose was chosen as the Star of Stars after collecting the game-winning hit in 1990.
“It was my first full season as a pro, and there was an excitement, about it for a lot of the guys who were there.’’
Allison, who reached the Triple-A level with the Red Sox organization, currently teaches seventh and eighth grade math at Washington Junior High in Rock Island and is an assistant coach on the baseball staff at Rock Island High School.
“Most of the kids I teach probably don’t even realize I played ball, but that 1995 all-star game was a great memory,’’ Allison said. “There wasn’t any pressure. It was a chance to meet and be around some of the best players in the league and have some fun. It was a great time.’’
More memories will be created tonight at the site where the event originated in 1964 and where a league-record seven all-star games have been played.
The Swing of the Quad-Cities are hosting participants ranging from first-round draft picks Colby Rasmus of Quad-Cities, Jay Bruce of Dayton and Justin Upton of South Bend to Fort Wayne’s Kyle Blanks, a 42nd-round pick of the Padres in 2004 and lowest draft choice on this year’s all-star roster.
“To be selected in my first year as a pro, I’m honored,’’ Rasmus said. “It’s a good recognition that things have gone pretty well in the first half.’’
The Silver Hawks’ Upton, the first overall pick in last June’s draft, had returning to the Quad-Cities in the back of his mind when South Bend played here in May.
“I wanted to earn it, though,’’ Upton said. “I didn’t want to be selected just to be a tourist attraction. I wanted to earn my spot on the team with my play on the field.’’
Rasmus, Bruce and Upton will all be among the starters for the 7 p.m. game as will Blanks, the starting designated hitter for the East.
The all-star rosters include players from nine countries and 20 states and among the 51 all-stars who were drafted, 18 were selected in the first five rounds and 30 were chosen in the top 10.
“When you look at the rosters and where guys come from, all the big-time college programs are there,’’ said Quad-Cities infielder Randy Roth, the starting designated hitter for the West.
“Texas, Stanford, Fullerton, Miami – they’ve all got players in this game. That’s why for me, coming out of Southeastern Louisiana, I’m honored and excited. When my name is called when they’re announcing the starting lineups, it’s going to mean a lot.’’
Over the years, fans attending Midwest League All-Star Games have been treated to both the spectacular and the bizarre.
Dubuque first baseman Joe Dodder belted three home runs and drove in five runs to lead his team to a 6-5 win in the 1967 game played at Wisconsin Rapids and Darcy Walker of Peoria belted a two-run homer in the 11th inning of the South’s 4-2 win at Cedar Rapids in 1985.
In a 1968 game played in Davenport, Quad-City Angels pitcher Dave LaRoche was determined to get his name in the box score despite a shoulder injury.
LaRoche convinced manager Fred Koenig to let him start the game in right field and as fate would have it, George Hendrick of Burlington belted a ball his way in the first inning. LaRoche fielded the ball and tossed it with his glove hand to center fielder Ike McCraw, who returned it to the infield to end LaRoche’s brief appearance.
“I had to twist Fred’s arm a bit, but I talked him into it. It meant a lot to me to have the chance to play because I didn’t know if I’d ever be an all-star again,’’ said LaRoche, a two-time major-league all-star who is now a pitching coach for New Hampshire in the Eastern League.
Numbers illustrate that in baseball, there are no guarantees.
Of the 58 players who earned the opportunity to suit up for the last all-star game played in the Quad-Cities in 1990, 18 reached the major leagues.
Three, Lopez, shortstop Damion Easley of Quad-Cities and outfielder Reggie Sanders of Cedar Rapids, remain on major-league rosters this season.
Others such as catchers Eddie Taubensee of Cedar Rapids and Tim Laker of Rockford, second baseman Chad Curtis of Quad-Cities and pitcher Pedro Borbon of Burlington enjoyed lengthly tenures in the major leagues.
But for others, including Miller, professional careers ended earlier.
“Things don’t always end up the way you expect,’’ said Miller, who reached the Triple-A level during a seven-year career with the Giants and Rockies organizations and currently operates a carpet cleaning and water restoration company in his hometown of Sarasota, Fla. “I still do camps and I’m coaching two teams my two boys play on, so I’m around the game, but I have a lot of good memories, too, especially about that season. It was a definite highlight.’’
Steve Batterson can be contacted at (563) 383-2290 or email@example.com.