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Almonte, 'Kings ready for All-Star Game
06/22/2009 2:09 PM ET
The Clinton LumberKings just missed out on a first-half Midwest League playoff berth, finishing one game off the pace in the Western Division. Nonetheless, the team -- and its fans -- still have plenty of reasons to celebrate this week.

The LumberKings, who play in 72-year-old Alliant Energy Ballpark, will host the 2009 Midwest League All-Star Game. Festivities kick off this evening, with the game taking place on Tuesday. For the second straight season, the LumberKings lead the MWL in All-Star Game participants -- and this time the club's premier players will have the honor of suiting up in front of a hometown crowd.

Nine LumberKings grace the Western Division roster, including just-added reliever Cheyne Hann. The dominant right-hander replaces teammate (and current strikeout leader) Brett Lorin, who has been sent to the disabled list with a groin injury. But despite Clinton's preponderance of All-Stars, just one will be in the starting lineup: Denny Almonte.

Almonte, who will also represent the LumberKings in Monday's Home Run Derby, is certainly a deserving selection. The still raw 20-year-old Miami native is tied for the third in the league in home runs (12), while his 44 RBIs rank eighth. Almonte and his LumberKings mates will be joined at their home ballpark by some familiar names. Dee Gordon of the Eastern squad and Jeremy Barfield from the Western both have fathers -- Tom and Jesse, respectively -- who spent time in the big leagues. The presence of Gordon on the roster is especially notable, as his father pitched for Appleton in the 1988 MWL All-Star Game. That contest was also held in Clinton.

And if history is any indication, fans at this year's game will soon see many of these players in the big leagues. Twenty-one prospects who played in the 1998 game in Clinton have spent time in the big leagues, most notably current Twins right-fielder Michael Cuddyer. Cardinals OF Rick Ankiel was also selected to participate in that game as a pitcher, but was promoted by the organization beforehand and did not play.

Two other big names at this year's game are Cougars RHP Kenny Smalley and Peoria 3B Josh Vitters. The former comes into the break as one of the league's biggest surprises, having started eight games for Kane County after spending 2008 as a reliever. The former 24th-rounder led the Cougars to the first-half MWL West title by going 6-3 with a 2.26 ERA in 16 games, and enters the break having allowed only one earned run over his past 20 1/3 innings pitched.

Vitters, meanwhile, is the highest rated prospect in this game (he is currently at No. 30 on MiLB.com's Top 50 list). The Eastern Division's starting third baseman, Vitters has terrorized opposing hurlers to the tune of a .308 average, 13 homers, and 42 RBIs -- not bad for someone who still has a few months to go before turning 20.

Swinging for the Fences
The Kane County Cougars currently lead the MWL with 57 home runs, so it is fitting that four of the 13 players in Monday's Home Run Derby hail from Kane County: Jason Christian, Jeremy Barfield, Dusty Coleman and Steve Kleen. Great Lakes and Peoria also feature a plurality of participants, with the former franchise represented by second baseman Jamie Pedroza and outfielder Kyle Russell, a 23-year-old outfielder who currently leads the circuit with 17 long balls.

But That's Not All!
A "Skills Competition" will also take place on Monday, in which three categories of contestants -- infielders, outfielders and catchers -- will participate in throwing, running and bunting competitions. If this ends in a tie, the overall winner will be determined by that most riveting of tie-breakers: a bunt-off. ... Fans are encouraged to come to the ballpark early on Tuesday. The Principal Financial Family Funfest -- a traveling, fully interactive celebration of baseball -- will be set up outside the gates of Aliiant Energy Field. ... Also on Tuesday, a group of real-live lumberjacks will demonstrate their wood-cutting skills as part of a pregame show. The evening's entertainment also includes traveling performers Birdzerk, Breakin' B-Boy McCoy and Milwaukee's famed racing sausages. And, of course, there will be fireworks.

2009 Midwest League All-Star teams
Eastern DivisionWestern Division
Starters
POS.PLAYER NAMETEAMPOS.PLAYER NAMETEAM
CTony DelmonicoGreat LakesCCharlie CutlerQuad Cities
1BRonnie BourquinWest Michigan1BSteve KleenKane County
2BJaime PedrozaGreat Lakes2BAlexi AmaristaCedar Rapids
3BJosh VittersPeoria3BJason ChristianKane County
SSDee GordonGreat LakesSSDusty ColemanKane County
OFKyle RussellGreat LakesOFNick FrancisBurlington
OFKyler BurkePeoriaOFNick Van StrattenBurlington
OFSawyer CarrollFort WayneOFDenny AlmonteClinton
DHJosh HarrisonPeoriaDHJeremy BarfieldKane County
Reserve Players
POS.PLAYER NAMETEAMPOS.PLAYER NAMETEAM
CKevin CoddingtonDaytonCCorey KempWisconsin
INFRebel RidlingPeoriaINFBrett LawrieWisconsin
INFBrandon DouglasWest MichiganINFNate TenbrinkClinton
INFJames DarnellFort WayneINFTerry SerranoClinton
INFReynaldo NavarroSouth BendINFScott SavastanoClinton
OFAlfredo MarteSouth BendOFTyson AuerCedar Rapids
DHBrian Van KirkLansingDHKris SanchezClinton
Pitchers
POS.PLAYER NAMETEAMPOS.PLAYER NAMETEAM
LHPMatt FairelDaytonLHPJoe TestaBeloit
RHPBrad BrachFort WayneRHPBarry BowdenBurlington
RHPAnthony BassFort WayneRHPBryan CaseyBurlington
LHPZach HerrFort WayneRHPMike KohnCedar Rapids
RHPJavy GuerraGreat LakesLHPManuel FloresCedar Rapids
RHPJosh WalterGreat LakesRHPTyler ChatwoodCedar Rapids
RHPJonMichael ReddingGreat LakesRHPRyan ChaffeeCedar Rapids
RHPHenderson AlvarezLansingRHPCheyne HannClinton
RHPChris CarpenterPeoriaRHPAaron PribanicClinton
LHPRyan BuchterPeoriaRHPRuben FloresClinton
RHPRyan CookSouth BendRHPShawn HavilandKane County
RHPT.J. HoseSouth BendRHPJamie RichmondKane County
LHPMauricio RoblesWest MichiganRHPKenny SmalleyKane County
RHPTyler StohrWest MichiganLHPDan MeadowsWisconsin
RHPJared GayharWest MichiganRHPWily PeraltaWisconsin
LHPCasey CrosbyWest MichiganRHPJim HendersonWisconsin
LHPBayron ZepedaSouth Bend

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.