The foursome caught a morning flight out of Southern California and made connections through Dallas to Huntsville with not much time to spare. By the time they landed, it was less than two hours before the start of the Southern League All-Star Game at Joe Davis Stadium.
"It was a long day, but I'm glad I made it back," Huntsville second baseman Brett Lawrie said. "I didn't want to miss this game."
Lawrie joined third baseman Alex Liddi and outfielder Carlos Peguero of West Tenn on the World Team in the Futures Game in Anaheim and they were teammates again for the North in a 3-2 victory in the midsummer classic.
Jacksonville's Ozzie Martinez, who also played for the World in the Futures Game, was an opponent this time. Martinez's arrival on time was especially important because he was the starting shortstop for the South.
Martinez called South co-manager Corey Hart from Dallas to report on his progress. "At least I knew he'd made it that far," the Suns hitting coach said. "But I didn't know if he'd get here on time or not."
Martinez did make it by gametime and delivered a first-inning double. "I wanted to get here to play," he said.
Lawrie, Liddi and Peguero entered the game in the seventh, and left fielder Peguero making a running catch in the eighth in one of the game's top defensive plays.
Seems like old times: The Southern League All-Star Game was nothing new for Tennessee's Blake Lalli or Drew Anderson of Montgomery. It was the second appearance for both, with Lalli playing last season at Birmingham and Anderson in 2007 at Mississippi, when he was with Chattanooga.
Being an All-Star in Double-A more than once might not be considered much of a distinction by some. But Lalli and Anderson both insisted that were happy to be playing in the Southern League event again.
"Anytime you're in an All-Star Game, it's good," said Lalli, who had a RBI single in the second. "It means you're having a good season."
"I'm happy to be back," said Anderson, who moved from the Reds organization to the Rays last season. "For me, it's been a while. I'm excited to get another chance."
Anderson was 0-for-5 as starting second baseman for the North in 2007, went 0-for-3 for the South this go-around. Lalli, 1-for-3 as the designated hitter this time, was 0-for-4 as the North first baseman a year ago.
League-wide power outage: That there was no Home Run Derby this year was probably appropriate timing. With Mike Stanton in the Majors now, there isn't that much power left in the Southern League.
Stanton had 21 homers for Jacksonville when he was called up by the Marlins in early June and he could still end up leading the league, despite missing the final three months.
Carlos Peguero has 15 homers to rank second in the league, but nine of those came in April. After him, no player has amassed more than 10.
The last time the Southern League didn't have a player with more than 21 homers was in 2002, when Dave Kelton of West Tenn and Pete LaForest of Orlando each hit 20. David Cook of Birmingham and Greg Halman of West Tenn led the league with 25 homers apiece last season.
A pregame Miracle League exhibition took place in lieu of a Home Run Derby on Monday, with the All-Stars assisting the participants.
Long wait for the Stars: Huntsville had hosted the All-Star Game just once before, with Tom Glavine the starting pitcher for the Southern League against Triple-A Nashville in 1986. The Sounds won, 4-2, with the last out of the game generating the most interest.
Richard Sterban of the country music group, the Oak Ridge Boys, was inserted into the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to play right field for Nashville. Nothing was hit his way.
Future Braves ace Glavine pitched two scoreless innings and Huntsville catcher Terry Steinbach hit a home run for the Southern League to win MVP honors. Steinbach, who would be MVP of the Major League All-Star Game two years later while with the Athletics, threw out a Nashville runner trying to steal and picked off another.
Next year's All-Star Game will take place in West Tenn. The Diamond Jaxx also played host in 1999.