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Players savor time in All-Star spotlight
Midwest Leaguers oblige eager fans with plenty of autographs
06/19/2012 10:02 PM ET
Peoria's Paul Hoilman was among those who signed autographs for All-Star fans.
Peoria's Paul Hoilman was among those who signed autographs for All-Star fans. (Paul R. Gierhart/MiLB.com)
GENEVA, Ill. -- Kevin Pillar has always felt like he's had something to prove and, admittedly, that has created quite a chip on his shoulder.

Despite his passion to play professional baseball, the Lansing Lugnuts outfielder spent four years at Division II Cal State-Dominguez Hills before he was selected by the Blue Jays in the 32nd round of the 2011 Draft, much later than he had hoped.

It was awfully tough to spot that chip on his shoulder before Tuesday's game, however, as he and his fellow Midwest League All-Stars took to the stands to spend some time with fans.

"It's awesome remembering that I did this when I was a kid, and it's what I still do," Pillar said. "It's a nice accomplishment along the way, but we know, I know, that the goal is to get to the Major Leagues -- not just get there but stay there."

Pillar's need to prove himself has helped him get his pro career off to an impressive start. After earning Appalachian League postseason All-Star honors last season, he's hitting .319 through 65 games this year.

His All-Star teammates may have taken different paths, but Tuesday offered a chance for everyone to take a little time to enjoy their surroundings. Adjusting to the grind of a baseball season can take its toll on young players, but the All-Star break interrupted the typical routine.

As they made their rounds on the field, fans eagerly held out memorabilia to be signed. The All-Stars happily obliged.

"It's awesome. They're calling you from every direction," said Peoria Chiefs first baseman Paul Hoilman, who had a 24-game hitting streak earlier this season. "It's kind of a madhouse, but it's a lot of fun."

Quad Cities' Colin Walsh bounced back from a rough 2011 season to earn his first All-Star berth. Through 64 games, he's hitting .317 and ranks second in the league with 14 homers -- 10 more than he had all of last year.

Walsh credited his All-Star appearance to a simple change he made -- a harder swing. Since that adjustment, his numbers have skyrocketed, along with his status among fans. The Cardinals prospect just wants to make sure he shows his appreciation.

"All of us were in the same position when we were younger," Walsh said. "I knew how that felt when I got [an autograph] when I was 6 or 7, so when I'm in this position and I can make a kid's day by signing a ball, I try to go out of my way to sign as many as I can."

Lake County's Franciso Lindor, selected by the Indians in the first round of the 2011 First-Year player draft, signed autographs for nearly 45 minutes at the end of batting practice. Then he posed for a photograph with his mom and went back to signing.

The Indians' top prospect said there's nowhere else he would have rather been.

"It can't get any better right now," Lindor said. "It's an honor having people ask me for my autograph."

South Bend Silver Hawks right-hander Archie Bradley echoed that sentiment and simply took time to soak it all in.

"It's almost surreal at times," he said. "You almost get caught up in it. You have to take a step and see how blessed you are."

In brief

Former All-Stars: Kane County has hosted four All-Star Games, each of which has featured its share of future Major League talent. The Cougars last hosted the Midsummer Classic in 2007, a game that featured Clayton Kershaw. Adam Dunn, Albert Pujols and Jake Peavy participated in the 2000 All-Star Game, which also was hosted by Kane County.

Patrick Brown is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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