It's been a long three months for Alen Hanson. And that made his Saturday night all the sweeter.
The Pirates' No. 3 prospect was disappointed after hitting .255 without a homer in April and worked hard to climb out of the hole and emerge as one of the Florida State League's most dynamic players.
Hanson culminated that hard work by slugging a three-run homer and earning MVP honors as the South Division cruised past the North, 8-1, at the Florida State League All-Star Game in Dunedin.
"It's an honor, especially with the way I started the season," Hanson said through teammate Jonathan Rodriguez, who served as translator. "It wasn't quite the way I was expecting to start, so to get the opportunity to be an All-Star and perform like this is a dream come true for me."
Hanson, hitting .282 with a .773 OPS for the season, batted leadoff and went 1-for-5. Rodriguez and Palm Beach teammate Stephen Piscotty -- the Cardinals' No. 15 prospect -- also homered for the South. St. Lucie Mets left fielder Dustin Lawley pitched in with three hits.
The North took a 1-0 lead in the third after Yankees top prospect Gary Sanchez doubled and scored on a groundout by John Andreoli of the Daytona Cubs.
The South responded with a five-run fifth. Piscotty started it with a solo shot to right-center field, Lawley singled and Rodriguez walked before Curt Casali singled to load the bases. Charlotte Stone Crabs teammate Richie Shaffer lifted a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Lawley with the go-ahead run.
Hanson followed with a blast over the right-field fence, and the South never looked back.
"Prior to the at-bat, I was thinking that I wanted to help the team out with a sac fly or just put the ball in play and get the run in to tie the game," Hanson said. "After Shaffer got the sac fly, I just went up there looking for a pitch to hit up in the zone. I got it and put good wood on it."
Hanson called the experience "one of the best times so far in [my] career," adding it was especially enjoyable to compete with and against players he knew from his days in the Dominican Republic, like Rodriguez, Maikel Franco, Melvin Mercedes and Kennys Vargas.
"Actually being able to be at the All-Star Game and to be in the Home Run Derby with guys I know from back home, I enjoyed every moment," Hanson said. "I enjoyed it as much as possible. And to cap it off by having the game that I had at the plate and to win the game, it was fun."
Hanson was joined in the Home Run Derby by Lawley and Piscotty, among others. Lawley and Piscotty tied with North Division All-Stars Javier Baez and Nick Ramirez with six homers after the first round.
Because Baez and Ramirez had more homers coming into the Derby, they advanced to the finals, while Lawley and Piscotty were eliminated. The South duo got the last laugh, though, with Piscotty going deep and Lawley registering a game-high three hits with two runs scored in four at-bats in Saturday's game.
"I'll always remember that," Lawley said of his first professional All-Star Game. "It was cool. It was real laid-back and relaxed and everyone just went out and played like they know how to play. Really just relaxed out there, and it was fun."
For the North, Baez -- the Cubs' top prospect who was five days removed from a record-tying four-homer game -- doubled twice, while Sanchez and Carlos Alonso supplied the only other hits. Baez lost to Ramirez in the final of the Home Run Derby.
Mets No. 3 prospect Noah Syndergaard picked up the win with a scoreless inning.