NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- In front of his former hitting coach, Springfield catcher Cody Stanley delivered the biggest hit of the Texas League All-Star Game.
Stanley hit a two-run drive off Corpus Christi's Kyle Smith in the fourth inning for a 3-1 lead that held up and gave the North Division the victory over the South before 9,047 at Dickey-Stephens Park.
"It is a tough ballpark to hit in," said Stanley, whose feat earned him MVP honors. "But luckily tonight the wind was on our side. It died toward the end and it wasn't blowing straight in like it usually does.
"That was a huge part of it."
The homer made a winner out of Arkansas Travelers skipper Phil Wellman, the North manager who served as Stanley's hitting coach in the St. Louis Cardinals system the previous two seasons.
"Nobody deserves that award more than he does tonight and I'm so pleased for him," Wellman said.
Stanley, who finished 2-for-2, said he and Wellman are still close friends. They sat together at Monday night's All-Star gala and Stanley said they still speak frequently.
"I couldn't ask for anything different," the UNC-Wilmington product said of hitting for his old coach. "He's a great guy."
During the postgame interview, Stanley sported the bejeweled championship wrestling-style belt he was given as MVP of the midsummer classic.
"I'm going to wear it all night," he said.
Stanley said it was an odd feeling to be in the spacious home clubhouse and home dugout used by the host Arkansas Travelers. But with Wellman in the picture, Stanley still had his comfort zone.
"Just go out there and play, man," said Stanley of the best piece of advice Wellman had ever given him. "Give it all you've got, don't worry about your mechanics, don't worry about anything. Just go out there and give it what you've got."
Stanley entered the night with seven home runs and was among those who lost out to Frisco infielder Ryan Rua in the pregame Home Run Derby. Rua belted eight in each round to finish with 16. Stanley hit the fewest with one.
"I figured I might as well work on my approach in the Derby, then come into the game and really take some swings," Stanley said. "I wasn't disappointed at all. What happened happened and you can't change it."
Springfield left-hander Kyle Hald entered the game in the third inning, giving up the South's lone run in the top of the fourth while fanning one over two frames for the victory. Right-hander Smith also went two innings for the loss, striking out two.
Trailing in the fourth, 1-0, the North collected its first hits and took the lead when Arkansas' Brian Hernandez doubled off Smith and Stanley followed with his two-run shot.
"It's always a special night for these kids and, you know what, it's a just a joy to watch them perform and be a part of it," Wellman said. "It's an honor and it's an honor for them. To see them have good nights, are it's that much more rewarding."
The North padded the lead with a run in the sixth. Tulsa's Brian Humphries led off with a single, Drillers teammate Cristhian Adames singled him to third and he scored on a wild pitch by Frisco's Alex Asher.
"One hit basically won the game, a home run and you give him credit," said San Antonio manager Rich Dauer, who led the South squad. "He squared it up and put it out of here."
The South opened the scoring in the fourth. Center fielder Rymer Liriano (San Antonio) singled off Hald, stole second and crossed the plate on a single by Josh Whitaker (Midland).
"What a great group of kids to be able to manage in an All-Star Game," Dauer said.
The toughest part of the whole experience for Dauer and many of the South players was getting to North Little Rock. The former Major Leaguer said he was stranded in Dallas for seven hours the night before, and the whole Corpus Christi contingent was marooned for 10.
"I guess if there was work, it was getting here," he said.