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NWL All-Stars are all in the family08/07/2013 12:06 AM ET
By Jared Ravich / MiLB.com
EVERETT, Wash. -- In looking at the rosters for the Northwest League All-Star Game, a couple names stand out immediately: Shawon Dunston and Dick Thon. Dunston was a two-time Major League All-Star (1988, 1990) and Thon was an All-Star in 1983.
But this is Class A Short-Season ball, and these All-Stars are their sons.
"Baseball's a small world," said Thon Jr., whose grandfather and great-grandfather also played professionally. "Rafael [Santo Domingo], Everett's hitting coach, I know him from my dad a long time ago. I've known him for my life."
Dunston Jr. added it's been a great experience meeting players with similar baseball backgrounds.
"We don't talk about it that much," he said. "But when we do, it's the same conversations we have with our dads. We've all been around a clubhouse, so we all understand the hard work our dads did and what they did to get there. You're just trying to follow in their footsteps, and hopefully be there like they were for a long time."
The Northwest League All-Star Game is replete with baseball families. Everett first baseman Justin Seager's oldest brother, Kyle, is with the Seattle Mariners. His younger brother, Corey, plays for the Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.
Seager, playing to cheers in front of a familiar Everett crowd, talked about molding his career along the lines of his older brother with the same business-like attitude as Dunston.
"[Kyle] did it with hard work and long hours," Seager said. "That's exactly what I'm going to try to do, and hopefully, I'll get a shot up there in the big leagues too. But it's very good to see [my parents] here. It's the first time I've seen them since I left."
"We've always been on the baseball field," said Jody Seager, Justin's mother. "Kyle's six-and-a-half years older than the youngest one, so they always had to go watch Kyle's games. Then they started playing. It's just something we've always done. They gave up a lot, though. They gave up summer at the pool with their friends because they all worked hard. They didn't get to goof off like some of their friends did."
"They have to want to," added Justin's father, Jeff. "That's the key. Once they figure out that's what they want to do, then they put the time in. They don't necessarily look at it like they're giving up anything."
Clearly, coming from a baseball family offers opportunities other players don't have, like an experienced personal advisor.
"My dad and I talk every day about baseball and stuff in general," said Dunston, whose father played from 1985-2002 and is currently a special assistant to the San Francisco Giants, for whom he hit a home run in the 2002 World Series. "He's told me about mistakes he did and doesn't want me to make them. But he also says, 'You are your own person and you are going to have to fall on your face sometimes to experience it.' I fell on my face last year a little bit, and this year coming in, I knew I had to work hard and have a good offseason. So far, it's been pretty good."
Eugene's Ronnie Richardson's father played in the Red Sox organization. Daniel Lockhart (promoted to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs on Sunday) is the son of Keith Lockhart, who played in the Majors from 1994-2003. Spokane reliever David Ledbetter's brother, Ryan, is in the Rangers organization, currently pitching in the Arizona League.
"He's not here in Spokane, so that's tough," said right-hander Ledbetter. "But growing up together, it really bonds you. You work through a lot more than everyday struggles. You work together on the field."
The players coming from baseball families seem to have a bond among themselves as well.
"I met Dickie about a month ago in Vancouver," said Dunston. "He's a real cool guy and a good player. Justin Seager, the first time when he came to Boise. He's a good player also. Daniel [Lockhart] on our team, a real solid player for us, we became real close throughout the year playing together. Hopefully we'll move up the ladder and play in the big leagues together."
Thon agreed. "You meet guys who know a guy. ... You share stories. It's always fun. Obviously guys from your country, but you meet guys from different places. It's really fun."
Unsuspecting Derby champ: With three home runs in the opening round and two more in the finals, Tri-City's Sean Dwyer was crowned champion of the circuit's Home Run Derby.
Everett's Phillips Castillo, not on the All-Star roster but in the competition, placed second with one dinger in the finals and four in the first round. Eugene's Hunter Renfroe drilled four deep long balls to dead center in the first round, but was unable to connect in the finals and finished third.
Also competing were Boise's Yasiel Balaguert, who hit two first-rounders, Hillsboro's Yogey Perez-Ramos, Vancouver's L.B. Dantzler and Eugene's Trae Santos, each with one homer. Everett's Justin Seager and Salem-Keizer's Sam Eberle did not go yard in the first round.
Dwyer, whose lone home run this season came against visiting Hillsboro on July 12, had never before competed in a derby.
"It's exciting," said the 22-year-old Rockies outfield prospect. "It was fun. Kind of nerve-wracking.
"I came in just trying to get one. My mom and dad are here, and they told me to just relax and have fun."
Dwyer took home $500 and the Everett Boys & Girls Club picked up a $2,500 donation from Marysville Anderson Insurance because of his performance.