LOWELL, Mass. -- Fifty-three players are on the active rosters for this year's New York-Penn League All-Star Game. Of those, 44 were originally selected in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft.
The majority of players were drafted between 2009 and '11. State College's Wes Freeman was chosen in '08 and Brooklyn's Richard Lucas, was selected in '07.
While several players were signed as international free agents in '06 and '07, Lucas holds the distinction of being the earliest Draftee in this year's game.
The 6-foot-1, 207-pound third baseman played 52 games in the Gulf Coast League after signing in '07, hitting .264 with two home runs and 30 RBIs. He began the following season with Class A Savannah but struggled, hitting just .185 in 31 games before being sent to Rookie-level Kingsport, where a knee injury ended his season after seven games.
In 2009, Lucas played five games in the GCL before returning to Kingsport, where his .357 average and four home runs in 26 games earned a promotion to Brooklyn. He hit .250 in 16 games with the Cyclones.
Lucas, then 21, was promoted aggressively for the 2010 season, as the Mets advanced him directly from Brooklyn to the organization's Class A Advanced affiliate in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Lucas spent the entire season in the Florida State League, hitting .212 with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs. He also drew 34 walks and struck out 149 times in 434 at-bats.
"Last year I got up there and started out pretty good the first couple weeks, then I just tried to do too much every time up at the plate," said Lucas. "Just trying to do more than I was capable of doing at the time. Just every pitch, trying to hit a home run. Usually got out of my rhythm, got out of my old approach."
Lucas made some adjustments to improve his production at the plate, such as reducing the movement of his hands and being more patient, but he was dropped down to Brooklyn this season.
"I'm not going to say it was disappointing," he said. "I mean, I had expectations for myself, but as far as the organization goes, they had their own plan. Wherever I was going to go, I was going to just go out there and give it all I had.
"I've always had confidence in myself. I know last year was a down year for me, but at the same time, I know that I was still better than what I showed last year. I think it was more showing [the organization] that I wasn't that guy last year, that it was just a bad year."
He has bounced back with Brooklyn, hitting .309 with five home runs and 29 RBIs in 52 games to earn his first All-Star Game appearance as a professional. His walks have increased -- he draws a base on balls in 11.6 percent of his plate appearances this season, compared with 7.0 percent in 2010. His strikeouts have dropped from 30.7 percent of his plate appearances last year to 21.4 percent this season.
Lucas, 22, knows that the combination of his age and current level appear to make it a longshot that he will reach the Major Leagues. Hearing he won't get there, however, only makes him want it more.
"You can't help but look on the Internet sometimes and obviously it's all out there, people saying, 'You're not going to make it' ... this and that, but I've been told that a lot before," he said. "Even before I got drafted, they told me I wasn't going to get drafted, they told me I wasn't going to get a scholarship. That's just more motivation to go out there and play hard."
Personal achievement is nice, of course, but the most important thing for Lucas this season is that the team is playing well.
"It's been a great experience for me," he said "This is my first All-Star Game, so I'm just enjoying everything out here. And the team in Brooklyn, everyone's playing well. Great team out there, good chemistry. It's just been a fun experience this whole year for me.
"We're starting to put everything back together again. Just playing hard as a team, having fun out on the field and good things are happening right now."
Lucas is talking about the team, but he could well be speaking for himself.
Coming through in the clutch: The American League All-Stars defeated their National League counterparts in the pregame Skills Competition, 205 points to 180. Lowell's Seth Schwindenhammer was the hometown hero, delivering a 50-point home run on his final swing to win it.
See ya next year: Before the game, New York-Penn League president Ben Hayes and Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner revealed in an on-field announcement that the 2012 All-Star Game will take place at Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio, home of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.