If there is one thing that the 2006 Pacific Coast League All-Star Team lacks it is uniformity. This year's squad is composed of All-Star veterans, up-and-coming prospects and everything in between. The 28 members of this year's team represent the PCL landscape to perfection.
All 16 PCL teams are accounted for as the All-Stars head to Toledo for the July 12 meeting with the International League squad in the Triple-A All-Star Game.
Nashville, the league's defending champion and current leader in the American North division, leads the way sending a quartet of players to this year's game. Catcher Michael Rivera, outfielders Nelson Cruz and Tony Gwynn Jr. and pitcher Ben Hendrickson will all represent the Sounds in this year's event.
Selections to the team were based on fan internet voting, media voting and voting by GMs, with each criteria accounting for one-third of the total vote.
Nearly 900,000 fan votes were cast in online balloting this year. The leading overall vote getter in the fan poll was Tucson's Stephen Drew, who will anchor the infield at shortstop. Drew, in only his second year of professional baseball, is on the fast track to the Major Leagues, hitting .283 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs for the Pacific South Division-leading Sidewinders.
Drew will be joined in the infield by three of the hottest hitters in the PCL this season. Salt Lake's Howie Kendrick, Las Vegas' James Loney and Albuquerque's Scott Seabol will hold down three of the nine infield spots on this year's roster. Kendrick is leading the league in batting average, hitting .388 with 12 home runs and 54 RBIs, while Loney is hot on his tail with the second-best batting average in the PCL at .366. Seabol is also hitting above the .300-mark at .314 and is third in the PCL with 17 home runs.
On the pitching end of things, Salt Lake's Jered Weaver leads the way. Weaver, who went 4-0 in four starts with the Los Angeles Angels this season, has been equally as effective at the Triple-A level. On the year he is 6-1 with a 2.10 ERA and 93 strikeouts in just 77 innings for the Bees. Weaver is the reigning Pitcher of the Week in the PCL and is likely to make it two straight after striking out 11 in yesterday's 9-3 victory over Colorado Springs.
Along with Hendrick and Weaver, Salt Lake will also send pitcher Joe Saunders, who is making his first Triple-A All-Star appearance after going 9-3 with a 2.33 ERA in 16 starts. He leads the PCL with 108 innings pitched.
Among the 11 pitchers on the roster, eight represent teams in the American divisions. Round Rock will send two of those pitchers, Chris Baker and Jason Hirsh. Baker is fourth in the league in ERA, going 8-3 with a 2.21 ERA for the Express.
Iowa reliever Kerry Ligtenberg has the most Major League experience among the members of this year's team, but is making his Triple-A All-Star Game debut. Ligtenberg pitched parts of eight seasons in the bigs, but this year is 2-2 with a 1.55 ERA and seven saves coming out of the bullpen for Iowa.
Ligtenberg's teammate, pitcher Rich Hill, is also featured on this year's squad. Hill has been named PCL Pitcher of the Week on two occasions in 2006 and leads the league in ERA. He has baffled hitters, allowing just 15 earned runs in 70 2/3 innings, while striking out 95.
Omaha's Mike Jirschele takes the reins as manager. He has led the Royals to a 30-48 record in his seventh season as manager. Jirschele is no stranger to All-Star events -- he served as a coach for the United States team in the 2005 Futures Game.
The International League All-Star Team was announced Wednesday. They will take on the PCL All-Stars July 12 in Toledo with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on ESPN 2.