While dozens of players in the 12-team Double-A Eastern League will be enjoying a few days off during the upcoming All-Star break, a select group will be headed to Manchester, N.H., to participate in the league's annual All-Star Game on Wednesday, July 16.
And of that group, an elite few will have even busier travel plans that week. As of July 2, eight of the 48 players selected to compete in the game will be flying to Manchester from New York, where they'll be competing in the 10th annual XM Satellite All-Star Futures Game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, July 13.
Four of those players are members of the Reading Phillies: catcher Lou Marson, shortstop Jason Donald and outfielder Greg Golson will be playing for the U.S. team while right-hander Carlos Carrasco will make his third consecutive trip to the Futures Game as a member of the World Team.
Marson, one of two catchers named to the Southern Division squad, is hitting .322 with three homers and 40 RBIs. Donald is batting .297 with nine homers and 37 RBIs while Golson is hitting .299 and is tied for fourth in the league with 17 steals. Carrasco is 5-7 with a 4.18 ERA for the R-Phils.
Akron Aeros third baseman Wes Hodges, who is leading the league with 64 RBIs, will also be participating in both games. The Indians prospect is hitting .307 with nine home runs and ranks second in the league with 92 hits.
Having just found out he'll be headed to the Futures Game (which means he's also on the short list for the U.S. Olympic Team) as well as the Eastern League All-Star Game, the Georgia Tech product admitted he was still processing all the information, while his parents were scrambling to make hotel and flight reservations for New York and New Hampshire.
Hodges and the Aeros, who reside in their usual spot atop the Southern Division with the Eastern League's best record at 51-32, have been to New Hampshire once this season, but he's looking forward to the return trip.
"It's a great set-up and a nice stadium," he said of Merchantsauto.com Stadium, home of the Fisher Cats. "I didn't get to spend much time in the city when we were there but I'm definitely going to get out and walk around downtown this time."
In his pro debut at Class A Advanced Kinston last year, Hodges hit .288 with 15 homers and 71 RBIs but admits he hit the proverbial wall midseason. That hasn't been a problem this year, though, after he addressed the situation during the offseason by adjusting his diet and training regimen.
"Now I feel great as long as I keep doing what I've been doing," he explained. "I think I'll be fine, I've been more careful about what I've been eating and I've been stretching more."
In addition to the aforementioned quintet, second baseman Scott Campbell of the host Fisher Cats, outfielder Wilkin Ramirez of the Erie SeaWolves and third baseman Luke Hughes of the New Britain Rock Cats will all be playing for the World Team.
Campbell, who hails from New Zealand, is leading the league in batting with a .342 average. Hughes, an Australian-born prospect, isn't far behind at .340 and also ranks among the league leaders with 14 homers. Ramirez, whose 17 steals gives him a share of fourth place in the league, is hitting .297 with 12 home runs.
Along with the four Reading players seeing double duty, the R-Phils will also be represented at the Eastern League All-Star Game by outfielder Jeremy Slayden, whose 60 RBIs rank second in the league.
Hodges will be joined in New Hampshire by Akron teammates Joshua Rodriguez, an infielder, and pitcher J.D. Martin. Aeros ace closer Randy Newsom, who leads the league with 24 saves, was named to the team but had already been promoted to Triple-A Buffalo by the time the rosters were announced. In addition, the Akron field staff, led by manager Mike Sarbaugh, will be at the helm of the Southern Division squad.
Erie's Ramirez is joined by three other SeaWolves on the Southern squad: right-hander Casey Fien, catcher Dusty Ryan and infielder Ryan Roberson.
The Bowie Baysox, who are chasing Akron in the South Division standings, have four players on the squad in pitchers Bradley Bergesen (9-2, 2.64) and former first-round pick Chris Tillman (acquired from Seattle in the Erik Bedard trade) as well as infielder Jeff Nettles and outfielder Luis Montanez. Montanez is among the league leaders in several offensive categories with a .321 average, 18 homers and 59 RBIs and is tops in the league in hits and runs scored.
The Altoona Curve had four players named to the team in pitchers Pat Bresnehan and Cuban-born prospect Yoslan Herrera, first baseman Jason Delaney and infielder Shelby Ford.
The Harrisburg Senators have three Southern Division All-Stars in right-handers Bobby Brownlie and Jordan Zimmermann and outfielder Mike Daniel.
In the North, the defending-champion Trenton Thunder are in first place with a 50-33 record, three games ahead of its perennial rival Binghamton, and both squads are well-represented on that All-Star team.
The Thunder have four players heading to New Hampshire in right-hander Jason Jones, catcher P.J. Pilittiere, infielder Chris Malec and top outfield prospect Austin Jackson.
The Binghamton Mets will send four players as well in ace right-hander Salvador Aguilar (9-1, 2.82), pitcher Robert Parnell, and infielders Mike Carp and Nick Evans, the latter of whom made his big league debut earlier this season.
The host Fisher Cats will not only have manager Gary Cathcart and staff running the show, they will have five players in the game, including Campbell. Top outfield prospect Travis Snider is on the roster along with catcher Brian Jeroloman and pitchers Brett Cecil, one of their top picks last spring, and Zach Dials, who is fifth in saves in the league.
The Portland Seadogs are sending three players in pitcher Michael Bowden and outfielders Bubba Bell and Jeff Corsaletti.
New Britain's Hughes will be joined by three teammates in pitchers Ben Julianel and Ryan Mullins along with infielder Steven Tolleson.
The Connecticut Defenders have ace starter Joseph Martinez and his league-best 2.15 ERA heading to New Hampshire along with reliever Justin Hedrick and infielders Kyle Haines and Olmo Rosario.