In last season's Triple-A All-Star Game, held at Toledo's Fifth Third Field, the International League cruised to a 6-0 victory over the Pacific Coast League. Kevin Witt homered and drove in three runs as IL starter Charlie Haeger and six relievers combined on a two-hit shutout.
Perhaps just as significant as the outcome of the game was the fact that, for the first time ever, fans were able to vote for which players they'd like to see represented in the Triple-A Midsummer Classic. This year's contest takes place on July 11 at Albuquerque's Isotopes Park, and once again fans will play a role in the selection of the game's participants.
Fan voting for the Triple-A All-Star Game begins today and will be conducted exclusively online. Ballots will be available on MiLB.com, as well as on the official websites of the International League, Pacific Coast League and all 30 Triple-A teams.
Fans can select one player at each infield position, three outfielders, a designated hitter and four pitchers -- two starters and two relievers. That's a lot of choices, and there's a lot of competition.
Some names to consider:
- RP Adam Bass, Tucson Sidewinders -- Bass currently leads the PCL in ERA, despite the fact that 13 of his 16 appearances have come in a relief role. The 25-year-old has held opponents to a .234 average, including a .148 mark on the road.
- OF Larry Bigbie, Las Vegas 51s -- An oft-injured veteran who has appeared in the Major Leagues in each of the past six seasons, Bigbie has been a healthy and productive member of the 51s' outfield. The 29-year-old ranks fourth in the PCL in both average (.349) and on-base percentage (.431).
- OF Ben Francisco, Buffalo Bisons -- A 25-year-old outfielder who had a brief stint with the Cleveland Indians earlier this month, Francisco ranks second in the IL in average (.349) and fifth in on-base percentage (.404). The California native is currently in the midst of a 13-game hitting streak.
- OF Joey Gathright, Omaha Royals -- Gathright leads the PCL in steals (17) and has gotten on base at a phenomenal .448 clip. The 26-year-old centerfielder has drawn 34 walks against just 21 strikeouts.
- 3B Mike Hessman, Toledo Mud Hens -- Hessman, a power-hitting veteran of 11 Minor League seasons, leads the IL in home runs (14) and RBIs (47). The 28-year-old has crushed 241 career home runs, including four in the Major Leagues.
- SP Andy Sonnanstine, Durham Bulls -- Sonnanstine ranks in the IL's top three in ERA (2.35), wins (6) and strikeouts (65). The 6-foot-3 southpaw has pitched at least six innings in all but one of his 10 starts.
The fan balloting, which will run through June 22, will account for one third of the total vote. The selections of the media (1/3) and each team's manager, coaches and general manager (1/3) will also be factored into the final tally.
After marking your ballot, make sure to check back with MiLB.com for updated vote totals, as well as news and features relating to the Triple-A All-Star Game.
The debate starts now -- Who do you think should represent the International and Pacific Coast Leagues in Albuquerque? Choose wisely, fans. Your opinion counts.