MANCHESTER, N.H. -- There is a long lineage of All-Star power producers out of Reading, and Mitch Walding is just happy to be in the mix alongside Dylan Cozens, Rhys Hoskins, Darin Ruf and the like.
The Fightin' Phils third baseman arrived at the Eastern League All-Star Game with a circuit-high 20 homers and is hoping to continue the run of form that got him here, despite some early struggles.
"It's been kind of a roller-coaster year so far. I've had some struggles, and I had a really good month last month," said Walding, who hit .337 with 13 home runs in June after batting .187 in April and May. "I'm just looking forward to continuing what I've been doing of late. I think this year it's been a lot of fun. It's been a new experience."
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Being an All-Star, however, is not a new experience -- this will be Walding's second consecutive appearance after making the Florida State League All-Star Game last season, where he captured the Home Run Derby title.
He again was part of the long-ball contest this year, held on Tuesday night, but bowed out in the first round.
Regardless, the fifth-round selection in 2011 is looking to the loose nature of the events at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium as a respite from a long, intense season that still has plenty of games left.
"I think it's something that you look forward to, have a little fun," he said. "Sometimes, during the course of the season, things get pretty serious. ... It's a good time to be with friends, have some fun out there, play against some of the best guys in the league. It's nice to meet some of the guys that you play against and see how talented other people are as well."
Video: Walding's 19th homer for Reading
And some of those players are happy to have the slugger on their side, if only for one night.
"I love it. Hit a couple for us. Let's go," said Portland pitcher Teddy Stankiewicz, who saw Walding deposit one over the wall against him back in April. "I've gotten him out a couple of times, but he's gotten a couple of hits off me. I think we've faced them for a month straight. We've faced them a ton of times. It's really good to have everyone here and then you can make the jokes like, 'Hey, I hit this off you' or 'I struck you out.' It's a lot of fun."
Walding is excited to have the opportunity to add to the lore of Reading sluggers in an All-Star setting, looking to follow up Hoskins' home run last year and Brian Pointer's sudden-death homer in Portland two years ago.
He's also happy to be mentioned alongside some of those who have come before him in Baseballtown, and hopes to soon be alongside them.
"We have an extremely talented organization," Walding said. "The reason why it's common [that Reading hitters have topped the Eastern League in home runs] is because of how many good players we have in our organization. Those same guys are still doing it in Triple-A right now. Cozens and Hoskins are leading the league up there. ... It's one of those things where you get a lot of good players in an organization, they're going to play well. I'm just happy to have my name even be a part of those guys. They're such a good group of guys and good ballplayers. Hopefully, going forward I can be right there with them and continue to have a good season."
Futures follow-ups: Five players will be building on their Futures Game experiences of Sunday in Miami. The Western Division has pitchers Jairo Labourt (Erie, Tigers No. 19 prospect) and Tanner Scott (Bowie, Orioles No. 10 prospect) with catcher Francisco Mejia (Akron) backstopping the group. "It was a good experience," said Mejia, the Indians' top prospect. "I learned a lot of things, especially being around different players and different coaches. You can learn a lot of different things."
The East has catcher Tomas Nido (Binghamton) and third basemen Rafael Devers in the mix. "It was really good," added Devers, the top Red Sox prospect. "All the best young players were there, and I liked being there."
First-timer: For Akron right-hander Cameron Hill, this experience will be like no other. His selection to the Eastern League All-Star Classic marked the first time that he'd made any All-Star team. "It's a humbling experience," Hill exclaimed. "I'm happy to be here. I'm excited to represent the Indians. This is my first All-Star game. This is kind of a new experience." Hill is 3-3 with six saves, a 2.66 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 25 appearances this season.