LA Angels affiliate, the Inland Empire 66ers put on a show as host of All-Star Game
By David Rice
The Inland Empire 66ers hosted the California League All-Star Game for the first time in 15 years and put on a show. Four LA Angels prospect took part in a night to remember in San Bernardino.
The LA Angels affiliate, the Inland Empire 66ers made sure fans had a great experience Tuesday. Where else can you go and see 60 future stars, watch a home run derby, have lunch with a Hall of Fame reliever, get autographs of all the players, and oh yeah see some great baseball. The California League All-Star Game.
On a day that had everything packed into a 12 hour period LA Angels affiliate the Inland Empire 66ers proved to be a great host for this year’s California League All-Star Game. The North Division defeated the South Division 7-1 thanks to great pitching and plenty of good hitting.
Master of Ceremonies, Steve Wendt, who is the long-time radio voice of the 66ers tweeted this out about Tuesday night’s All-Star game.
California League President Charlie Blaney who has been involved in minor league baseball for over 40 years was pleased with this year’s festivities.
“This is my 10th all-star game as league president and it couldn’t be any better, ” Blaney said. “The sizzle of Cal League baseball is that you can see Tomorrow’s Stars Play Tonight.. We have had so much talent come through the Cal League over the years. 2,867 players who have played in the Cal League have made it to the majors. 87 alone last year made it to the majors.”
Blaney awarded three special people by inducting theminto the California League Hall of Fame in a pre-game ceremony. Joe Gagliardi, who was Blaney’s predecessor as Cal League President for 28 years and expanded the Cal League to Southern California as Lake Elsinore, Inland Empire, Lancaster, and Rancho Cucamonga were added (High Desert Mavericks were also added, but folded in 2016).
“The Cal League was able to move South because of Joe’s vision,” Blaney said. “He did a great job as Ca League president. He is very deserving of being inducted into the Cal League Hall of Fame.”
Bud Haslet who set numerous Cal League records with an amazing 1952 season where he set two Cal League records hitting 51 home runs, driving in 172 runs while hitting .334 that season. Haslet’s son Joe expected the award posthumously for his late father.
“Bud Haslet had one of the best seasons anyone could ever have,” Blaney said. “His son Joe flew down from Seattle to be a part of the ceremony and accept the award on behalf of his dad. It was really nice to be to get to meet him and get to know the Haslet family a little bit.”
Finally, MLB Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers was honored for his standout 1966 season for the Modesto A’s. Fingers was actually a starter when he pitched in the Cal League going 11-6 with a 2.77 ERA and throwing 14 complete games striking out 152 batters in 159 innings.
“Guys like Rollie Fingers are legends. I got a chance to watch him pitch in the 1974 World Series when he played against the Dodgers,” Blaney said. “He had an amazing year in the Cal League in 1966 for Modesto. He is great guy and is very deserving of this honor.”
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A fourth inductee into the Cal League Hall of fame is future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre who played for the San Bernardino Spirit (which is now the Inland Empire 66ers) in 1996.
In the All-Star game itself, the Angels were well represented with five players selected to the South Division All-Stars from the 66ers team.
Torii Hunter Jr. was selected but was not able to play due to injury, but four Sixers’ pitchers did take part with mixed results.
Angels 2018 4th round draft pick Kyle Bradish pitched the second inning and gave up three unearned runs with two strikeouts in his one inning of work. Bradish is the #30 ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline Angel Prospects list. Bradish was happy to be a part of the game.
“It’s an honor to be a part of this, it is a lot of fun to be here,” Bradish said. “This was a good test of my ability facing the best players in the league all at one time. It was a great opportunity.”
Next up for the Sixers was right-hander Oliver Ortega. Ortega faired the best of all the Sixers’ pitchers pitching a scoreless 5th inning striking out two batters. For the Dominican Republic native it was a special night.
“I am excited to be a part of this game tonight against some very good players,. “I’m going to throw all fastballs 98,” said Ortega with a grin. After the game Ortega was still grinning.
“It was pretty good tonight. It felt amazing,” said Ortega of his performance. “It showed me that all my hard work is paying off. ”
Fellow countrymen Jorge Tavarez was the next up in the 8th inning. Tavarez gave up two unearned runs in his one inning of work which was marked by a little wildness (2 walks). Despite the results Tavarez liked the experience and hopes it is a sign of things to come.
“It feels great, for me it is a happy time to be able to be in my first all-star game,” Tavarez said. “My biggest goal is to make it to Double-A this year. I work hard every day to do this. It inspired and motivated me to see J.C. Ramirez pitch here a couple of weeks ago. He is very good.”
The final pitcher of the night was also from the Sixers, reliever Austin Warren. Warren was a late addition to the roster due to the promotion of his teammate Andrew Wantz to Double-A last week. Warren pitched the 9th giving up one run on three hits.
“It felt really good to face some good guys. They got a couple of hits off me, but other than that I had a good time tonight. I’m glad I got to meet some of these guys,” Warren said. “Coming out here and meeting all the prospects is a great thing. Having a chance to play with a lot of big names was a good thing. It shows me what I need to work on. I’m just going to keep grinding and go from there.”