Wild Things to host Frontier League All-Star game
With five division titles and six playoff appearances over their 11-season history in Washington County, the Wild Things have proven capable of beating their Frontier League rivals on the field.
Recently, the organization scored a significant victory off it.
The Wild Things will host the 2013 Frontier League All-Star game, the team formally announced Thursday.
Part of a four-day smorgasbord of activities meant to promote baseball and the Washington region, the All-Star game will be played July 17 at Consol Energy Park in North Franklin Township.
“It's really about a yearlong process,” owner Stuart Williams said of securing the event, which his team also hosted in 2005. “You make your proposals and you battle it out with the other owners — and it's a very spirited sort of an environment.
“Everybody wants to have it because this fulfills that special part of your charter in a different way than you do it every year.”
Players selected from the independent Frontier League's 14 teams will arrive in Washington on July 15 for a reception.
The following day, players and other league representatives will volunteer for the Washington County Habitat for Humanity before being treated to activities such as bowling, golf and sightseeing.
A home-run derby and a softball game between several Frontier League all-stars and the Akron Racers, a professional women's fastpitch team, are planned for July 16.
The Racers also will host a softball clinic for young girls that day.
In a league that stretches from Washington west to St. Louis, the format for the All-Star game is the East Division vs. West Division.
Frontier League commissioner Bill Lee said the league's All-Star game “really exploded” in popularity a decade ago when attendance topped 6,000 in Sauget, Ill.
He said roughly 5,000 packed Consol Energy Park for the event two years later.
“Then each year, everyone tries to top each other,” Lee said.
“It becomes a real competition, and I love it, I really do. I think it's great for our league. Just the competition between the owners is kind of fun to watch.
“It's fun to watch everybody really put their best forward and try to impress everyone else in the league.”
That's similar to how the unaffiliated Frontier League's best players strive to impress major league scouts to earn a contract in affiliated baseball — a jump scores of players have made.
North Hills graduate Andrew Heck set team records at Duquesne before the school dropped the baseball program in 2010.
He finished his college career at Oklahoma State and has fulfilled a goal of playing professionally — near his hometown, no less.
His next goal is to play in an All-Star game so close to home.
“How many times do you get to do that?” Heck said. “Even in the major leagues, there's not too many guys who ever get an opportunity to play in an All-Star game ... in their hometown. So it's a great opportunity, and I'm looking forward to hopefully earning a spot to play in it.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.