The Frontier League has tried for a long time to spice up its all-star game. It used the traditional division vs. division format for many years, then added a home run derby, skills competition and even the occasional concert to make it a two-day event.
Recently, the league tried a format in which a team of rookies played against a team of more experienced players.
This year, the league is trying something totally different.
The Frontier League’s all-star team will play the Can-Am League all-stars July 10 at Palisades Credit Union Park, home of the Can-Am’s Rockland Boulders, in Pomona, N.Y.
Washington will have two representatives in the Frontier League’s starting lineup, right fielder Hector Roa and first baseman J.J. Fernandez. They were the only Wild Things selected to the Frontier League’s 27-player team. The West Division-leading Florence Freedom had the most players selected with six.
“They deserve it,” Washington manager Gregg Langbehn said of his two all-stars. “Hector is clearly one of the premiere hitters in this league and has been for three years. He’s one of the feared hitters in the league, one guy who stands out.”
Roa went into Friday night second in the league in RBI with 31. He is batting .282 with 10 doubles, six home runs and is tied for the league lead with seven outfield assists. Roa is in his third season with Washington and this will be his first all-star game.
Fernandez, who is in his first season with Washington, is batting .289 with five home runs and 23 RBI. Fernandez will know a little about the kind of competition the Frontier League will be facing. He spent 2017 in the Can-Am League, playing 72 games with the Sussex County Miners.
“J.J. came in and has been versatile. He can play first base, left field and even catch,” Langbehn pointed out. “He has been energetic and so positive. He’s one of the unquestioned leaders on the team. When we struggled so badly for the first month of the season, J.J. was one guy who I could hear in the dugout and clubhouse telling everybody to stay positive.”
If there is a Washington player who can claim that he should have been on the all-star team but was snubbed, it is catcher Cody Erickson. He leads Washington with a .359 batting average, which is tops among all catchers in the league. Erickson does not yet qualify for the batting title but if he had 11 more plate appearances, then he would rank second in the league in hitting.
Two former Wild Things players were selected. Austin Wobrock of Florence is a reserve shortstop and Chase Cunningham of Southern Illinois is a pitcher.
Joining Roa and Fernandez in the starting lineup will be Schaumburg catcher Nick Oddo, River City second baseman Tyler Achenbach, Southern Illinois shortstop Bryant Flete, Evansville third baseman Ryan Long, outfielders Shawon Dunston Jr. of Gateway and Kameron Esthay of River City and Florence outfielder/designated hitter Ricky Ramirez Jr.
The other reserves are catchers Rob Calabrese of Evansville and Andy Cosgrove of Southern Illinois, first baseman Carlos Castro of Evansville, Southern Illinois second baseman Gianfranco Wawoe, Joliet shortstop Chaz Meadows and River City third baseman Braxton Martinez.
The pitching staff includes Cunningham, Florence’s Mike Castellani, Jonathan Tripp, Tyler Gibson and Brian McKenna, Joliet’s Darren Osby, Windy City’s Tyler Thornton, Gateway’s Dakota Smith and Schaumburg’s Connor Eller.
Eighteen players, including the starting position players, were chosen via a vote of the league’s coaches, front office personnel and media. The final nine players were added by Florence manager Dennis Pelfrey, who will coach the all-star team.